Charity issues

JET’s own report on their £118k contract raises questions that need investigating

6x4a6508cI reported previously on the £118,000 contract that JET was awarded by Derby City Council In January 2014, to provide training and to find employment for “hard to reach” people. I questioned whether it gave value for money for the City.

On 28 August 2015, 9 months after the end of the contract, JET issued its “end of project” report which raises even more questions. The report, whilst “public”, is not available publicly. This document, together with further facts from a Freedom of Information request, has resulted in this article update.

Eligibility for the programme

The original intent of the project was to concentrate on people who were “economically inactive”, and “not currently participating in any other programmes” with a particular emphasis on Roma. The detailed wording of the European Social Fund contract actually precluded EU East Europeans ( and therefore Roma) from being eligible.

Someone is “economically inactive” if they are not in the job market at all, not available for work and therefore not claiming Job Seekers Allowance. This might be students, people at home looking after the family, long term sick, and the retired. People who are not routine JET clients.

The Project Target  was to recruit and help 200 people, 150 of whom were to be “economically inactive” and 50 to be Roma. In the absence of Roma being eligible, then it would be reasonable to assume that 200 should be “economically inactive”.  The outcome was that only 63 people (31%) were “economically inactive” , the remaining 69% were “in receipt of benefits”  and therefore, technically, not eligible for support under this programme. There is no explanation as to why so many people who did not qualify for funding were included in the programme.

Approximately 140 of the 200 were South Asian women.

English Language (ESOL) training

The report makes it clear that the lack of English language skills was one of the biggest barriers to employment.  This was the case for 124 of the 200 recruits. Only 61 (49%) of these were actually given any English Language (ESOL) training with a mere 12 (10%) getting to the standard of a 10 year old. So, 63 people with poor English Language skills were given no training, and 49 of those that did get it, could not achieve a rudimentary qualification after 115 available classes. Is this the quality of the training or their lack of attendance?

Running at the same time was the Home Office/Border Agency funded programme – “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (contract value – £122k) for 160 South Asian women – this was also teaching them English Language (ESOL) skills.

1st Aid / Health and Safety / Food Hygiene

JET mentioned their “themed seminars” – 1st Aid / Health and Safety / and Food Hygiene – 9 times in the report. These 3 seminars were put on 3 times each, resulting in 51 people being accredited. Whilst knowledge of these subjects is worthy, these are unlikely to be very influential in gaining a job. Were these seminars provided simply because they were available?

During the same period there was a Futures Advice funded programme ( also financed from the European Social Fund) which provided the same “themed seminars” to 76 South Asian women.

Bill Tidy

Sessions were delivered by Bill Tidy on life in the UK. Whilst Mr Tidy is an accomplished cartoonist, I’m sure his brand of subtle English humour might have lost some of its charm and wit through the language barrier.

It’s not clear how these relate to the other Bill Tidy sessions in JET which were funded by Big Lottery “Awards for All”.

JET Work Club

The report states that only 86, of the 200 people, attended the JET Work Club – this is the regular Wednesday / Thursday sessions that are available for the general public to attend.

Cost Breakdown

The £118,000 was broken down as:

  • £84,500 Management and staffing costs.

This represents 36% of the regular annual staff payroll. The funding rules state that an employee’s time must be booked ( if the person is not 100% on the project)  and only actual salary costs can be claimed. This means that every member of staff, including Sharief, was spending 2 days per week, full time on this project – to the exclusion of anything else.

This could be accounted for by additional staff but by 31 March 2014 – 3 months into an 11 month contract – there were no additional people, nor additional payroll costs ( ref published annual accounts 31/3/14). With most staff on minimum wage, then this would have to have been supported by a large increase in staff numbers; there is no evidence to suggest this ( including the JET website).

Based on the profile of the recruitment, and assuming that everyone attended on average once per week ( which is unlikely from the report), and given the much-publicised 32000 visits to JET per year, then this programme represented around 10-15% of the visitor count – not 36%.

As people on this programme were doing the same nominated courses as other people, attending the routine JET Work Club, and being given standard employability training then there would be little justification for a disproportionate amount of management or staff time; in fact the opposite.

£118k is around 40% of JET’s annual income – perhaps a simple apportionment of costs has been used to back-calculate the amount charged to this contract?

  • £27,700 – training and workshops

As JET runs concurrent programmes that deliver exactly the same courses, the question has to be raised as to how all of the funding is “ring-fenced”.  To re-emphasise – one of the conditions of the contract is that all participants were “not currently participating in any other programmes”. The Council felt that they couldn’t check this; superficially, it is clear that there was a risk that this might be the case.

  • £5800 – Marketing/Publicity, IT, Telephones, Stationery etc

The report claims that there were posters, banners, website updates “as well as through articles in the JET quarterly newsletter” – JETSETTER . There is no copy of the relevant JETSETTER on their website ( the last one was 2011!), no indication of any publicity on the internet, or anywhere else. …and £5800 could pay for a lot of telephone calls and stationery.

In summary:

  • Only 31% of the participants were ”economically inactive” when it should have been 100%
  • No evidence that any of the people were “not currently participating in any other programmes”. All aspects of this programme were contained within other concurrent funded programmes.
  • The project represented a maximum of 10-15% of the visits to JET but charged 36% of the salary costs to the Council.
  • 29 people were found a job, when the target was 50
  • Only 12 people made any real progress in ESOL when 124 had it as a major barrier to employment.
  • Despite a report of 43 pages, no evidence was provided about how substantially nearer to regular employment any of the 200 people actually were. Although 29 people were “in employment”, JET did not provide any detail on this. No statistics were provided on the attendance of each of the 200 people – how many man days were they supported, how many visits to the programme. The measures of activity, and output are totally inadequate for a contract of this size.

This paragraph from page 16 of the report, provides an interesting insight into why this detail was not provided.

“Due to the nature of the Project, learners made contact themselves when they required support. As such, learners remained on the Project for as long as they needed support. This support ranged from a simple CV update, to one to one job search sessions, to attending training sessions and seminars. The majority of learners who left the programme have been supported in one form or another (193).”

Given the nature and value of the project then surely there should have been a more structured regime of weekly reviews not a “turn-up when you require support” approach. The implication is that some people just had a CV update; someone who is economically inactive needs more than just a piece of paper to move them much nearer to employment. Writing and updating a CV seems to have been one of the main deliverables being mentioned 19 times in the report. The lacklustre last sentence reveals the real nature of the laissez-faire support given, even confirming that 7 of the 200 had no support at all!

Conclusion

If the Council genuinely thinks that they have gained full value for £118,000 of tax payer’s money then it raises many questions over their ability to manage public finances….and if this is their benchmark then there is optimism for saving more money elsewhere in the Council’s budget.

But the Council, are being “ostrich-like” and stubborn, regardless of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, by saying:

“We are satisfied that the objectives of the contract have been met therefore no further assessment is required.”

Any right-thinking person looking at this objectively would not agree. It’s about time the Council did their own investigation.

Categories: Charity issues

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