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Social Security Advisory Committee Consultation on Flexible New Deal

The Social Security Advisory Committee is currently consulting on Department of Work and Pensions proposals for Flexible New Deal for benefit claimants including lone parents knocked from Income Support to Jobseeker's Allowance.

The short-run consultation closes on Friday November 7th and you can read more details here.

Flexible New Deal is the Department of Work and Pensions' proposal for a claim on Jobseeker's Allowance. For the first year of JSA claim, the claimant will be under the JobCentre regime ( by signing on fortnightly and having Back to Work interviews at the JobCentre) but in the second year of JSA claim, the regime will be administered by privatised employment services outside the JobCentre. Part of the funding for these services will be commission-based.

Based on statistics for other JSA claimants ( ie excluding lone parents knocked off Income Support onto non-voluntary JSA ) DWP says that 60% of people move off JSA within 13 weeks. Therefore DWP anticipates that 40% of claimants ( including future lone parents on compulsory JSA ) will move to the second stage of the JSA claim. After 13 weeks, the claimant will be required to "widen the job search."

Based on statistics for previous JSA claims excluding lone parents knocked off Income Support and on to involuntary JSA and also before the country was in recession, the DWP says that 80% of people move off JSA within 26 weeks. Therefore DWP anticipates that only 20% of claimants will move on to the third stage. (See page 11 DWP Explanatory Memorandum and draft regulations).

The third stage after 26 weeks will provide every claimant with a Personal Advisor.

"The initial interview with the Adviser will determine the customer’s action plan, which will be stretching and will cover activity over and above that of the Jobseeker’s Agreement. The Jobseeker’s Agreement will remain in place. In addition to some common tasks – such as updating CVs – the Adviser will assess the customer’s needs and identify specific activity that they must do to improve employability and find work. The Adviser and customer will agree the activity and the timetable for achieving it."

"Advisers will have an average of three hours resource to spend with each customer during this stage, to use as they judge best suits the individual’s needs. A general guide will be to see the customer at a minimum of 4-weekly intervals to follow up actions and review how the customer is progressing in achieving and deploying their new skills in seeking work. This will be in addition to the customer’s usual Job Search Reviews, which will be weekly for the first six consecutive weeks of this stage. To support the customer’s efforts in finding employment, advisers will also submit the customer to suitable vacancies."

Stage four of the JSA claim is the Flexible New Deal itself. Based on statistics for previous JSA claims excluding lone parents knocked off Income Support and on to involuntary JSA and also before the country was in recession, the DWP predicts that only one in ten claimants will still be on JSA after a year. More details about FND can be found on p.13 of the DWP Explanatory Memorandum to the Social Security Advisory Committee.

Stage four includes a mandatory period of "work related activity"

4.5.1 Work related activity
For those who do not achieve at least 4 weeks employment whilst on the Flexible New Deal, providers will need to demonstrate that the customer has undertaken at least four weeks of full-time work-related activity designed to improve their work prospects. This might be with a local employer, community or voluntary organisation, or a work trial, and could be at any stage in the 12 month period. For those with ambitions to be self employed it could include a period of ‘test trading’.

4.5.3 FND – Sanctions and Hardship
Based on their agreed Action Plan, FND participants will be notified by their provider as to what activities they are required to undertake and the possible consequences if they do not do so. Contractors will collect evidence on doubts concerning compliance and submit them to the Decision Maker for judgment as to whether or not good cause has been demonstrated.

NB lone parents on JSA are categorised as being in a "vulnerable group" and will be able to apply for Hardship Payments when their benefit is axed. The Decision Maker role will be critical.

Education Otherwise will be examining these proposals in greater detail as soon as possible and will be responding to the SSAC consultation by the deadline of Friday November 7th.

Food for Thought:
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