UK government should stand up to companies that underpay tax – report
MPs’ committee finds Treasury and Cabinet Office are failing to get best value for taxpayers in dealings with firms. Read more…
RM2619 Cabinet Office Recruitment Services
The Cabinet Office Recruitment Team is looking for a) recruitment advertising and marketing service mainly for below Senior Civil Service level b) administrative support and c) the operation of a long list and sift process to support future external recruitment below Senior Civil Servant level. Read more…
The Centre for Social Action – Rehabilitation Social Action Fund
Cabinet Office is pleased to announce the Rehabilitation Social Action Fund is now open for applications. Up to £3.5m will be available for charities and social enterprises who can demonstrate that they have a strong track record in using social action to rehabilitate offenders. Read more…
Government Procurement Service Recruitment Framework for Healthcare Professionals
Government Procurement Service as the Contracting Authority is putting in place a national Framework Agreement for the supply of Allied Health Professionals and Health Science Services staff including some Emergency Services job profiles for use by UK public sector bodies. Read more…
Government claims £10bn of savings in past year
Cash came from cutting civil service costs, procurement changes, improving online services and sale of empty buildings. Read more…
A roundup of expert advice from our recent live discussion on youth services that are being spun out of the public sector
Brendan O’Keefe – head of young people’s services, RBKC
Mutuals give youth services a “fighting chance”: If youth services stay in the local authority we risk a slow and painful demise. Opting out and forming an independent mutual gives us a fighting chance. It presents us with many more options for funding, trading new contracts and social finance. It’s risky and, I don’t mind saying, daunting. But we have done our homework and we have a sound business model. We also have 100% backing from the local authority.
Staff need to be behind the decision to adopt a mutual model: The biggest challenge is convincing staff it’s the right thing to do. You can present as many graphs of doom as you like but you have also to present a compelling vision of an alternative future outside the LA. Having a strong mandate from staff is critical to taking a concept like this forward.
Put youth at the heart of decision-making: We have two places reserved on our board of directors for young people. That places young people in governance and not simply in a consultative role.
Pitfall to avoid: Don’t begin with survival as your sole aim. You must have a credible service offer that someone will want to buy. Without that, you are just putting off your day of reckoning.
Clare Oakley – general manager for public service mutuals, The Co-operative Group
Mutuals are about people: Writing the business plan or selecting the governance structure are elements which are important, but the critical factor is how individuals are involved in the process in such a way that they have ownership of the end products, understand their future business and understand their role in it. This takes time and effort.
Kevin Ford – chief executive of FPM
“Spinning out” youth services is a necessity: I think the driver is a mix of necessity/Hobson’s choice – local government cannot afford to fund youth services (discretionary spend) in the face of demands for spending on statutory duties. Local authorities need to find new ways to provide – driven by cost savings.
Funding is key to youth mutual spin-outs: The future of any youth mutual spin-out will be ultimately tied up with funding. Offloading responsibility for provision to a mutual does not solve the funding problem – services still cost money. It may lead to new sources of funding and new ways to provide services but we must assume that local authorities will continue to provide a significant proportion of funding in this area.
Qualities needed for a successful youth mutual: Vision, enthusiasm and persistence. Plus willingness to take risks. All things that many young people have in abundance.
Kevin Jaquiss – social enterprise legal specialist
Cost saving will now be the main driver for youth service spin-outs: In crude terms, a better way of delivering services with some trading freedoms (which council departments do not have) is the only way of retaining the service. The alternative in many cases will be death by a thousand cuts or something even faster. This seems to me to be wrong but it is what is happening and we have to work with it. The good news is that the pathfinders in this area are finding it possible to develop viable business plans.
Sarah Warman – co-operative lead, Young Lambeth
New approaches are required to maximise resources: At these difficult financial times we need to look at new ways of working and ensuring that the resources we do have are used most effectively. In Lambeth, our approach is defined by placing service users (young people) central to the approach.
Give youth the opportunity for decision-making: In the Youth Lambeth Co-operative (YLC), young people (aged 11-19) can become members and will be represented on the steering group and board. We are also building apprenticeships into the staffing structure, and are aiming to have four in place within two years. Young people will therefore be involved in all aspects of the YLC’s work and decision-making.
Abraham Lawal – young person working on Young Lambeth Co-operative
Greater participation allows young people greater ownership: Involving young people in shaping and deciding services should lead to better services and better use of money. With more ownership, young people will not only have a better understanding of the ins and outs of commissioning and service provision, but they will also value their services more. Young people and the community haven’t been involved as they should in discussions and decisions which affect them – and it’s therefore not surprising that they may feel unfairly targeted.
Tim Decamp – head of mutuals, Cabinet Office
Mutuals provide staff with more control and direction of an organisation: From what we’ve seen from our live mutuals, staff say it feels really different, that they feel more engaged in the direction and purpose of the organisation and feel more able to contribute to its direction as well as innovating more readily and successfully.
More information on mutuals: There are plenty of case studies on the MIS website – from a variety of perspectives.
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You ran a story that jobcentres were requiring jobseekers to conduct a strengths test as a condition of receiving benefits, and described the test as “bogus” (Report, 1 May). Neither of these claims is correct. The test is not a requirement and jobseekers cannot lose their benefits as a result of not doing it. Furthermore the test is not “bogus” as claimed in your story. It was only described as such because one blogger found they could game the test when putting in certain unusual sequences of answers. Like any test of this kind, meaningless responses to the questions will lead to meaningless results. The test is supported by a strong academic literature including widely cited refereed journals. We too often define people by what they cannot do, rather than what they can. Exercises such as this test help rebuild self-confidence and identify character strengths, such as being good with people. It would be a shame if that confidence, and help, is knocked by a cheap exercise in showing it is possible to game a test.
David Halpern Cabinet Office behavioural insights team, Professor Martin Seligman University of Pennsylvania
Shaun Bailey lost job as adviser on youth, crime and race after exclusion by PM’s privately educated colleagues, say friends
The prime minister’s only black working-class adviser has been pushed out of 10 Downing Street following the promotion of Old Etonians and other former public school boys, his friends have claimed.
Shaun Bailey lost his job as a special adviser earlier this year and was moved to a part-time role in the Cabinet Office, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph. Bailey felt he was excluded by Cameron’s advisers because he was “different” and asked demanding questions about what the government was doing. After four months of being excluded by Cameron’s other advisers he was moved to what he saw as a “non-job” in the Cabinet Office.
On Saturday Bailey tweeted that he did not criticise the prime minister for the way he was treated: “Regarding the Telegraph article I want to be clear I have no problem with the PM. He has always supported me.”
Bailey told his friends that the PM’s advisers had no interest in concerns about the cost of living or diversity and were heavily conditioned by a public school mindset.
Cameron has been accused of running an old boys’ network at No 10 after he recently promoted several Old Etonians including Jo Johnson, the brother of the London mayor Boris Johnson, and Jesse Norman.
The prime minister was also educated at Eton, as was Ed Llewellyn, his chief of staff, Oliver Letwin, the Cabinet Office minister, and Sir George Young, the chief whip.
Bailey was paid a salary of £60,000 to advise the prime minister on youth, crime and race after the 2010 general election but in January he was moved to the Cabinet Office, and renamed “youth and engagement champion” with a one-year contract and £36,000 salary.
Cameron has rejected criticism that he only appoints public school educated people to senior jobs, stressing that William Hague, the foreign secretary, and Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, were educated at comprehensive schools. Sam Gyimah, Cameron’s parliamentary private secretary, was also educated at a state school before joining attending Oxford University and working at Goldman Sachs as an investment banker.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “Shaun was a highly valued member of the No?10 team, and he is continuing that good work at the Cabinet Office.”
Provide Behaviour Insights Services to Cabinet Office
Behavioural Insights Team (BIT): Partner agreement. Read more…
US institute which devised questionnaire tells ‘nudge’ unit to stop using it as it failed to be scientifically validated
An American psychologicy organisation has told a UK government agency to stop using a personality test on jobseekers because it is a failure.
The Behavioural Insight team, or “nudge” unit, which was created by David Cameron in 2010 to help people “make better choices”, has been accused by the Ohio-based VIA Institute on Character of bad practice after civil servants used VIA’s personality tests in pilot experiments in Essex despite being refused permission to do so.
The £520,000-a-year Cabinet Office unit was told by VIA – whose members devised the personality test – to stop using the questionnaire because it had failed its scientific validation.
Last week the Guardian revealed that a single mother of two said she was threatened with having her benefits removed if she didn’t complete the “my strengths” character survey. It asked users to give graded answers to questions such as “I never go out of my way to visit museums” and “I have not created anything of beauty in the last year”.
Official letters sent to jobseekers by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) stated that the test was “scientifically shown to find people’s strengths”.
Kelly Aluise, VIA’s communications director, said the institute had previously been approached by a civil servant from the nudge team, Samuel Nguyen, to use a slimmed-down version of it 120- and 240-question “character strengths” survey.
However, she said, Nguyen, who heads up the unit’s work on unemployment, was refused permission by VIA’s education director, Dr Ryan Niemiec.
“They were not allowed to use it,” she said.
In correspondence seen by the Guardian, Neimiec said the test was a failure. “They are using the non-validated version … we had tested it a while back and it failed,” Dr Niemiec wrote.
In November 2011 Nguyen set up a 48-question version of the test for the Cabinet Office on the website to which jobseekers have been referred to complete the test, which has now been rolled out to other areas of the country.
The Guardian has been informed that complaints against the unit’s use of the bogus survey have been lodged with the British Psychological Society and the Health and Care Professions Council, who regulate the practice of registered psychologists.
The DWP confirmed that qualified psychologists – understood to be from the nudge unit – had signed off the project which was meant to boost confidence and help the unemployed back into work.
Aluise said the VIA had asked the Behavioural Insight team to take down their survey completely and refer jobseekers to their own online version of the questionnaire.
Within hours of the Guardian contacting the Cabinet Office about the issue, the not-for-profit VIA, which says it is “dedicated to advancing … evidence-based practices of character strengths”, declined to make further comment and said it had now resolved its differences with the Behaviourial Insights team.
“Any misunderstandings that may have occurred between VIA and the Behavioural Insights team have been resolved at this point,” it said.
The Cabinet Office said the nudge unit – which is being put up for sale – “has a good relationship with VIA, and they are in regular communication”.
In response to questions about whether the test was validated, the Cabinet Office backed away from previous written assurances to jobseekers and said the survey was only “based on a scientifically validated questionnaire”.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme on Friday, Gerry Stoker, professor of politics and governance at the University of Southampton, raised questions about the unit’s ethical approval practice.
“What kind of process of ethical intervention have any of these interventions gone through?” he asked.
“When you’re deceiving people or potentially … coercing people to be part of something that they don’t know they are part of, I think that does raise significant issues.”