Well, we finally have some news from the DWP about the Community Allowance.
We (Steve Wyler, Executive Director of the DTA, Aaron Barbour, Head of Links UK at Community Links and me) went to a hastily arranged meeting with 6 officials from the DWP this morning to discuss our Right to Bid proposal that we submitted back in January.
We’ve got through two rounds of intensive scrutiny and evaluation from across the Department and they wanted to give us their feedback.
Because the last Secretary of State, James Purnell, said that people on Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) would not be eligible for the Community Allowance, our bid, which includes a lot of detail about people on JSA is not eligible for funding and they are rejecting our proposal as it stands.
While we are obviously really disappointed that this is the decision after all the work that has gone into getting this far, there is still hope.
They have asked us to write another bid (!) as they are keen on the Community Allowance concept and can see the value in piloting it to test the approach. They have given us some guidance as to how we should re-shape the bid to stand the best chance of being approved. This includes:
- Re-shaping what we would deliver through the Community Allowance for only people who are on Employment and Support Allowance and Incapacity Benefit
- Scaling back the pilot programme from 15 pilots across the UK to just 3 pilots as the Right to Bid process is targeted at funding small scale activity that can act as the DWP’s research and development arm to test out new ideas and add value to their existing work
- Choosing which three pilot areas it would be piloted in and having identified lead community organisations in each area before the bid is submitted
- Ensuring that each of these pilot areas fits within Job Centre Plus and Pathways to Work provider boundaries, which are different to local authority boundaries
- Beginning to develop a dialogue between the community organisation(s) running the pilot and local Job Centre Plus and Pathways/FND providers in each area
- Including more of a focus on how many people will move into jobs as a result of the activity, specifying which of these are part time, full time and sustained over a 26 week period
We have had lots of discussions about this today and think it is worth being pragmatic at this stage and moving ahead with another bid as outlined above. At the same time we will continue our lobbying and campaigning work to convince politicians that the Community Allowance should be available to anyone on any benefit and trying to get the scope of the pilots extended to include those on JSA at a later date. What do you think?
We would like to hear if community organisations are still interested in being pilot partners under this scaled back version of a Community Allowance pilot. If you are, or you’d like to discuss the practicalities of becoming a pilot partner please email Naomi Alexander (firstname.lastname@example.org) and copy in Jess Steele the Chair of the CREATE Consortium (email@example.com). Jess is available to discuss your potential involvement over email over the next two weeks while I am away on leave. I will then telephone all organisations that have expressed an interest during the week commencing 20th July.
Depending on the level of interest, we will then set up a short selection process that enables us to choose three pilot locations and partners. The aim is then to get the new bid to DWP for their end of August selection panel, so that we have a decision in September and a contract signed and monies flowing to pilot partners by as soon as possible after that.
It’s a challenging timescale, especially as it’s over the summer and people will be taking leave, but if you’re up for it – we’re up for it!
We’ve come this far and have an opportunity to get something up and running next year that will begin to demonstrate how the Community Allowance could work. It may not be what we know is needed in our most deprived communities but it’s a start and we have no intention of giving up. With your involvement we will keep the pressure on politicians to realise the full potential of the Community Allowance over the long term.
We look forward to hearing what you think.
Thanks so much for your support.