«Cm 9013 February 2015 Treasury Minutes Government responses on the Eighteenth, the Twenty First to the Twenty Fourth, and the Thirty Third reports ...»
Twenty First Report of Session 2014-15 Department for Work and Pensions The Work Programme The Department for Work and Pensions is responsible for the Work Programme, which aims to help people who have been out of work for long periods to find and keep jobs. Specifically the Work Programme aims to increase employment, reduce the time that people spend on benefit, and to improve support for the hardest-to-help – those participants whose barriers to employment are, relatively, greater than others on the programme. The department assigns people to one of nine payment groups depending on characteristics such as age and the benefit each person is claiming.
On the basis of a report by the NAO, the Committee took evidence, on 14 July 2014, from the Department for Work and Pensions. The Committee published its report on 22 October 2014. This is the Government response to the Committees report.
Background resources NAO report: The Work Programme - Session 2014-15 (HC 266) PAC report: The Work Programme - Session 2014-15 (HC 457)
Committee of Public Accounts conclusions 1-5:
After a slow start, performance is improving
The department should, before the Committee takes further evidence in early 2015, update the Committee on its view of progress, and provide robust and certain data to enable both the NAO and the Committee to make sound judgements on value for money. The department should introduce, for the Work Programme and future contracted out welfare-to-work initiatives, control groups so that it can assess the additional impact of its welfare-to-work provision.
1.1 The Government agrees with the Committee’s recommendation.
The department has contractually introduced a more sophisticated performance measure than 1.2 the one included in the original Work Programme contracts, through variations which were signed in December 2014. This allows performance comparisons across contracts to be made on a fair, transparent basis. The department also continues to update its transparency indicators for the Work Programme (the proportion of customers achieving a job outcome within 12 and 24 months of their time on the programme). Information on performance against these measures is being made available to the NAO. Work Programme performance information is published quarterly and these statistics will form the basis for any NAO review of progress.
1.3 The department will consider the use of control groups for future programmes, weighing up the advantages against any practical and ethical challenges. The department recognises the potential benefits of using these to help establish additional performance. In addition, the department’s Commissioning Strategy, published 2014, states that the department would examine the feasibility of operating a Government-run comparator alongside the contracts let to third-party organisations.
Committee of Public Accounts conclusions 6-9:
Supporting harder-to-help participants into work has been particularly difficult.
The department should review the impact of differential payments to prime contractors on their support to participants with different barriers to finding employment. Before the Committee takes further evidence in early 2015, the department should update the Committee on performance in respect of harder-to-help groups, and its progress encouraging prime contractors to work with them.
6.1 The Government agrees with the Committee’s recommendation.
Target implementation date: April 2015.
6.2 Recent Work Programme official statistics show improved performance for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants. The department has recognised the growing proportion of ESA claimants in the programme and are increasing the department’s focus on this group. To further improve
the performance for ESA claimants:
All providers have developed Performance Improvement Plans, which have a focus on improving the performance of the Work Programme for ESA claimants.
The department is undertaking additional Compliance Monitoring checks with providers focused upon Minimum Service Levels for new ESA programme participants.
The department has shared best practice across all Work Programme providers, with a special focus on the bottom performing providers, to support better performance for ESA claimants.
6.3 The department has also improved the way the department identifies and tracks performance for ESA participants, agreeing contract changes which split out performance for those with longer and shorter term prognosis, to better identify performance for those claimants in need of most support.
Committee of Public Accounts conclusions 10-13:
The department could do more to understand the effectiveness of different approaches to supporting participants into work.
The department should collect information from each prime contractor on how much they are spending on different payment groups and relate this to the nature of support being provided and the outcomes achieved, to help identify cost effective approaches to support. The department should publish, alongside its quarterly release of performance data, details of the number of sanctions analysed by prime contractor. It should use the data to monitor whether providers are making appropriate sanction referrals to the department.
10.1 The Government agrees with the Committee’s recommendation.
10.2 The department annually collects and analyses financial data from providers relating to Work Programme contracts. The department has agreed Work Programme contract variations with all providers and will be undertaking this exercise again to request financial data by Payment Group. Where it is available, the department will examine this data in relation to the support providers deliver and the outcomes they achieve. The department will use the outputs from the latest exercise to inform the development of future employment programmes.
10.3 Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) and ESA sanction decision statistics are already published. The department does not publish these statistics at provider level because they would not show whether providers are using the sanctions regime appropriately. Providers choose whether to mandate participants. The department has a Compliance Monitoring regime, which ensures providers are adhering to the required standards and legislation, which in turn ensures mandated activities are reasonable to individual circumstances. The department regularly reviews data on the speed and quality of sanction referrals, as well as subsequent decisions. The department’s Performance Managers work with providers to improve quality where necessary. Labour Market Decision Makers only decide a sanction is appropriate if they determine it is reasonable.
Committee of Public Accounts conclusions 14-17:
The department needs to tighten up its contract management.
The department should write to the Committee, as soon as it as certain, to confirm whether Newcastle College Group will or will not receive an incentive payment for 2014-15. Before the Committee takes further evidence in early 2015, the department should update the Committee on its progress in clawing back from prime contractors the estimated over payment of £11 million for invalid sustainment payments; and update the Committee on its progress renegotiating its contracts with prime contractors, including a summary of the changes it has made to the contracts, the intended impact of the changes, and the cost of making the changes.
14.1 The Government agrees with the Committee’s recommendation.
Target implementation date: May 2015.
14.2 The department is still negotiating with Newcastle College Group (NCG) over the contract for Contract Package Area (CPA) 18. This will determine whether an Incentive Payment is payable through this contract. The department will write to the Committee once negotiations are completed.
14.3 The department has agreed contract variations for all Work Programme contracts (excluding NCG in CPA 18). Through these variations, the department has successfully recovered all estimated overpayments for invalid sustainment payments. In addition, the Work Programme contract variations
introduced a new cohort based performance metric and changed the basis of Incentive Payments, removing the risk of £40 million of inappropriate Incentive Payments highlighted by the Committee;
strengthened the performance management regime, agreeing more frequent performance reviews and making it easier for the department to implement Market Share Shifts;
split the ‘new ESA’ participants Payment Group (‘PG 6’) so the department can better understand performance for the hardest to help; and enhanced the validation regime, improving the department’s use of data and making changes to the department’s Unable to Validate and Technical Fail validation categories, ensuring they more accurately reflect performance.
18: Committee of Public Accounts conclusion:
Recommendations in the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report.
The department should, before the Committee takes further evidence in early 2015, update the Committee on its progress against the recommendations in the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report.
18.1 The department will write to the Committee separately with an update on the recommendations made by the NAO.
Twenty Second Report of Session 2014-15 Department of Health Out-of-hours GP services in England Out-of-hours GP services provide urgent primary care when GP surgeries are closed, typically from 6.30 pm to 8.00 am on weekdays and all day at weekends and bank holidays. In 2013-14, out-of-hours GP services in England handled around 5.8 million cases at an estimated cost of £400 million. Since 2004, GPs have been able to opt-out of providing out-of-hours GP services and most have done so. In these cases clinical commissioning groups are responsible for commissioning services. Around 10% of GPs have retained responsibility for out-of-hours GP services and NHS England commissions these services directly from the GP practices concerned. The Department of Health (the Department) is ultimately responsible for securing value for money for spending on health services and has set national quality requirements for all out-of-hours GP services. NHS England is accountable to the Department for the quality and value for money of out-of-hours GP services On the basis of a report by the NAO, the Committee took evidence, on 1 September 2014, from the Department of Health and NHS England on their stewardship and oversight of out-of-hours GP services in England. The Committee published its report on 12 November 2014. This is the Government response to the Committee’s report.
Background resources NAO report: Out-of-hours GP services in England – Session 2014-15 (HC 439) PAC report: Out-of-hours GP services in England – Session 2014-15 (HC 583) 1: Committee of Public Accounts conclusion:
NHS England’s oversight of the value for money of out-of-hours GP services has been inadequate.
NHS England should adopt a proportionate oversight regime which provides it with assurance on the value for money of out-of-hours GP services and allows it to identify poorly performing services and make targeted interventions.
1.1 The Government agrees with the Committee’s recommendation.
Target implementation date: April 2015.
1.2 NHS England is developing a revised assurance framework to be applied to clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) from April 2015. CCGs are the principal commissioners of out-of-hours GP services. Within the revised framework there will be a specific focus on the value for money and effectiveness of these services. The approach will be robust but proportionate, with a more intensive assurance process for the most challenged CCGs and a lighter touch for those identified as high performing. In the round, NHS England believes that out-of-hours GP services provide strong value for money to tax payers.
2. Committee of Public Accounts conclusion: