Findings were published on the 1st September from the final stage of the "work-focused services in children’s centres" pilot evaluation. The pilot operated in 30 children’s centres across ten local authority areas, running from January 2009 to March 2011. It provided work-focused services through a dedicated Jobcentre Plus Personal Adviser, as well as activities and provision designed to support local parents into the labour market.
A comprehensive evaluation assessed the impacts of providing work-focused services on parents’ preparations for and movement into work, as well as stakeholder experiences of implementing the pilot. A mixed methods evaluation was put in place, including surveys of centre users, interviews with parents, staff and stakeholders, and analysis of Management Information.
Findings from the final evaluation show that:
· Overall, the pilot areas have successfully integrated Jobcentre Plus Personal Advisers into the children’s centres. The flexibility of this role has been key to its success with customers and pilot staff alike. Some advisers did, however, find it difficult to manage the tension of balancing work-focused activities with less structured engagement and outreach activities.
· All pilot sites have delivered the five core elements of pilot provision and demand for the pilot has been high. The pilot has made significant progress in preparing parents for work, in getting parents to think about work and in linking them into wider support which they might need in the interim period.
· Outreach has been one of the most successful elements of the pilot. Through a variety of outreach methods the pilot has successfully engaged a mix of traditional and non-traditional Jobcentre Plus customers.
· More joined up services meant that parents had better access to services on one site, and this meant that they were often dealt with more quickly. Referrals between services also meant that parents’ issues were not addressed in isolation from each other, but were tackled more holistically.
· Partnership working has been strong, and has grown over time, between Jobcentre Plus and children’s centres. Partnership working with other local providers tended to be more limited in some areas. A major factor in pilot success is also whether children’s centre managers understand the role that employment can play in providing a route out of poverty.