Evaluation of Oxford City Council's Welfare Reform Team European Social Fund Project
Decision Maker: City Executive Board (became Cabinet on 13 May 2019)
Decision status: Recommendations approved
Is Key decision?: Yes
Is subject to call in?: Yes
To ask the City Executive Board to note the evaluation of the project. The evaluation includes contributions from Oxford University, external stakeholders and a customer survey.
Original project brief:
The project being undertaking is funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) and the aim is to engage with 600 tenants renting privately in Oxford City who aren’t working to determine what support they would need in order to either gain employment or undertake work related training. The project builds on the success of the Local Authority Led Pilot undertaken by OCC during 2013 by identifying a new customer base which will in turn provide more learning on what a Local Support Service Framework (LSSF) could look like once Universal Credit is introduced in Oxford. The report aims to highlight the activity that will be undertaken during the ESF Project.
The Executive Director Organisational Development & Corporate Services submitted a report detailing the outcomes and learning achieved from the Welfare Reform Team’s European Social Fund project.
The Revenues & Benefits Programme Manager presented the report and highlighted the following key points:
· A researcher from the Social Policy Unit at Oxford University carried out analysis of the data collected during the project. Her most statistically significant findings were that people who had been out of work for 6 to 12 months were more likely to enter work than any other cohort, and that the more income a person lost from changes to their benefit, the less likely they were to move into work. This last finding contradicts existing government thinking in relation to reductions in benefit payments.
· The project highlighted that lack of available childcare is the main barrier to work for customers. As a consequence the OCC Welfare Reform Team have formed stronger relationships with local children’s centres as they are likely to engage with people who will be affected by the lower Benefit Cap.
· Partnership work was one of the most successful elements of the project, and has had the most significant legacy.
· The project evaluation had been distributed locally to all partners and interested parties, and also to the Universal Credit Programme at DWP, the Local Government Association, and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
· Since the project ended the Council has led two partnership bids with 20 third sector partners for funding from the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
In discussion the Board commented on the value of the academic appraisal of the project; the importance of the provision of affordable “after school” childcare by the County Council; the benefits of early intervention and expenditure in reducing longer term costs; and the implications for mental health support services.
In conclusion the Board noted that the groups most impacted by the welfare cuts needed support from a wide range of resources and that the loss of some of those key service components locally combined with the national changes to the benefit system presented a very serious problem.
The City Executive Board resolved to:
1. Note the outcomes and learning detailed in this report;
2. Refer the project findings and the Board’s conclusions to the County Council and local Health Authority;
3. Share the project findings with Government and the Shadow front bench.
Report author: Paul Wilding
Publication date: 20/05/2016
Date of decision: 19/05/2016
Decided at meeting: 19/05/2016 - City Executive Board (became Cabinet on 13 May 2019)
Effective from: 25/05/2016