Who or what is Stimulansz?
Stimulansz is an independent, not-for-profit organisation to support professionals and citizens in the fields of employment, income, housing, healthcare and quality of life. The organisation was founded in 2001 by the VNG (Association of Netherlands Municipalities) and Divosa (the Dutch national organisation of managers in the fields of employment, income and healthcare). In 2005, Stimulansz became an independent organisation.
How does Stimulansz work?
Stimulansz is a non-profit foundation. Our goal is to improve the quality of service in the fields of employment, income, housing, care and quality of life. We do this by developing digital information systems with information for citizens and professionals about social security, legislation and regulation, (health)care and the social map of the Netherlands. We also develop applications, offer process management and disseminate good examples and information. Innovation is one of our priorities. One of our newest services is Stimulansz for Management, in which professionals can call upon knowledgeable administrators and consultants for interim management, coaching, consultation and supervision of (innovative) projects.
The citizen profits from our solutions
The Stimulansz credo is 'the citizen profits from our solutions'. This is because Stimulansz is strongly inspired by the needs of the citizen and develops products and services to offer integrated solutions to improve the whole chain of employment - income - housing - care - quality of life. Our integrated approach makes our products suitable for every professional in the local social services sector.
What does Stimulansz do?
Stimulansz works on national projects as well as local assignments.
Some of our national projects are:
- Developing and testing new concepts in the fields of employment, income and care (such as Work First and marketing for social services).
- Supporting municipalities in submitting tenders, also in a regional context.
- Comparing municipal performance data through benchmarking and applying a business model.
- Offering legal support.
- Offering and maintaining assistance programmes for a broad range of social security issues.
- Support in implementing new legislation.
- Developing risk analyses in the fields of fraud prevention and re-integration.
- Drawing up model decisions and forms in simple, understandable language (ordinary language).
Many of these projects have been executed in co-operation with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment and pilot municipalities.
Some examples of our local activities are:
- Supervising co-operative efforts.
- Supporting local governments in setting up small-scale business space projects.
- Implementation of instruments for quality improvement and internal auditing.
- Accounting for budgets and policy scenarios for activation of job seekers.
- Setting up the local labour market policy.
- Providing training and coaching for managers and employees.
Work First is an established employment strategy in the Netherlands; the primary task of the government is not providing a benefit for the unemployed, but to support them in getting a job. This policy was in 2003 introduced by Stimulansz, based on experiences in Wisconsin USA.
Why invest in unemployed?
The labour force is shrinking. The large generation of baby boomers in the coming decades will stop working while there are far fewer young people entering the labour market. It may be assumed that the demand for labour continues to grow. Economic recessions are happily temporarily. For the first time in history there will be structural fewer people available to work than there are jobs. And this not the only challenge. The international competition increasingly will cause shifts between economical sectors and training demands. More is being asked of people and adaptability is increasingly important. The challenge we face is to get as many people as possible fit for the labour market and to keep them fit. .
Employers find that increasing international competition revolves around people's employability. It concerns both quantity (are there enough people who can do the work?) and quality (are they capable to do the work?). Also in the public services people are needed to provide a sufficient level of services. Retiring teachers must be substituted. Care for the increasing elderly population requires hands.
To maintain the social character of the EU Member States, we need more people into work. More people working means more people helping to pay for social security and fewer people depending on benefits.
Work not only provides money. Work is an important source of social contacts, self-esteem and confidence. Work also contributes to the integration of immigrants and is good for social cohesion.
Unemployment often leads to poverty. The Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) in the Netherlands has calculated that people in households with an income below the poverty line on average live about 5 years less than people with higher incomes. The difference in healthy life years is even 14 years. All in all, enough reasons not to acquiesce in the unemployment of an unduly large proportion of the population.
Work First is a methodology that is characterized by the combination of mandatory work activities (linked to sanctions) and increasing the knowledge and skills of the participants. The idea behind Work First is to bring social benefit recipients through a combination of positive and negative incentives into work (carrot and stick approach). By carrying out work activities, unemployed people are brought closer to the labour market.
Work First has the following characteristics:
1. Quick workload
Work activities are a crucial part of any Work First program. Work activities are short and finite, to stimulate the development of the client and the transit into regular jobs. It prevents the customer "to nests" in the safe environment, but also that the performer and / or client manager consciously or unconsciously prolongs an activity longer than strictly necessary.
The work offer has a dual purpose. It offers customers the ability to adjust to work and to focus on the skills needed for work. Also, the work activity, including the associated intensive support, is an important diagnostic tool for the reintegration of unemployed people who have a greater distance from the labour market.
The speed at which the work activity is offered is an important element of Work First. Everything is geared to the person involved to get him at work as soon as possible. Within 24 or 48 hours after his first application he can go to work.
The diversity of work is important. The availability of a wide range of (training)jobs makes it possible to provide a tailor made offer to the jobseeker. These (training)jobs should with respect to the content and conditions be as close as possible to normal jobs.
One of the key principles is that within the Work First activities that there is already an employer-employee relationship. Many people in the target group must again learn to adhere to regulations concerning working hours, absenteeism, illness, behaviour in the workplace, wage payment, etc.
2. Intensive supervision
Within Work First programs, the customer is not left out of sight. Intensive contact with and support for the customer comes first. On the one hand to show the customer that its activities are taken seriously and that he / she can count on the support needed. On the other hand to monitor the progress closely and to be able to take immediate action when there is any stagnation in the activities. Who provides the intensive support depends on the choice that the community or Jobcentre makes: a performer who is contracted, such as a Werkcenter, or the customer manager himself. In both cases, the intensity of support and tight grip on the progress must be guaranteed.
In order to emphasize the obligatory nature is a contract is made up between the customer and the Jobcentre / municipality. The contract has to be signed by all parties involved in its implementation. The contract includes the mutual rights and duties mentioned. The reciprocity of rights and obligations is important: also for the municipality and the Jobcentre they are not optional. The municipality provides to the customer the agreed services. It made an emphatic role in removing barriers in the service (no waiting, warm transfer) and matching the various parts (no overlap of data registration, same vision and approach between customer, contractor and municipality, tuning of tasks).
The mandatory also includes a strict tit-for-tat policy measure. Clarity about the consequences of not fulfilling the conditions is a must, as a consistent implementation of sanctions. The costumer must be aware of the saction involved, so it will result in a change of his behaviour in the future. The speed at which the sanction is imposed, is also important because otherwise the emotional link between the conduct and the penalty is lost.
4. Integrated services
Within a Work First Program is not only about the provision of a brief workplace or the appointment at a temporary job agency. These are just parts of a comprehensive and coordinated set of activities, such as various types of work activities, intensive counselling, mediation, training, assessment, training etc.. "Integral" has also to do with the underlying process from the first customer contact: processes of the organizations with which the customer has to deal are fully matched to avoid waiting times and duplication of data registration. Speed and quality services are ensured . In the presentation to the customer must seem that he has to deal with one organization, in "word and thought, in behaviour".
5. Fixed client manager
In the Work First Program, comprehensiveness, speed, and consistent implementation of agreements are key terms. Tight control is necessary and should therefore be made by the same person. He should be responsible from the first contact, for the entire process and the results to be obtained. The client manager leads the customer to various program components, monitors the consistency during the process, is the contact for the customer, arranges the necessary facilities and conditions, controls and monitors the implementation by third parties.
In practice we see that the organization of work activities usually is done in conjunction with or by outsourcing to other parties such as a Werkcenter. With this outsourcing are often also the intensive supervision and client contact from hands. The client manager focuses more on the control of the process.
6. Time limit activities
Work First programs are often designed as a coherent set of placement services, tools, training and opportunities for work experience. They are offered to customers for a certain period. Working with a time limit for the activities gives a useful pressure, the customers and the implementing organization are encouraged to avoid unnecessary detours. The emphasis is not on filling processes, but above all the results (the structural reduction of number of people depending on social benefit). Also, the time limit encourages the customer managers gradually to intensifying the coaching as customers stays longer in the program. The program acts as a "pressure cooker", a pressure cooker where the first group are relatively easy been able to get a job - mainly on their own - and where the remaining customers benefit from enhanced services and tools.
The capstone of a Work First Program consists of a form of aftercare. The placement on the regular labor market is a commendable result, but the sustainability of the outflow is important in preventing repeated intake. Not everyone is easily able to maintain himself in the labour market. "Revolving Customers' deliver a lot of work. By maintain contact with the new employer and the (former) customer (for example during half a year) problems can be addressed or prevented in time. The client manager can keep a finger on the pulse, mediate conflicts, provide additional training, etc.
The employer, the crucial factor
Demand-oriented reintegration projects must rely on a good analysis of the (regional) labor market and local and regional businesses. Before a project is taken in progress, there must be a solid cooperation with several employers, branches or economical sectors. This cooperation has to be based on a vacancy inventory or labor market monitor that shows existing or in the foreseeable future expected vacancies . On the other hand, it must be based on the expectation of the municipality or Jobcentre that they have sufficient potential participants from their jobseekers files that can be selected through training and / or work experience courses at the entry level of vacancies available.
The training and work experience of participants in a reintegration program offered, should be as close as possible to a normal working situation. Research shows that the outflow chance is higher if participants work in a real environment instead of a simulated environment: 50% from a real working environment versus 21% from a simulated environment. Furthermore, the probability of outflow is higher when participants work (in part) on a regular contract (outflow probability 44%) instead of with retention of benefit (outflow 26% probability).
The question is whether regular employment is being replaced by people with a benefit during their reintegration. Work that can be performed by an entrepreneur. Creates it unfair competition? No, for two reasons.
The first is that in principle every entrepreneur can get a contract from the municipality to perform work with the use of benefit recipients. They will however have to deliver the normal conditions: individual counseling and training of new employees who often do not initially have normal employee skills. In an open tender for reintegration no party is excluded if they can meet the criteria of price and quality.
More importantly, within an effective unemploymentpolicy not the possibilities of the job seekers are the starting point. The demand of the employers in the region are more important. Reintegration processes are only useful if they match with the workforce needs of employers in the region. Beneficiaries must be made suitable for their vacancies to fill. The importance of entrepreneurs is that they may get qualified personnel is greater than the possible small loss of revenue because unemployed people have to gain practical experience.
Social return on investment
Another way employers can be involved in the reintegration is through their role as contractor of procurement, Social return on investment. Social return on investment is making arrangements with contractors on jobs, learning and work training for target groups in the purchase of services, works and supplies. Target groups include young people with a disability or long-term unemployed, but also of vocational trainees. Sometimes social return is agreed upon in a freer way, such as agreements on the provision of a contribution to certain social goals. In 2009 62% of Dutch municipalities involved criteria for achieving employment and internships in European procurement. With effect from 1 July 2011 the government also uses this condition for contracts above € 250,000.
The 5% rule is mostly practiced. The contractor is asked to spent 5% of the contract sum on employing people with a distance to the labor market.
Work First, does it work?
Several studies show that in average 38% of the Work First participants flows to a regular paid job or temporary work. Projects that focus exclusively on long-term unemployed realize a lower outflow to work, namely 17%. The outflow probability is higher when the participants operating in a real environment, instead of a simulated environment: 50% from an environment true versus 21% from a simulated environment. Furthermore, the probability of outflow is higher when participants work (in part) on a regular contract work (outflow probability 44%) instead of with retention of benefit (outflow 26% probability).
40% of the participants agree with the statement that they are more likely to have a paid job as a result of participating in a Work First program.
A Danish study involving the effect of a mandatory activation program, showed that the chance of work is 30% higher for those who participated in the experiment. This was the overall effect, thus limiting the inflow effect plus the outflow-enhancing effect. According to the study the increase in the outflow is to a large extent a consequence of the stick-element of the carrot-and-stick approach.
The Netherlands has many embodiments of Work First. There is also a large selection of successful projects.
Background: The Dutch policy development
Legislation often follows practice. If we look at the history of the reintegration activities in the Netherlands this is real. Around the turn of the century more and more communities were convinced that the focus on the provision of benefits was a narrow perspective. Not only because the payment of benefits cost a lot of money. For what we then called 'beneficiaries' the safety net had become a social security trap. By focusing on the limitations of the beneficiaries, a continuing need for support was created. The first policy makers who questioned this policy, had the motto: from a safety net to trampoline. Activities had to have an activating effect. Start from what people can do! Inspired by examples from the Nordic countries, the United States of America, etc. initiatives were taken to lead benefit claimants into work.
The responsibility that the municipalities took, was encouraged by the government through the decentralization policy. Through the decentralisation municipalities have more discretion but also more financial responsibility. In terms of policy the law was set out what the municipalities had to do: helping job seekers to work. How they do this, is up to them. Effect of this is that job placement is no longer the monopoly of the (national) employment offices. This is a joint responsibility.
Municipalities can determine how they shape their reintegration. In the period 2002 - 2008 they were obliged to implement public tender. Now this requirement has been abolished, we see that the performance itself is done partly in-house. Other municipalities opting for execution by a municipal service or cling to the implementation by a privat organisation.