8. Early lessons from implementation
What has gone well?
Systems have been put in place to track implementation and address issues quickly and effectively.
8.1 There was reported to be a good system of checks and balances in place, which have enabled the Scottish Government to be responsive to unforeseen obstacles. In particular, the Joint Operational Group's weekly meetings have kept them well informed of how programme delivery is going thus far. The real test of these relationships, however, will only really emerge in time. These are relatively complex programmes, with a number of key players and new systems. Ongoing monitoring and amendments may be required.
8.2 A Questions, Ideas, Issues and Concerns ( QIIC) Log was established to record all issues and queries relating to the programme raised by SG, DWP, providers or regional groups. This approach has enabled them to respond to inquiries efficiently and to track and identify recurring themes within these, which will feed into the future planning cycle.
8.3 The Scottish Government team believed that they have worked well under pressure and in the face of uncertainty. They have hired a number of very skilled staff with a breadth of expertise, including former DWP employees. Going forward, they might look to integrate with wider SG teams.
8.4 At an operational level, as described in the previous chapter, there was provider acknowledgement that contract managers are seeking to work with providers to improve delivery. Only one of the providers interviewed felt that the level of contract management was too much.
What has gone less well? What are the challenges?
There is concern about referrals.
8.5 At the time of the consultations, the volume of referrals were reported to have been lower than anticipated for WAS and sometimes inappropriate. The Joint Operational Group is working to address these issues, which were attributed to:
- The programme being new. The programme may take some time for Work Coaches and customers to get used to and be aware of. This is particularly the case with WAS, which is a completely new offer.
- The single source of referrals from JCP. This can be considered an issue because, as highlighted by providers, some of the client group only visit JCP once every six months and so may not be well known to Work Coaches meaning that if there are any missed opportunities around referrals then they cannot be resolved quickly. Furthermore, Work Coaches are referring a similar client group to other DWP programmes, meaning that WAS may not be a priority for them. While it reflects the operational reality of the interaction between reserved and devolved responsibilities, providers cannot recruit customers (they are formally referred by JCP) on their own which creates a further step and so potential disincentive in the customer journey.
- The time available to disseminate information about the new programmes to Work Coaches. This has meant that there has not been enough time to get them fully up to speed on the programme to refer appropriate clients.
- Understanding of the client group. There is the view that more profiling of the client group could have been conducted to better understand where the engagement should take place and the relative scale of different sub-groups.
- The programme being voluntary. Giving people the choice to attend the programme may mean that some people have chosen not to. WAS providers voiced frustration that, whilst they have targets to meet they cannot recruit potential clients directly on to programme – they have to be referred through JCP (although providers can market and promote the programme to potential participants).
WAS providers were concerned about the potential impact of low referrals on their organisations.
8.6 At the time of the consultations, the initial referral rates were found to be causing concern for WAS providers. They were concerned about the potential impact on their organisation financially (as they have staff in place with no work to do as there is not the expected level of customers) and reputationally (as they will fail to meet their targets if referrals remain low).
8.7 At the time of the consultations, WAS providers reported concern about not receiving full payment due to a 'clawback' clause in their contract with SDS. The clause could result in a proportion of their service fee being taken back. This was perceived as a risk and potential deterrent to recruiting staff to deliver on the contract. It was subsequently confirmed to providers in writing by SDS that they would not be activating this clause, but at the time it was considered a threat by providers.
There is a large amount of paperwork to complete for WFS, which was reported to be affecting the speed at which customers can start on the programme.
8.8 Another issue that has surfaced during the early stages of delivery, and that was commented on by one provider, is the large amount of paperwork to complete with customers to start them on WFS. With Work Choice, this paperwork was reported to have taken 45 minutes to complete, but one WFS provider reported that it is taking up to three hours in some cases. It is not clear if this was due to teething issues with the new system. However, it was reported to be resulting in customers having to attend multiple sessions in order to complete the paperwork, which was causing an issue for this provider's delivery partners, who were not aware that the paperwork would take this length of time.
8.9 One provider referenced the numbers of WFS customers moving into work and the lack of an employer incentive built into the programme. This particular provider has decided to meet the cost of this themselves, out with the WFS programme funding, in order to increase the number of customers moving into work. How far this organisation's approach works in comparison to the approaches of other providers will be an issue to return to later in the programme.