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Rethinking employability

From Open Government Pioneer Project

Context[edit | edit source]

Government interventions in skills and employability are out of date and out of touch with the modern economy and completely ill-suited to meeting the needs of people who need help and support to get and keep a job.

Part of the problem with the current approach is the payment models for employability which favour very large contracts and 'pipeline' based models for supporting people. This informs the way services are procured, and the approach taken by competitive tenders for employability support. It also works against empowering people to design and direct their own support (self-directed support).

Another part of the problem is its focus almost exclusively on commissioning support for people. Another approach would be to invest in community support. This could include investing in helping people connect with their peers for mutual support and expand their social networks. Examples could include care and repair, the men’s shed movement, community cafés and playgroups. It also includes support for digital spaces.

There is a danger that the Scottish approach to new powers over employability such as Fair Start Scotland so far are simply replicating all the problems and barriers of the previous UK Government led models.

Case study of Fair Start Scotland[edit | edit source]

The implementation of Fair Start, in particular, has not been consistent with the words and signals of intent of Scottish Government. Government originally promised something different from the UK Work Programme that would be person centred, with the third sector playing a large role. A major consultation was done which included the sector. The feedback from the consultation was for better alignment with social policy, and to build something longer term in it’s engagement which empowered providers to be innovative and person centred. They also talked of the need to build strong partnerships and collaborations to address the complexity of people's needs, with an expectation that 'prime contractors' would facilitate a larger group of specialist providers to provide tailored support around the individual.

Neither of these things have happened and this can all be linked back to the way the Fair Start tender itself was structured, and how out of kilter this was with the consultation that went before it. It appears that civil servants (some of which seconded from DWP who worked on the Work Programme) and procurement officers were allowed to write an extremely detailed, prescriptive tender, which specified a huge amount of detail on what they expected prime contractors to do (for example, it stipulates precisely how much weekly contact face to face is required for each participant). The prescriptive nature of this means they effectively removed any opportunity for providers to build a person centred approach – they effectively told providers what the component parts of the service needed to look like. Unfortunately this looks like it led to a race to the bottom with providers putting together a prescriptively similar service and therefore mainly competing on price, limiting the opportunities for innovation and person-centred approaches.

Analysis[edit | edit source]

This is a review of developments and solutions from a third sector perspective (updated Nov 2018)

Themes Key developments Interested parties Policy solutions
Procurement and commissioning of employability support
  • Fair Start Scotland (FSS) statistics will be reported on 28th November 2018
  • Plans for FSS extension, FSS 2 or a new system will be decided by Scotgov
  • SCVO calling for a fundamental re-design of commissioning people-services in Scotland - and gave evidence to parliament to that effect
  • Payment by results approaches have been increasingly criticised due to the incentive to 'park and cream' clients. They have been shown to encourages a level of competitiveness and drives a commercial behaviour that doesn’t benefit those who it should.
  • Third sector has been experimenting with 'payment by progression' as an alternative to payment by results, but this also brings problems around sustainability of payments, and defining progression, and that the employability journey is not always a linear one for people
  • SCVO have conceptually explored a contributions-based approach and community directed support as a way of accommodating volunteering, caring, activism and other ways in which people can be supported to develop themselves and contribute value.
  • Carnegie UK Trust launched Making Procurement Work for All, exploring how to ensure procurement can drive ‘good work’
  • The Civtech approach to collaborating on solutions to public service challenges is a promising approach to co-design with citizens and has political buy-in, so we should secure greater third sector participation in this.
Scotgov employability division

Local authorities

Skills Development Scotland

Third sector employability forum

Reframe Fair start Scotland as a transitional programme.

We need a new payment model:

Governance of employability support system
  • Third Sector Employability Forum (TSEF) - positioned to provide third sector engagement and advice to Scotgov
  • TSEF now has input through a secondment into Scotgov employability 2018-19
  • Forthcoming publication of Scotgov workplan to engage and support third sector employability offer
  • Scotgov are considering a regional approach to governing employability in partnership with local government
  • There remains low transparency of funding and outcomes for employability at various levels of the system
  • There is limited engagement and consultation in employability service design, but an opportunity to broaden this with third sector support. This requires a collaborative service design approach starting with the people.
Third sector employability forum

Scottish Government

Local Government

Deep re-design of employability required, covering:
  • Transparency of Scotgov
  • Accountability within system
  • Participation of people in design of their services
Pre-employment support
  • Scotgov 'Review of Pre-Employment Services in Scotland'
  • Increasing recognition of the role of volunteering, activism, and support for caring and learning - and the third sector leads here.
  • Publication of Third Sector guide to awareness and use of Modern Apprenticeships
  • Poor track record of engagement with specialist providers, particularly smaller specialist providers lower down the contracting chain.
  • Community Care Providers Scotland have been exploring 'Alliance' models which are about collaborative commissioning. This is particularly helpful in delivery for people with complex needs, involving collaboration and shared risk. England are leading here, with work done by LH Alliances in Stockport, and Lambeth. The Plymoth Alliance for Complex Needs is a live example of what an alliance tender could like.
Social enterprise support bodies,

Community Jobs Scotland,

Skills Development Scotland,

SCVO, CCPS on MAs, and Alliance contracting

Supporting collaborative commissioning
  • Community Jobs model
  • Alliance contracting models
  • Securing specialist providers
Third Sector capacity From Sector perspective, we need more third sector engagement, but recognition that this requires capacity support for the sector.

Capacity for policy development - led by SCVO and Scottish Government Third Sector Unit

Capacity for service delivery involves support - led by the Third Sector Employability Forum nationally, and Third sector Interfaces locally

Cross-cutting approach should be framed by by National Performance Framework (and Sus. Dev Goals) to ensure linkages across third sector areas of work

Third Sector Interfaces and SCVO

Scotgov Third Sector Unit

UK Shared Prosperity Fund UK Consultation period Dec 2018-Feb 2019 (expected)

UK position fairly well established, and any influence from Scottish civil society may be limited

Third sector views tend to focus on improving the way the European grants are managed.

Expected difference of views across UK home nations' third sector support bodies. (See SCVO's developing analysis and proposals for Scotland)

Scotland Office

Scottish Government ESIF

UK sector umbrella bodies

  • Evidence on what works best in grant schemes
  • Securing European civil society collaboration
  • Continuing UK civil society collaboration