Welfare to work commissioning: wave two provider survey: research summary: summary

Document type
Armstrong, David; Cummings, Carol-Anne; Jones, Kieran
Date of publication
1 June 2011
Research report; 757
Social welfare
Material type

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This summary provides an overview of a report on the impact of the commissioning strategy on the welfare-to-work market, with reference to the flexible new deal. The Commissioning Strategy launched by the Department for Work and Pensions in February 2008 marked the beginnings of a new approach to commissioning employment programmes in Great Britain as DWP sought to work more strategically with providers. The rationale of the new commissioning principles is to achieve a substantial improvement in provider performance in terms of securing sustainable job outcomes for customers, while also achieving efficiencies in the provision of employment programmes through exposing employment provision to market forces.The key features of the new commissioning approach are:

  • market structure: developing a strong, consistent base of top tier providers who will work with regional and sub-regional partners;
  • market development and stewardship: actively and transparently creating an enabling environment to ensure smaller, local providers can flourish and develop;
  • DWP capability: developing DWP’s own skill base to enable DWP to make a positive contribution to business partnership;
  • provider capabilities: specifying specific capabilities and requirements of high-performing supply chains and top tier providers;
  • customer experience: it will play an important part in the commissioning of provision, how it is delivered and how it is improved; and
  • commercial strategy: rewarding providers on the basis of achieved job outcomes and using competition to drive greater effectiveness.

Launched in October 2009, Flexible New Deal (FND) was the first programme to be designed, commissioned and implemented under the Commissioning Strategy. It is being delivered in 14 contract package areas and 24 contracts were awarded to prime providers and their supply chains. FND contracts will be terminated in June 2011 with the introduction of the Government’s Work Programme1, a new single, personalised welfare to work programme for a wide variety of customers including Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) customers and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) customers.

The Work Programme will be commissioned under the Framework for Employment Related Support Services (the Framework) which was introduced in June 20102. Only organisations that are successful in achieving a place on the Framework will be able to bid as prime providers to deliver future employment-related service contracts for the lifetime of the Framework. Although the use of a framework to commission employment-related services marks a departure from previous approaches, there has been a continued commitment within the Work Programme towards the key principles of the new commissioning approach, such as the provision of larger contracts of longer duration, the use of the prime provider model and minimal prescription by DWP to providers on content of provision.

This research seeks to establish the initial reactions and the emerging impacts the Commissioning Strategy is having on the welfare to work market among providers through focusing on FND. The research covers a range of providers, including those operating within the FND marketplace, i.e. prime providers and subcontractors and those outside, i.e. providers who are not delivering FND such as those who were unsuccessful or did not bid for the FND contract and those who have left supply chains during or after the bidding process.

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