Government agencies should make far better use of data about individual benefits claimants to help them find work - and predict what barriers may be in their way, an influential think tank has recommended.
In its report Joined up welfare: the next steps for personalisation, the free market thinktank Policy Exchange calls for a radical shake up in employment services. It proposes that JobCentre Plus, which "performs well at the administration of benefits, and bringing certain groups closer to the labour market" by supplemented by specialist job-finding services.
Services could be joined up through a single portal, on the model of Service Canada, a "one-stop shop" created in 2005.
The report proposes that the Department for Work and Pensions develop diagnostic tools to assesses the barriers faced by claimants and the intensity of those barriers. "Alongside predictive tools the department should develop one based on an accumulation of claimant data and an assessment of how severe those barriers to work are, rather than an attempt to predict the likelihood of long-term employment."
Wherever possible, citizen support centres should utilise existing data to help assess barriers service users will face. "This should be achieved by data sharing agreements between the department and other central and local government bodies."
Such information would then allow service providers "to gauge the individual's distance from the labour market, and incentivise them to carry out the appropriate interventions".
The report concedes that joining up services is not a new ambition, citing Tony Blair's 1999 Modernising Government white paper and the 2009 Total Place pilots.