Evaluation of the Fair Cities Pilots 2006
Second Interim Report
Atkinson J, Dewson S, Casebourne J, Tackey N D
Research Report DWPRR 428, Department for Work and Pensions, May 2007
a study commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions
Orchestrated by the National Employment Panel, the Fair Cities Pilots are employer-led initiatives designed to improve job entry and progression for ethnic minorities in Brent, Birmingham and Bradford. By September 2006, the Fair Cities Pilots have been operational for just over one year, and have moved on from a difficult and delayed capacity-building phase into the beginnings of their delivery phase.
Substantial local infrastructures have been successfully built, including strong and influential boards of leading local employers. Small, professional, local teams are in place. They have forged good relationships with other local stakeholders, partnerships and providers, and are now building their expertise in the practical, contractual and managerial aspects of devising and delivering successful pipelines.
The Fair Cities ‘demand led’ pipeline model is now starting to cohere with some 43 pipelines in operation, and 13 under development. Together these offer Fair Cities beneficiaries access, albeit not guaranteed entry, to some 1,600 good quality vacancies with an average starting wage of £7.39 per hour. Individual pipelines are tending to be small and short, averaging 30 places and 14 days’ provision. Participating employers tend to be large, and have generally been satisfied with the extent and character of customisation in their pipelines. Rather more mixed experiences are reported concerning the quality of candidates coming through the pipelines and entering their recruitment processes, with the result that 47 per cent of those completing a pipeline by the end of September 2006 had not secured a job offer from the sponsoring employer.
The substantive outcomes from the Pilots have been disappointing. After some ten months of operation, the number of beneficiaries placed in jobs remains very low; at 248, this is little more than ten per cent of the job entry target envisaged for the current year as a whole. Nor is there any obvious sign of an increasing monthly rate of job entries during this period. In addition, there are serious blockages in, and leakages from, the pipelines that have run so far, undermining their efficiency. As a result, at £12,715, the gross cost per job entry is high (£10,350, excluding the cost of the Central Secretariat), albeit likely to reduce as numbers build up and start-up costs are spread.
The targeting of beneficiary intakes has been strong in terms of a focus on minority ethnic groups, with 80 per cent of entrants coming from minority backgrounds. But it has been weaker in terms of both the benefit status and distance from the labour market of entrants; with 40 per cent of entrants being in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), and over half (54 per cent) having worked in the previous year. Targeting has been weaker still in terms of a focus on the target wards, but this may not matter greatly as it was largely a means to securing a high minority representation.
Sustainability in employment is broadly in line with most mainstream programmes at 13 weeks, but (although the data are poor) falls away badly at 26 weeks. This seems likely to further undermine the economic effectiveness of the initiative, and must place Fair Cities’ ambitions for enhanced progression at work in some doubt.
Five recommendations are made, that the Fair Cities Pilots should:
- urgently consider potential means of accelerating the rate of job entries.
- avoid doing this at the expense of diluting the mix of beneficiaries by leaning more strongly towards the more job ready entrants. Indeed, it is our view that any adjustment ought more properly to be towards people less likely to find work without the Pilots’ help.
- review the effectiveness of the pipelines which have already run, with a view to significantly improving the recruitment rate among beneficiaries completing the course.
- improve the quality and scope of their information about the medium-term outcomes for their beneficiaries. On this basis, they may well wish to consider appropriate measures to aid retention in work.
- review its aspirations for the spatial targeting of the initiative; its overt and public design aspiration to focus on distinct communities should either be implemented more cogently or abandoned.
Evaluation of the Fair Cities Pilots 2006: Second Interim Report, Atkinson J, Dewson S, Casebourne J, Tackey N D. Research Report DWPRR 428, Department for Work and Pensions, 2007.
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