Thursday, 24 March 2011

Family champions - and confidence and doubts about the Work Programme

Do you fancy being one of Emma Harrison's "family champions"? If you live in the Blackpool area, now's your chance. The council is advertising for 5 of them. The pay is £19 - 21k. Although the employer is the council, the advert was clearly drawn up by Harrison. Amidst the gush we find: "You will be working in partnership with multiple agencies to help families affected by inter generational worklessness that need your support within your community and become a positive presence in their lives and homes; challenging the family when objectives have not been met, supporting the family through new experiences and goals." (You might ask at this point, which families? Who is going to decide on the clients? Will they be able to refuse?) The job spec is more sober. And it's here you begin to see it as a kind of prototype for the super-contract. Among other similar requirements we get: "To engage in interagency, partnership and joint working to ensure a more coherent and personalized response to the needs of children, young people and families."
Nowhere can one find a definition of a family. However, while conceding that these "family champions" may achieve some good for some people, it must be seen as a dangerously flawed approach.

The Financial Times continues to take a close interest in the finances of the Work Programme. On 23 March it published a letter from A4e's Mark Lovell, disagreeing with the doubts which have been expressed. He says that A4e pioneered the payment-by-results model, and have been very successful with it in Israel. "Working in close partnership with the investment community, we are confident of success in the UK and in the ability of the market to respond to the policies that the government has put in place," he says. But the Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, has expressed grave doubts about the programme working at all in his area. In an FT report he says that 3 providers working in competition will just lead to confusion in a contract area which is far too big. The Olympics site is in his borough, and he is worried that the many temporary jobs created by the games will not come the way of local unemployed people. "The prime providers might actively discourage people from taking them because they would not get a significant payment – and those who did take the jobs and became unemployed again could have to go to the back of the queue and start on the work programme again a year later." Excellent point.


  1. Whoever applies to be a family champion had better not be strongly anti-smoking because Blackpool is the smoking capital of England!

  2. I have to say the comments on this subject seem wholly unfair!

    Surely any support given to inactive families is a bonus? Supporting people into activity, and further on into employment is a purely positive step in the right direction?

    I would like to see some form of justification for the comment "However, while conceding that these "family champions" may achieve some good for some people, it must be seen as a dangerously flawed approach."

    Why is this flawed? Looking at the following comments regarding Sir Robin Wales are you really wanting people to belive that competion is bad? Looking at Sir Wales's comments it seem temporary jobs fit the bill just right for him, which is fine unless he doesn't want these people back in work until our next national event?!?!?!?


  3. Thanks for your comment; but let's just examine some of the assumptions in it. "Support" covers a great deal; what does it mean? Many households have multiple, complex problems which cannot be addressed if the only aim is to get them into work. "Inactive" again assumes a great deal. Who decides which households are to be included?
    As for Sir Robin Wales' comment, you have misunderstood his point. Temporary jobs are on offer for the games, and there are lots of other temporary jobs out there. He was expressing concern that providers would steer local people away from these jobs because they won't get outcome payments for temporary jobs. Personally, I think he's wrong about that, but we'll see. As for competition between providers - it was supposed to happen with FND and didn't.

  4. Hi,

    I'd like to know when the tender process took place for this project and where the funding is from does anyone know?
    I cant remember seeing it over the last year. Surely they would have had to go though an open process to be awarded this contract.


  5. Good point! No bidding process took place, it was Emma Harrison's idea, taken up as an experimental project by Cameron. The local authorities which have taken it up are funding it and employing the people directly. Of course, there's nothing to stop councils in the future from farming it out to a private company, and there would then have to be an open tender process. I wonder who would get the contract!


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