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Bottom-up collaboration experiment between local social welfare offices (OCMW?s: Openbaar Centrum voor Maatschappelijk Welzijn) and the Flemish Public Employment Service (VDAB: Vlaamse Dienst voor Arbeidsbemiddeling en Beroepsopleiding).

Country of implementation
Belgium
General short description of the innovation
The overall idea behind this experiment was to create a ?rule-free? context to explore new forms of collaboration between the sub-regional job centers of the Flemish public employment service and the local social welfare offices. In Belgium, the latter are run by the municipality and they are responsible for the administration of social benefits and and offer a number of activation measures (employment and guidance in the employment path) and other services (for example debt settlement and budget guidance). The job centers in turn are managed at a regional level, and while their staff has to document non-compliance with the conditions linked to the reception of unemployment benefits, the public employment service (PES) is not in charge of taking a final decision about the administration of these benefits. This decision is taken by a separate federal entity, the National Employment Office (NEO). Both the municipalities and the PES function rather independently from each other, and they are both offering a number of activation measures and services. / / Currently, the operations of both organizations are largely tailored to their specific target groups of respectively the clients on social assistance and those receiving unemployment benefits, with limited structural interactions and exchange of information between both organizations. The basic idea behind the initiative is that, regardless of the benefit system clients find themselves in, they may benefit more from the services offered by one or the other organization, or even from receiving services from both organizations at the same time (integrated work-welfare services). Accordingly, if the type of service provided departs from the clients? needs instead of the benefit system they are in, the chances on outflow of the benefit system back into work can be expected to improve. It is also possible that over time, clients get transferred from one benefit system to another (this is possible in both directions). Also here, a need for coordination and harmonization of the services provided arises.
Target group
Total Populaton
Policy Field
    Type of Policy
    • public
    Duration of the policy
    1 full year (2012)
    Scope of innovation
    • Scope: temporary experiment, although later mainstreaming might take place
    • Budgets: none
    • Number of intended beneficiaries: +- 40 clients actually took part in this small-scale experiment without a specific budget, but the real beneficiary group is a lot larger
    • Spatial coverage: local
    General description of (intended) objectives and strategies
    The experiment takes place on five locations: Leuven, Mortsel, Dendermonde, Tielt en Kortrijk-Waregem. Participation is voluntarily. The PES job center and the public social welfare services of the corresponding areas each agreed on a number of general topics they may work on, for example: defining the common criteria to identify clients who may benefit from collaboration, discussing the services these clients are assigned to, establishing communication procedures and foster information exchange etc. The different locations are also expected to include actual clients in the experiment to ensure the practical relevance of the proposed solutions. / Note that all locations are free to decide on which of the above aspects they will work and how many clients will be involved. The content of the experiment is thus defined bottom-up by the counselors of both organizations, although some general principles were established at the start. There was no specific budget foreseen.
    Nature of the innovation-long-term perspective
    long-term perspective (programmatic/radical change): Based on the experiements Flemish policy-makers hope to learn about the possibilities and conditions for mainstreaming the experiment in order to obtain a better collaboration between PES and municipalities in general. This is of importance because due to the 6th State Reform (should be fully implemented by 2015) the regions will have more competences regarding ALMP a.o. the labour market guidance of social benefit recipients will become a regional responsibility and controlling and sanctioning of active jobsearch behavior will go to the regions (the normative framework will stay federal).
    Type of ideal-typical strategy for the innovation
    • others (collaborative governance)
    Type of innovation
    • new form of partnership or cooperation
    • new form of policy implementation/delivery
    New outputs
    • governance (collaboration between sub-regional job centers run by the PES and public social welfare services run by the municipalities)
    • job guidance, coaching and/or counselling (integrated work-welfare approach)
    Clarification of intended mechanisms, outputs and outcomes (optional)
    The above approach lead to different solutions at different locations, both in terms of content and size/scope. Generally, the proposed solutions were of a very practical/operational nature, with counselors finding themselves confronted with organizational barriers that need to be addressed at a higher level within their organizations (different work procedures and organizational cultures, different registration systems, pressure to first fill in the available places in the own organization or services already commissioned, privacy requirements, the current division of responsibilities to follow-up the compliance of clients with the conditions related to the reception of social or unemployment benefits etc.). Because of such barriers, the overall number of clients included in the experiment was limited.
    Intended target group
    Clients on unemployment assistance with welfare-related barriers to work, clients on social assistance who would benefit from support of the PES (under the form of a specific training or participation in another activity), former social benefit clients who have built up sufficient work experience to qualify for unemployment benefits.
    Working age population
    • educational level (low/medium/high) (low or medium (for some clients high but diploma obtained outside EU))
    • employment situation (unemployed)
    • main source of income: social protection (social assistance )
    Actors involved in policy-making/implementation and/or evaluation
    • agency or national social insurance body (Flemish PES (VDAB), public social welfare service at municipality level)
    • private not-for-profit organisations (e.g. Third Sector organisation or NGO) (indirectly, they work together with PES and public social welfare services for example to provide certain guidance programs)
    Intended output
    • governance (collaboration between both organisations: PES and the local social welfare offices)
    • job guidance, coaching and counselling (Adequate guidance and counseling based on the needs of the individual (work, welfare or integrated))
    Did the innovation have any outcome related to job quantity?
    no data available on this should be the case, but at a low scale and no data available on this should be the case, but at a low scale and no data available on this no data available on this
    Intended and unintended outcomes
    43 clients (over 60 were identified as potential beneficiaries, but small-scale project)
    Clarification of outcomes in terms of impacting resilience and labour market inclusion
    The experiment took place on a very small scale, but it allowed learning a number of more general lessons about the collaboration between both organizations. Those lessons can be integrated into future policies. When the underlying idea of collaboration would be realized, this will have a strong impact on the resilience of the target groups such as the long-term unemployed, because the expertise of both the PES and the public social services can be fully leveraged to their benefit. Clients would in this case receive tailored services with attention for both work and welfare, departing from their personal needs.
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