(Original script, may differ from delivered version)
Universal Credit local support services framework
I was delighted to be able to publish the Universal Credit (UC) Local Support Services Framework last month.
The majority of you will have had time by now to read and digest what’s in the Framework and will be aware that it is the culmination of many months’ extensive communications with Local Authorities and the Local Government Association.
Value of partnership working
Indeed I am very pleased that Sir Merrick Cockell has co-signed the document and recognised, in his foreword, the value that we attach to working in Partnership with the Local Government Sector.
UC an opportunity
Since the start of the programme our conversations with LAs have uncovered a great deal of excellent local practice but also a great deal of frustration with the way that local services are currently arranged.
The conclusion of these discussions was that UC opens up a tremendous opportunity for working in partnership with the LAs to improve support for claimants with complex needs.
This is why the Framework attaches such importance to working in Partnership to deliver Local Support Services.
Current practice - silo working and wasted time and resource
We know that claimants with the most complex needs require support from the largest number of local agencies, not just Jobcentres and One-Stop-Shops but often other services like homelessness support and Adult Social Care.
However these agencies often work in silos, cut off from each other, unable to share information or work towards a common plan for supporting them towards independence.
Better joined up services
And our conversations with charities supporting people with complex needs have revealed how sometimes their staff can spend literally hours contacting the different agencies involved with providing support to resolve problems with benefits and other services.
Single claimant journey
UC, and the online system, gives us a fantastic opportunity to overcome some of these problems by bringing the different service providers round the same table to plan services in a joined-up way.
The Delivery Partnerships Approach set out within the Framework aims to build on the best practise that’s already out there, working locally with other key providers to create a “single claimant journey” shared between agencies for helping claimants towards independence and, wherever possible, work.
Under this approach the DWP District Manager seeking opportunities for young unemployed people should more easily be able to tap into Local Authority initiatives for employment creation.
The Housing Officer wanting to ensure appropriate budgeting support for a new tenant will be able to access that support
And the Adult Social Care Commissioner wanting to fast-track a recovering alcoholic into additional employment support will be able to have the relevant conversation with DWP staff.
Most of you probably want to know about funding for Local Support Services and I am happy to confirm that some new money will be available.
Current funding streams
However I would also like to challenge the notion that the approach that I have outlined is entirely dependent on new money.
Most of the services that could add tremendous value to the Local Delivery Partnerships will already have funding streams in place.
And for many, such as Adult Social Care services, changes to the delivery of benefits will not be their core business but will be an important aspect of providing rounded support to the people that they support.
But the fact is that local services will need to adapt in order to stay relevant and provide appropriate support to people that they are responsible for helping.
DWP District Managers - working together
That is why I have already asked DWP District Managers to work with you to identify, and support the development of, appropriate local planning forums, pulling together the services that will be required to help claimants locally.
I have asked them to work with you to identify gaps in local level service provision and potential providers, from the public, private and voluntary sectors who could help to fill these gaps, with Local Authorities and their supply chains as the providers of choice from October.
The Delivery Partnerships Approach is about turning existing best practice into the norm across the country
Too often now examples of excellence are not being shared. We are keen to make UC an opportunity for the very best practice to be spread around the country.
Planning needs to be in place even before final decisions about funding can be shared.
And I hope that all Local Authorities will recognise the value of working in Partnership and join us in helping to provide better and more joined-up support for UC claimants needing local level help.
The Framework is the first step
Our Framework outlines the principles for that support.
But of course publication of the Framework is only the first step.
In less than two months’ time the very first people to claim UC will do so in the Greater Manchester and Cheshire area, and
In October, UC will start to become available to more people and in more areas of the country.
Evidence that UC will be manageable for most
The transfer to Universal Credit for many claimants will not be a major shift. These people are comfortable applying for different banking services online and already budget on a monthly basis.
Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that most claimants believed that they would have no problems if they had their benefit paid directly to them.
Our initial research into direct payments in the social sector found that 54% of tenants thought they would cope well with direct payments and 47% thought it would be easy for them to manage their money.
Early results from the project show around 90% of rent payments are being made.
Meanwhile, 78% of working age benefit claimants already use the internet - 48% of those say they log in every day - many to search for jobs online.
We do however recognise that extra support will be needed for others - either as they make their first steps onto UC or in the longer term as they learn to budget.
Under UC we want to establish much clearer support - so that people can move smoothly from dependency to self-sufficiency and work readiness.
The current system puts labels on people - because they claim certain benefits or have certain disabilities - we don’t want to do that.
We need to be much more flexible
Opportunity for stronger support
The role for local authorities will change.
Universal Credit presents an opportunity to provide much _stronger _support for people to achieve greater independence and combat financial, digital and social exclusion.
Support that is holistic, tailored and targeted.
We need to focus on helping claimants to understand the new system and identify the best route for claiming; help them to get online and help them with money advice and support.
While many, if not most people, will be able to claim independently, we need to make sure that face-to-face and telephone support remains in place for those who need it.
Pilot programme - success stories
I’m really pleased to see so many people from the local authority led pilots here today, and I’m sorry I can’t stay on for what I’m sure will be a really interesting afternoon.
The pilot programme is the most exciting initiative we’ve undertaken with the local government sector for quite some time - all 13 councils involved have picked up the challenge and they’re hitting all the right targets: integrating services, making things simple for claimants, shifting the focus from receiving benefits to finding work.
They’re also pioneering the two key areas where we already know we need to make sure supply keeps up with demand.
Digital inclusion: I’ve heard about how Birmingham’s digital logbook provides a personal digital account for claimants and how people are coming forward even before their first interview to sort out their email accounts.
And financial inclusion: North Dorset’s work with the credit union means that the claimant who couldn’t afford transport to work now has a loan for a scooter to find a job - crucial for getting work when you live out in the countryside
Above all the pilots are teaching us invaluable lessons about partnership.
Many of the pilots are building on strong partnerships that are already in place. Through others we’re learning that time and care is needed to explore how we can share ambitions and resources with a range of local agencies in an innovative way.
Although I want you to be confident that the local support services framework gives you a sound basis for planning your services next year, it’s by no means done and dusted.
I will be listening to messages from the local authority led pilots as they move forward. I will make sure that later in the year we can provide you with a more comprehensive document that reflects the richness of learning that is coming from this important work.
Direct payment projects helping identify who needs extra help
Our direct payment demonstration projects are also helping us to learn who needs additional help.
They are showing us who should not receive their housing benefit directly and what safeguards there need to be in place if people fall into arrears and to stop people falling behind with rent in the first place.
Build on existing work
All this work is helping us to build on the work councils, social landlords and other community groups already do.
Banking and budgeting accounts
We are also looking at how banks and credit unions can offer suitable budgeting accounts for people who need a little more support than is currently offered through mainstream bank accounts.
We are working on providing safe and secure banking products to support claimants. These will help people to budget so that they can pay their rent and household bills.
We will shortly launch the Personal Planner to help people get themselves ready for UC.
The planner helps people to understand their readiness for UC - producing a helpful, personalised statement and links to national organisations for advice on getting on line and managing money.
And for a minority of claimants, we will have an exceptions process where claimants can be paid more frequently; have a payment split between partners; or have rent paid directly to their landlord.
But as I said earlier the Framework is just the first step and October is only 6 months away.
Now the really hard work begins.
The Task Force has already started to plan the next steps for Local Support Services.
It has identified three key priority areas.
Resolution of outstanding funding issues
Firstly, and most pressing, is the resolution of outstanding funding issues.
DWP and LAs will continue to work together as part of a new LSS Financial Group to resolve these financial management and funding approach issues.
It will need to agree the basis on which national funding will be distributed to local partnership level, as well as agree who is best placed to manage local funding.
Although the Framework reflects DWP’s preferred position, this is not a done deal. We will be talking extensively to the sector about options and alternatives before a final decision is made.
It will also need to calculate the forecast funding that will be available to each local delivery partnership, and determine the ‘guaranteed’ and ‘outcome based’ elements of the payments that will be made to Partnerships.
But of course, we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that there is an opportunity here for you to pull existing funding streams together - we are not just talking about newly required services
Implementation of Mark 1 Framework
Secondly, we need to turn this framework into reality for the start of progressive national rollout from October.
To do this we need to design contracts and set up overarching partnering arrangements with the LAA associations, and
We need to mobilise DWP Operations and delivery partners to make it all happen locally
We’re in the process of setting up a new LSS Implementation Group where DWP and LAs will work together to deliver the Framework. One of its first tasks will be to carry out a business change impact analysis to identify the host of planning activities required to make the Framework a reality on the ground.
But in the meantime, I know you’ll want to start talking to your District Managers about what you can do together to adapt existing services or create new ones to ensure claimants are effectively supported - in your local area - when UC starts to be rolled out across GB.
Design and development of Mark 2 Framework
Finally, of course, we need to begin the design of the Mark 2 Framework.
We’ll use learning from the Pathfinder, the pilots, the demonstration projects and other evaluation activity so that we’ll be in a position to issue a more comprehensive version of the Framework in October, in time to inform LA budget planning for the 2014/15 financial year.
The Task Force that delivered this Framework has already set in motion plans to take this work forward.
Looking further ahead
Looking further ahead I expect to see a much wider network of support in place.
The governments longer term vision is that of a more open delivery model which I hope will involve a wider community of local providers.
How do you plan to respond?
I want to hear what you think about the Framework. In particular, I’m interested to hear how you plan to respond to the Framework in your own areas.
Mechanisms for sharing best practice
We have already begun to receive really good examples of local best practice.
I’m especially interested to hear how you think we might create the right mechanisms for best practice to be shared so that we establish true centres of excellence, everywhere.