Work and Pensions Committee

Department for Work and Pension's commissioning strategy and the employment programme market

Terms of Reference

The Work and Pensions Committee announced an inquiry to examine the Department for Work and Pensions commissioning strategy and the employment programme market on 26 June 2008. The Committee welcomes submissions, in accordance with the guidelines set out in the press notice below, with particular reference to the following key areas:

€ Development of the employment programme market. Does evidence support the case for contracting out of employment programmes on a large scale? Are transaction costs sufficiently accounted for in efficiency calculations? Should full cost recovery be available for not for profit providers? Does the commissioning strategy demonstrate a level playing field in terms of contestability for third party and public sector providers?

€ Simplification of DWP's contracted provision. Is the flexible New Deal the right model for future employment programmes? How can DWP retain the good practice developed through existing programmes in the new structure? How will the employment programmes market change with the introduction of prime contractors?

€ Performance management. What lessons can be learned from DWP's current use of prime contractors and the relationship with sub-contractors? What are the challenges to developing accurate and accessible Management Information Systems? How should self-assessment frameworks be developed and used? How should good performance be incentivised? What should be included in calculations of performance related pay? Should performance be measured on outcomes or processes? How should accountability for failure in the tiered contract model be assured? What are the benefits and challenges of a star ratings system? What are the challenges to identify good practice within a large and diverse market?

€ Regional and sub-regional differences. What issues should be considered in the development and management of contracts in devolved regions? What are the challenges to fitting existing local partnerships and sub-regional strategies into a simplified landscape of DWP provision? How should the employment programme market militate against an "edge effect", ensuring that good quality provision is available in urban and rural areas?

€ Long-term effectiveness of intervention. Are the proposed contract lengths appropriate? How will contracts ensure that sustainability is a key focus of the employment programme market? How should joint commissioning with training provision and the incorporation of the skills agenda be developed? What impact will the wider economic situation have on contracts and on provider performance?

€ The customer experience. How should a system of customer choice work? Does the commissioning strategy reflect the needs of different groups such as those with mental health issues? How should the communication strategy for customers be developed to ensure they are aware of their rights and responsibilities, of the provision available, and of the complaints mechanisms? What are the potential implications of welfare reform and the new commissioning strategy on the sanctions regime?

The Committee seeks written contributions on this issue from interested organisations and individuals. The deadline for written evidence is Monday 22 September 2008. Please see the press notice below for details on submissions

Oral evidence sessions

Wednesday 22nd October 2008:
Ian Mulheirn, Chief Economist, The Social Market Foundation
Lawrence Kay, Research Fellow, Policy Exchange;
Stephen Bubb, Chief Executive, ACEVO
Chris Melvin, ERSA Board Director and Managing Director of Reed in Partnership

Wednesday 29th October 2008:
Richard Johnson, Managing Director, Welfare to Work, Serco
Austin Hardie, Operations Director, The Wise Group
Rob Murdoch, Executive Director, A4e (Action for Employment);
David Coyne, Executive Director, Glasgow Works City Strategy Consortium
Dave Simmonds, Chief Executive, Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion (CESI)

Wednesday 10th December 2008:
Rt. Hon. Tony McNulty MP, Minister of State

Press notices

26/06/08: New inquiry
15/10/08: Evidence session announced
23/10/08: Evidence session announced
05/11/08: Evidence session announced