They know it's a cop-out. They don't explain how this "performance data" will be presented to the client. It's quite likely that there will be very little difference between providers in terms of job outcomes. So the whole area of choice, which was originally presented as an important plank of FND, has fallen by the wayside.
Wednesday, 13 January 2010
Flexible New Deal - no choice
I'm grateful to our contributor, pseudonym Milly Tant, for leading me discover a situation I wasn't aware of. He was referred to FND by his Jobcentre adviser and told he was going to A4e. He expressed a preference for the other provider in the area, but was told he did not have the choice. His protests were ignored. In looking for the original description of FND I came across the Flexible New Deal Regulations 2009 and found that, while the intention was "to drive up performance through larger, longer contracts and through competition driven by customer choice", they had run into two snags. The first was that in four of the contract areas only one provider had been appointed. The second was stated thus: "The Committee also queried how a customer could make an informed choice between providers during the first year of operation when there will be insufficient information about their performance. In fact choice will not be available during the first year of operation for precisely that reason. During the first year customers will be assigned at random to the two providers operating in the ten areas that will offer choice after the first year. Random allocation means that both providers in an area will receive similar customers, enabling fair performance comparisons to be made. In second and subsequent years customers will be able to make informed choices between providers." Further on the document states: 4.11 We understand that under the FND customers will be randomly allocated to a provider. Performance data will be collected so that, in subsequent years, customers will be able to make an informed choice about their provider. Nevertheless, in four areas of the country there will be only one provider and customers will be mandated to this provider. We are concerned about the limited extent to which the proposed model of a Flexible New Deal allows for meaningful customer choice and flexibility for PAs. At the same time, it is not clear to us how entrants, in the first year of the FND, can make an informed choice between providers when information on provider performance will not be available until subsequent years." Consultation had raised the obvious point that: "competition amongst providers would not always be related to quality of provision and that this could lead to competition in ways unrelated to quality of service, but more in the form of ‘gimmicky’ short-term gifts to customers to influence their choice of a particular provider. Concern was expressed about how vulnerable claimants might access the appropriate information to make an informed judgement about providers, where they are offered a choice." They concluded that: "We support the principles of flexibility and choice upon which these proposals are based. However, we do not see how choice and flexibility for customers are to be promoted through the current contracting arrangements". So "For the first year, in those areas with two prime suppliers (see paragraph 5.2 and Annexe 4), Advisers will randomly allocate customers to providers on an equal share basis. The aim will be to gather sufficient performance data so that, in subsequent years, customers will be able to make an informed choice as to which provider they engage with."