Good practice?

A very recent publication from the UK Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) is In-House Research paper No. 8 entitled ‘Not just another website: Review of “50 Plus Works” Good-practice guide and toolkit’. This highly interesting for me since I am both 50+ and looking for work, so I was hoping to find this exercise doubly beneficial. 50PlusWorks is a relatively new website to assist those over 50 in finding work. The DWP have obviously made a slippery move here since government departments are supposed to be reducing the number of sites, and they’ve got away with this by having it done by The Age & Employment Network (TAEN) and being co-financed by the European Social Fund. However since it frequently links back to DirectGov, my question would be why not improve that?

I’m a strong believer in that if a web site is to be good enough for the citizen, the advisors themselves should be able to use it either to mediate for a face-to-face visitor, or for one telephoning in. The comments made to the researchers emphasise what is presumably wrong with the DWP and other government web sites.i.e. “it’s pretty much a one stop shop. There is nothing else as good out there.”, “the lack of photographs meant that it was possible to access information speedily”, “was seen as easier to operate than other websites”

The coalition clampdown on publicity was acknowledged as hampering the promotion of the site but I question the rationale. The reason for the site is apparently to assist, by mediation, the older person looking for work – there will many instances where this will still be appropriate whether a person is 49 or 60, so this approach might have been better employed in improving DirectGov or beta.gov.

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One Response to Good practice?

  1. Chris Ball says:

    Let me declare an interest in this post – I am the CEO of TAEN, the organisation commissioned by the DWP to produce 50+ Works, and I am myself both 50+ and have experienced the feeling of, “What do I do now?” confronting people whose careers end up in the blind alleys of worklessness in mid life.

    But it was a “slippery move” by the DWP eh? I am not sure the DWP can be held responsible for however. The fact is, TAEN was simply commissioned to produce a good practice guide to support front line staff helping older job seekers. There was no clever plan to sneak another web site upon the country because there was no planned website, in fact.

    True, TAEN was always going to be the guide’s publisher, but like anyone given such a challenge, we started the project by asking welfare to work staff themselves what they wanted. The web site concept emerged out of this process rather than any deviousness by the DWP to circumvent the house rules.

    One underlying idea of the site is to point to all the best resources available, so you would expect 50+ Works to make links to Direct Gov. So why should this fact imply that a better plan would be some kind of wholesale take over by big Government? Of course, the more publicity 50+ Works gets the better but that can be achieved in other ways. (We have been delighted to see a large increase in site visitors recently, following publicity, for example.)

    Overall however, your comments are most welcome and I find myself in agreement with much that he says. We are happy that job seekers use 50+ Works, even though that wasn’t the initial design purpose. We are pleased people find it user friendly and would welcome opportunities to market it to a wider audience. We don’t mind a bit that people outside the 50+ age range find much of it useful too, though we insist that there is a need for the precise focus and identity that 50+ Works brings. (This is quite simply because this cohort is more hard done by and misunderstood than any other, and as far as we can see less well supported in the main, by welfare to work organisations.)

    But do you really think this neat solution of a simple, fit for purpose website would have been possible at comparable cost by improving the Direct Gov or beta.gov sites as your reviewer suggests? Nice flattery but a large tail to be wagging a very tiny dog – methinks!

    Mind you, if someone wants TAEN to construct a similar guide for individuals, do call us. The “small is beautiful” approach knows no limits.

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