Sunday, 15 July 2012

Thousands of East Londoners in employment experiment

Research done in 2005 found that young people and men on the dole slow down their job searches if they are not watched closely - the findings have inspired a new experiment on East London's unemployed. 

This requires thousands of JSA claimants to sign-on once a week rather than once every two weeks and will therefore increase the workload of a diminished Jobcentre workforce

The original research did the opposite and greatly lowered the number of visits that unemployed people claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) had to make to Jobcentres. 

The aim of the original research was to find out if JSA claimants would carry on looking for jobs if left to their own devices. If it had been successful it would have resulted in a cut in the workload of jobcentre staff. It wasn't successful.

Three experiments done in 2005:

The first was to make no demands on new JSA claimants for the first 13 weeks of unemployment with one random call in. This saw claims increase by 6.1 days in length. The second was the same but over a 6 week period. This saw claims increase by 5.8 days in length. The last was to review the progress of Jobseekers over the phone which saw claims increase by 6.6 days.  

Excusal of signing for 13 weeks nationally (with a random call-in) would be expected to result in an increase of 6.1 days in the average length of claim.

The research said: "These three pilots appeared to have a larger negative effect on men than on women. There is also evidence that the excusal pilots had a larger effect on young people."

The results, it said, suggested that: "It is the frequency of intervention rather than the quality of that intervention which is important in maintaining off-flows. However, the negative effect of the telephone pilot suggests that the intervention does need to be face-to-face to be fully effective."

In effect it found that, left to their own devices, jobseekers will cost the system more. "The size of the effects of the.... signings pilots suggests that the extra benefit payments required are likely to be greater than the administrative savings. Therefore, it is recommended that these are not rolled out nationally."

The new experiment looks like it hopes to push men and young people (a particular problem in Hackney) in the other direction. 

One thing that might need to be factored into this new experiment though is that the Hackney's unemployment rate is now higher and the number of jobs on offer is lower. 

The chart below (click to enlarge) shows how Hackney's unemployment rate has changed in relation to economic change charting the productive power (GDP) of the UK against the proportion claiming JSA.  

As I was one of those selected for the test and the Department of Work and Pensions press office didn't want to provide details about the scheme I put in a Freedom of Information Request and the details are here: 

1. How are people chosen to be put onto this pilot scheme? If it is random how is randomness is achieved?

All JSA claimants reaching 13 weeks of their claim in the two trial districts (East London and West of Scotland) should be put onto the trial. Participants are randomly assigned to either the treatment group (weekly signing) or the control group (fortnightly signing). The random allocation is achieved through an algorithm based on each individual’s National Insurance Number.

2. Is there any written material available to explain the process of selection?

Jobcentre Plus adviser guidance sets out the actions that staff should take when recruiting trial participants and is cited below:

All claimants who made their claim on or after 28 November 2011 must be identified. When these claimants attend their Jobsearch Review in week 12 or 13 of their claim the following additional actions must be taken:

• The Signing Trials Evaluation Tool is completed to determine if they are randomly allocated to the ‘Control’ Group or the ‘Treatment’ Group.

 • The Pilot Marker is set on LMS [Labour Market System] to record the allocated Group. The Pilot Marker is set by accessing the ‘New Initiative’ hotspot in LMS and selecting the ‘FJR Weekly Signing’ option. The following options will be available and should be selected to reflect the outcome of the Signing Trials Evaluation Tool:

 o Treatment – Used when a claimant is allocated to Weekly Signing;

 o Control – Used when a claimant is allocated into the Control Group; and

 o Exit Trial –Used only in exceptional cases and must be agreed with the District SPOC [Single Point of Contact].  This will be used for claimants who have died and other exceptional circumstances. This stage will be monitored to ensure correct usage.” 

 3. I was told by a member of staff at a Jobcentre that the test was done verbally using six questions and that the decision about whether to put someone on the weekly signing was based on the answers to those questions - could this be correct?

This is incorrect. Whether a person is allocated to the treatment or control group depends on their National Insurance Number. The 6 questions asked of participants as part of the Signing Trials Evaluation Tool are voluntary, and are asked to enable more detailed analysis of trial results (for example, whether weekly signing is more or less effective for people closer to the labour market). 

4. How long is the trial due to go on for?

The trial will run for 12 months after the last person has been recruited (anticipated to be until July 2013).

5. a) If someone is put on the weekly signing trial are they on the scheme for a specific period? 

Participants are on the trial until they leave benefits or join the Work Programme (up to a final cut off point of 12 months form the date of the last person joining the trial – see answer to q 4).

 b)If they get a job and sign-off, what happens when they sign back on again. Are they put back on weekly signing if they sign on again? Yes, assuming that they sign back on within the duration of the trial – see answer to q 4.

6. Was the motive for introducing the pilot scheme based on any particular research - if so could you tell me what that was and who wrote it?

The trial is being run to update the Department’s evidence base on Fortnightly Jobsearch Reviews and is informed by a series of pilots run in 2005, results from which are published in Middlemas, J. (2006) Jobseekers Allowance Intervention Pilots Quantitative Evaluation (DWP Research Report 382). This report is available at the following link: 

 7. How many people are signed up on the pilot now and what is the target figure for the pilot - is there maximum or minimum number needed to make it statistically useful?

As of 29 June 2012 there were 11,440 people on the trial. The target figure is 12,000 people (6,000 in the treatment group and 6,000 in the control group). This is the minimum number judged necessary to detect a statistically significant difference between the treatment and control groups.

8. Could you tell me where, and how many job centres are involved in the trial?

All Jobcentres in 2 trial districts (East of London and West of Scotland) are involved in the trial, a total of 40 offices.

9. Does the pilot scheme have an estimated cost?

The trial is being run as part of normal DWP operations and does not attract additional costs.

10. Is it fair to assume that this scheme will increase the workload of jobcentre staff?

 This is one of the things that the trial seeks to test and will be considered as part of the trial evaluation.


  1. But thank God thins has been changed now. I lives in Peterborough and there are many and now I feel good to see people who are working in Peterborough offices that's mean peoples getting jobs now.

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