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1 HCS Inspection date 3 August 2007 Inspection number

2 Inspection report: HCS, 3 August 2007 Contents Background information... 3 Inspection judgements... 3 Scope of the inspection... 3 Description of the provider... 4 Subcontractors visited... 4 Summary of grades awarded... 6 Overall judgement... 6 Effectiveness of provision... 6 Capacity to improve... 7 Key strengths... 7 Key areas for improvement... 7 Main findings... 8 Quality of nextstep provision... 8 Quality of provision... 8 Leadership and management... 9 What clients like: What clients think could improve Clients achievements... 13

3 Inspection report: HCS, 3 August of 13 Background information Inspection judgements Inspectors use a four-point scale to summarise their judgements about achievement and standards, the quality of provision, and leadership and management, which includes a grade for equality of opportunity. Key for inspection grades Grade 1 Outstanding Grade 2 Good Grade 3 Satisfactory Grade 4 Inadequate Further information can be found on how inspection judgements are made on Scope of the inspection In deciding the scope of the inspection, inspectors take account of the provider s most recent self-assessment report and development plans, and comments from the local Learning and Skills Council (LSC) or other funding body. Where appropriate, inspectors also consider the previous inspection report (www.ofsted.gov.uk), reports from the inspectorates quality monitoring or annual assessment visits, and data on learners and their achievements over the period since the previous inspection. In addition to reporting on overall effectiveness of the organisation, its capacity to improve further, achievement and standards, quality of provision and leadership and management, this inspection focused on specialist provision in: Adult information, advice and guidance.

4 Inspection report: HCS, 3 August of 13 Description of the provider 1. HCS (Herts. Careers Services) was established in 1995 as a company limited by guarantee. It has managed the nextstep contract and its precursor in Hertfordshire since The nextstep service is funded by the Hertfordshire Learning and Skills Council (LSC). As well as its commercial work, HCS organises work experience and work-related learning programmes for school students. It holds a contract from Connexions Hertfordshire to provide careers education and guidance as well as related services for young people aged 13 to 19. In addition it manages a regional LSC project focused on building the capacity of the Train to Gain assessors to deliver embedded information, advice and guidance within the work-based learning programmes. HCS also co-ordinates a Hertfordshire-based programme that provides support to employees who are at risk of redundancy. 2. HCS is managed by a chief executive who is supported by an assistant chief executive. These two posts, along with those of head of human resources and head of finance, comprise the corporate leadership team (CLT). The strategic leadership team (SLT) comprises the CLT, and managers for the nextstep service, 13 to 19 guidance, accessibility, career and personal development and business planning. The middle leadership team (MLT) is made up of all HCS line managers. The chief executive reports to a board of directors whose membership is drawn from key stakeholders from the public and private sectors. 3. The nextstep core team is led by the nextstep manager who reports directly to the chief executive. The work of the team is supported by a full-time contracts manager and outreach development co-ordinator. Other functions are carried out by part-time staff and include an outreach, quality assessment and training, business planning and administrative support. 4. In the 2006/07 contract year, HCS has a target to provide advice to 6392 clients yet to achieve their first full Level 2 qualification clients receiving an initial advice session on subcontractors premises and 2108 at outreach locations. There is scope for the provision of subsequent advice sessions to these clients as well as additional advice sessions for clients assessed as needing more complex support. Clients with qualifications at Level 2 and above are offered a range of priced services or are referred to learndirect. The adult guidance team delivers approximately 15% of the nextstep programme, with the remainder being shared between 12 subcontractors. Subcontractors visited

5 Inspection report: HCS, 3 August of 13 nextstep subcontractors Visited on inspection ASCEND * The Bridge Training & Business Centre * The Foundation Training Co Ltd Hertford Regional College * Hertsmere Worknet * NextStep Bishop s Stortford * NextStep Waltham Cross * North Herts College * Oaklands College * Volunteer Centre Broxbourne Watford Women s Centre * West Herts College

6 Inspection report: HCS, 3 August of 13 Summary of grades awarded Effectiveness of provision Satisfactory: Grade 3 Capacity to improve Satisfactory: Grade 2 Quality of nextstep provision Satisfactory: Grade 3 Leadership and management Satisfactory: Grade 3 Quality improvement Equality of opportunity Contributory grade: Satisfactory: Grade 3 Contributory grade: Satisfactory: Grade 3 Overall judgement Effectiveness of provision

7 Inspection report: HCS, 3 August of 13 Satisfactory: Grade 3 5. The overall effectiveness of the provision is satisfactory. The quality of the nextstep provision is satisfactory, as are leadership and management, equality of opportunity and quality improvement. Capacity to improve Good: Grade 2 6. HCS has worked effectively to improve the quality of its nextstep service. It has used its analysis of the outcomes of previous actions to improve advice sessions, and has focused resources on new initiatives for improvement. The introduction of a comprehensive framework for quality improvement has started to impact favourably on clients experience. There has been good involvement of subcontractors in this process through the effective use of management information. 7. HCS has produced two self-assessment report; the most recent in July This report is both detailed and self-aware. It reflects many of the findings and judgements from the inspection. The report used the outcomes of the observation of advice sessions to inform a self-critical evaluation of their quality. A wide range of stakeholders contributed to the self-assessment report s evaluative judgements. The grades awarded at inspection matched those in the report. Key strengths Good initiatives to widen the availability of nextstep services to the Hertfordshire workforce. Particularly effective use of management information in working with subcontractors. Good development of clients motivation, confidence and self-esteem. Particularly effective referral of clients for personal support. Key areas for improvement Slow implementation of a skills for life strategy. Insufficient time-bound target-setting and recording of progress for some clients.

8 Inspection report: HCS, 3 August of 13 Main findings Quality of nextstep provision Satisfactory: Grade 3 Achievement and standards 8. Clients gain confidence and develop self-esteem well. Their motivation increases and they significantly improve their communication skills. They use their new abilities effectively in a wide range of decision-making situations that include dealing with domestic and social difficulties, and helping others. In some cases they have used their own experience to introduce hard to reach clients to the nextstep service. Many clients with multiple barriers to progress successfully enter vocational and non-vocational training courses or take up work experience opportunities or volunteer work. 9. Clients achievement of positive outcomes is satisfactory. At the time of the inspection clients were still being followed up for the August 2006 to January 2007 period. Of those already contacted, 66% had entered employment or started, continued or completed a learning programme following their nextstep session. Of the small sample of clients followed up during the preceding six month period, 70% achieved a positive outcome. Quality of provision 10. Most clients experience significant barriers in re-entering employment, education or training due to personal circumstances. Subcontractors have established particularly effective links with a wide range of community groups and agencies to support clients with personal issues. For example a subcontractor in a women-only centre provides very effective referral to safe accommodation and legal support for women suffering from domestic violence. Clients receive a wide range of information on relevant support services. For example, clients get information on financial support, housing, immigration, educational funding, childcare opportunities and specific adaptive technologies. 11. The quality of advice sessions overall is satisfactory. Sixty-five per cent of observed sessions during the inspection were graded as satisfactory. Thirty per cent were judged good, and none inadequate. In the better sessions, clients were fully engaged in exploring past experiences, aspirations and in formulating their future plans. However, in a minority of sessions advisers talked too much and did not allow clients sufficient time to go over the key points discussed and confirm their action plan. Opportunities were missed to check clients understanding and agreement. A few advice sessions, taking place in open plan spaces, were disrupted by other activities. 12. Resources are satisfactory. Advisers have a suitable level of expertise, and relevant qualifications. Leaflets and brochures on training and education opportunities are up to date. In many centres, clients have access to useful information on volunteering, and current local employment opportunities. Most subcontractors have computers with up-todate, relevant software and internet and telephone access for client use. HCS advisers use

9 Inspection report: HCS, 3 August of 13 laptops with clients in outreach locations. Some subcontractors provide translators and interpreters to support the needs of minority ethnic clients. Clients with disabilities have suitable access to a range of adaptive technologies, as well as sign language communicators. Venues provide a welcoming, relaxed and safe environment. 13. The range of provision is satisfactory. Clients are able to access advice sessions in their locality, at times to suit their personal circumstances. For example, one subcontractor works closely with HCS to provide early morning or evening advice for council workers on shift work. Some subcontractors provide group advice sessions and workshops for developing job-seeking skills. 14. The setting of targets with some clients is not sufficiently rigorous. Some clients are confused about who has responsibility for certain actions and the timescales within which they have to be completed. Advisers do not systematically record clients progress, or build upon this in later sessions. In some cases clients returning for a second or subsequent advice session, with a different adviser, cover the same ground without sufficient reference to previous interview notes. In some cases, in subsequent advice sessions, advisers do not have access to complete records of progress. Leadership and management Satisfactory: Grade 3 Quality improvement Contributory grade: Satisfactory: Grade 3 Equality of opportunity Contributory grade: Satisfactory: Grade HCS has a good range of initiatives to widen the availability of nextstep services to people working in Hertfordshire. After careful analysis of management information about the profile of people without a Level 2 qualification in the county, senior managers developed a clear strategy for this work. HCS has used the flexibility of its nextstep services well to enhance the Train to Gain provision and has successfully established information and advice into the programme. Good work is carried out to communicate the benefits of the nextstep service to employers, skills brokers and NVQ assessors. The takeup of nextstep sessions is good and rising, especially among public sector employers. HCS has also worked particularly well to use nextstep to help people facing redundancy. This process has been strengthened by a highly productive working relationship with Jobcentre Plus. Detailed audits of staff skills and abilities are made. Good records are kept of nextstep interventions and the differentiated approaches taken depending on client need. An increasing number of employers are using nextstep services for employees who are not facing redundancy. 16. HCS uses management information particularly well in managing its provision. Its management information system is comprehensive and generates a range of well used reports for monitoring purposes. HCS managers share these reports effectively with subcontractors, in formats that subcontractors value and understand. This has improved the transparency and effectiveness of the contract management process and improved the quality of the service experienced by clients. Subcontractor under-performance is quickly identified and handled appropriately. This year, for example, one new subcontractor was

10 Inspection report: HCS, 3 August of 13 dropped for failing to meet HCS s quality and performance standards, despite appropriate support. Reports are beginning to be used well for target-setting, although the range of targets is still narrow. The management information system allows a comprehensive monitoring of client outcomes to be carried out centrally. 17. HCS has a satisfactory approach to the development of its nextstep service. The chief executive and senior managers have a clear view of the organisation s direction and link their strategic objectives effectively to national and local priorities. Communication is effective across HCS. Resources are managed appropriately to secure a nextstep service across the county and reach the highest possible number of clients. HCS works with an adequate range of partners to support existing clients and reach new priority groups. Staff development is appropriately linked to HCS s observation of practice process. 18. Currently HCS has no overall dedicated plan for the development and improvement of equality of opportunity. However, adequate use is made of the quarterly contract monitoring audits to review and promote the development of equality and diversity with subcontractors. In addition, the observation of advice sessions includes appropriate monitoring and actions to improve equality and diversity practices. There is effective use of data to monitor equality and diversity with subcontractors. HCS has started to improve the use of positive outcome data for comparative purposes. However, it is too early to make a judgement on the effectiveness of this development. 19. There is satisfactory vetting of subcontractor s equality of opportunity arrangements before them being offered a nextstep contract. Venues are generally accessible to clients with mobility difficulties. Where this is not the case, suitable alternative arrangements are made for advice sessions. All nextstep staff have an appropriate understanding of equality and diversity. Relevant and timely updating is carried out. 20. The nextstep service is appropriately promoted. nextstep publicity material includes the national branding and displays a suitable range of images. It is widely distributed and available. However, there is insufficient use of languages other than English and material is not readily available in other formats, such as Braille, audio and large print. 21. HCS works effectively to improve the quality of its nextstep service. It has developed a comprehensive framework for quality improvement and a planned cycle of activities that are reviewed regularly. Staff personal performance plans reflect their quality improvement responsibilities. HCS has introduced a standardised assessment process for the quality of action plans and a well-considered programme of observations of advisers practice. HCS recognises that targets set for the quality of action plans were too ambitious and is taking appropriate steps to remedy this. Comprehensive feedback is collected from key stakeholders. However, this process is too new to judge its effectiveness in improving the provision. HCS s system for monitoring complaints is not systematic. 22. HCS has been slow to implement a skills for life strategy. It does not give enough relevant guidance or staff development support to subcontractors. Some good work is carried out by HCS and subcontractors to identify and meet clients needs. However, arrangements do not effectively secure a consistently high service across all subcontractors. Not all clients receive a service where their needs are satisfactorily identified.

11 Inspection report: HCS, 3 August of 13

12 Inspection report: HCS, 3 August of 13 What clients like: The encouragement they receive - helped me to get more confidence in myself. The venues - very safe environment for women. The personal support - I have found peace now and am beginning to smile again. The advisers - very helpful people. The usefulness of advice sessions - have helped me open new horizons and be more confident in what I do. The quality of advice sessions - I like the way it was done at my own pace with small steps at a time. What clients think could improve: The availability of publicity about the service - I did not know it existed. Help in languages other than English - need more bi-lingual staff. Better links between subcontractors - it s not a joined-up service at the moment.

13 Inspection report: HCS,3 August of 13 Clients achievements Annex Table 1: for clients without a Level 2 qualification when they first contacted nextstep Advice and enhanced service outcomes A Number of clients who received their first advice or enhanced services session during the period B Of those in A the number of clients successfully contacted for the six month follow-up survey C Of those in B, the number of clients who have successfully completed a Learning programme since their advice session D Of those in B, the number of clients who have started, but not yet completed, a Learning programme since their advice session E Of those in B, the number of clients who have continued with, but not yet completed, a learning programme they were already on F Of those in B, the number of clients who were unemployed at the time of their advice session G Of those in F, the number of clients who are now in employment H Of those in B, the total number of clients to have achieved a positive outcome Date of first advice or enhanced services session Aug 06 Jan 07 Feb 06 July 06 Aug 05 Jan 06 Feb 05 July 05 No. % No. % No. % No. % Crown copyright 2008 Website: This document may be reproduced in whole or in part for non-commercial educational purposes, provided that the information quoted is reproduced without adaptation and the source and date of publication are stated.

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