Triangle highlights need to change the thinking driving the service delivery system

The ideas driving social provision are steering it off course, says Triangle’s report.

As the service delivery system adapts its operations and enters recovery mode after the disruption of the pandemic, Triangle, the social enterprise behind the Outcomes StarTM suite of tools, has synthesised 20 years of learning about how people change and come to some surprising conclusions. 

Led by Joy MacKeith, the white paper draws on Triangle’s unique experience of creating 44 different variants of the Star, used by over 1000 organisations with over 1.4 million completions.  It calls for “Enabling Help” – an approach to service delivery based on what Triangle has learnt about the kind of support that helps people overcome challenges and reach their full potential. 

Enabling Help means relational, motivational, developmental, holistic and flexible services.  And it implies that management, commissioning and policymaking should focus firmly on making that possible.

Enabling Help leads people through crisis

For example, when David, suffering from crippling long-term depression and anxiety, completed the Recovery StarTM with a mental health day-centre worker, he said, “I felt listened to for the first time – like a person rather than a problem”. He stopped treading water and starting believing that things could change – eventually becoming a mental health worker himself. 

But the way services are commissioned and managed often gets in the way of this kind of approach.  The report is calling for a rethink of the ideas driving social provision to make the vision of Enabling Help a reality.  That means management, commissioning and policymaking that recognise the complexity and uniqueness of people’s lives and the importance of bespoke and well-coordinated services.

Flexible, problem-solving approaches achieve outcomes

During the pandemic, funders, commissioners and managers have recognised the importance of flexibility and responsiveness and focused less on metrics and targets. Joy’s report argues that we need to prioritise this kind of flexible, collaborative, problem-solving approach in ‘normal’ times because that is what achieves outcomes.

That doesn’t mean abandoning accountability – but switching the focus from targets to learning and responsiveness. 

Joy MacKeith says:

“The Outcomes StarTM is rooted in a belief in human potential and an understanding of how people change.  We have found that this can be in tension with the way services are commissioned and managed at the moment.

We are adding our voice to a growing movement of people saying that we have to do things differently.  That means fewer reports, more conversations, fewer procedures and more problem-solving.  Less focus on numbers and more on the narratives to help us understand our world and how to make things better”.

Register to attend the Enabling Help webinar on 3rd November 2021.

Watch 4 min video on Enabling Help.

About Triangle:  Triangle creates engaging tools and promotes enabling approaches that help funders, commissioners, and service providers transform lives. The Outcomes StarsTM are an evidence-based way of co-creating and measuring individual change.

For more information about Triangle, the creators of the Outcomes StarTM,   please visit or contact Joy at or +(44) 20 7272 8765.

ERSA welcomes publication of DWP Commissioning Strategy

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Today ERSA welcomes the publication of the DWP Commissioning Strategy and is pleased to see a large number of its recommendations incorporated into the design principles for future employment services.

In particular, ERSA welcomes the Department’s recognition that future programmes should have a stronger service fee element in relation to harder to help jobseekers and that the sector should be supported to mature and grow.

ERSA also welcomes the commitment by DWP to integrate services further through joint commissioning. This has long been called for by the provider community and ERSA looks forward to supporting the department in delivering holistic services that make better use of existing local health and skills services.

Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive of ERSA, said:

“Evidently the Department recognises the expertise and knowledge that sits within the employment support sector. We are encouraged to see so many of our recommendations adopted by the commissioning strategy and look forward to working with the department on the next phase of implementation. 

“In order to ensure the most effective services are being delivered by the best providers, we must continue to work together and build on valuable past experience. The focus going forward should be on supporting the most complex of the long term unemployed jobseekers. “

ERSA calls for ‘Evolution not Revolution’ in future welfare to work scheme

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The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), the sector body for the welfare to work sector, has today launched a report calling for ‘evolution not revolution’ in the design of future programmes for the long term unemployed. 

The report, unveiled at ERSA’s annual national conference in London, makes the case for a number of important new elements in future provision, while building on what is already working well in the Work Programme and other employment programmes.  

Key recommendations outlined in the report include:

  • Introducing an accurate jobseeker needs assessment from day one of unemployment to identify those who are likely to become long term unemployed. From this, all jobseekers would be allocated to one of defined number of employment streams.
  • Retaining payment by results for the majority of provision, but paying providers for achievements of milestones for those with disabilities or who are the very furthest from the labour market.   In addition ERSA is calling for a separate ring-fenced budget which could only be accessed to purchase from specialist organisations who would then be paid for ‘distance travelled’ measures. This is likely to be particularly helpful to the charity sector.
  • Making access to skills funding easier for the long term unemployed by ring-fencing a proportion of the Adult Skills Budget for their needs. 
  • Supporting subcontractors through measures including requiring the use of a standard Expression of Interest Form and standardising contract terms. 
  • Improving how performance is measured by reporting on numbers entering work as well as sustaining work, plus aligning measurement systems across Jobcentre Plus and outsourced providers.
  • Introducing minimum standards for commissioning including a duty to consult on programme design, comply with minimum commissioning timelines and publish assumptions underpinning targets and financial models.

These recommendations follow an extensive consultation process across both ERSA members and non members.  Feedback was obtained from over 90 organisations spanning the public, private and voluntary sectors.

Introducing the report, Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive of ERSA, said:

“Today’s welfare to work programmes build on many of the lessons from the past and are offering a good service to jobseekers.  However, there have also been challenges and it’s our duty to make sure future provision addresses these as well as building on what‘s worked well.  We are therefore highlighting measures which would build the capacity of service providers at all levels, plus ensure that sufficient resources are in place, while continuing to provide good value for the taxpayer”

The full report can be found here.

ERSA statement on the ‘Help to Work’ scheme

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In response to the announcement by the chancellor that jobseekers who are still unemployed after two years of the Work Programme, will be referred to a new scheme called ‘Help to Work’, Kirsty Mchugh, Chief Executive of ERSA said:

“ERSA welcomes the government’s recognition of the need for post Work Programme support and we are looking forward to exploring the detail of how this scheme will operate with the Department for Work and Pensions.” 

“Our test for the new programme will be whether what is put in place is able to deliver for the long term unemployed, is viable for providers of employment services and works with the needs of employers. “

DWP publishes 2013 Commissioning Strategy consultation

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The DWP has today issued a consultation on its Commissioning Strategy for future employment support provision, which will run until 27 September. 

The new consultation aims to gather stakeholder views on future commissioning of employment services, drawing on experiences of existing provision. It is composed of 14 questions requesting feedback on all areas of commissioning future welfare to work provision, including: encouraging specialist provision; improving sub-contracting arrangements; promoting social investment; encouraging innovation and addressing barriers to co-commissioning. The DWP is not widely publicising the consultation and for that reason will not be issuing a media statement.

There will be a number of opportunities to feed into ERSA’s response to the paper:

  • Written responses are requested to be sent to by 18 September. Alternatively please call 020 7960 6317. All feedback will be kept in confidence.
  • Regional roundtables will take place during September. These will also form part of ERSA’s own consultation on the shape of Work Programme 2 which will launch in early September. 
  • The Supply Chain Forum, taking place on 27 August, will hear from DWP officials formulating the strategy and will provide an opportunity to feed back.

Commenting on the launch of the 2013 DWP Commissioning Strategy consultation paper, Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive of ERSA, said:

“The DWP’s Commissioning Strategy should provide a valuable opportunity to draw on the extensive experience of welfare to work providers who have the indepth knowledge of how to get the long term unemployed into work and keep them there.  The UK welfare to work market has evolved significantly over the past 10 years and providers have adapted their approaches to changes in the UK economic landscape to deliver value to the UK tax payer.

“ERSA is keen to ensure that future provision draws on providers’ experiences, whether operating as prime contractors and subcontractors, and that the new commissioning strategy facilitates programmes which deliver for jobseekers, providers and the taxpayer.” 

The full consultation is avaliable here