The Work Programme; an inside perspective

Written by Claire Coxsell on 3rd February 2012
Posted in Welfare to Work

The coalition government has initiated one of the biggest shake ups of the Welfare System and it’s programmes such as Flexible New Deal, Future Jobs Fund, Pathways to Work and a whole host of other Welfare to Work programmes have all but disappeared to make way for the Work Programme; an all encompassing initiative based on results which aims to get the long term unemployed back into sustainable employment through various means.

I know I am not the first, nor will be the last to review this programme or cast opinions on it, this is happening on an almost daily basis not only in the press but also through forums and social networking sites. However I would argue that few would have access to the perspective ascertained from a Welfare to Work Recruitment Consultant. Due to the nature of this business I regularly speak to many people involved in delivering it from personal advisers to CEO’s of some of the major contractors to some of the smaller charities.

My aim is to give an honest review based on the general feedback I hear.

Due to the enormity of the Work Programme and diverse range of people involved with the implementation, there is not one overarching opinion of whether it is the best initiative in Welfare to Work history, the worst or indeed, in the middle. Opinions seem to be dependant on people’s positions and roles within it.

However there is a shared opinion across the board, it is theoretically an innovative way of trying to help the unemployed and everyone that I have spoken to shares a genuine level of optimism and hopes that it will work and will change the present and future of Welfare to Work and its customers. Everyone (none more so than the government I am sure) want it to work. However those same people worry about putting it into practice in the real word. Organisations, public and private, are fighting for funding and ultimately due to the payment on results only the larger organisations (primes) are able to have the financial backing in the first place. Moreover is it just a case of re-inventing the wheel? Will it be like a conveyor belt, where customers are churned in and out of this massive social programme?

One of the most consistent pieces of feedback comes from the smaller and more specialised organisations labelled as ‘knowledge banks’ where the majority, 8 months into the programme, have not had any of the promised referrals and who are having to re-apply to be part of the supply chain. This group, who are predominantly small businesses and charities are understandably frustrated that their initial participation was needed by the primes in order for them to demonstrate their access to specialist knowledge and in order for them to win the bids themselves. They are not receiving any fruits for their labours in fact it’s quite the opposite. One of the most memorable conversations I have had was with a Director of Welfare to Work for a well known charity who has taken a huge hit due to, what he deemed, the apparent disappointing results of the Work Programme. In his opinion he saw the future of these small organisations as being uncertain and them having to join forces and diversify hugely in order to survive the harsh reality that the Work Programme may not produce the revenue and results that were originally predicted. Unfortunately some of his predictions have already proved themselves to be true. I have seen a number of organisations I contact regularly struggle, make redundancies and some even fall. The reason for this is potentially funding related. I have been informed that where it was initially thought that the primes would pay for their services it now is down to the sub-contractors. Are either party willing to pay for this specialist knowledge? It has also been mentioned in a few discussions with various organisations that the sub-contractors need to ask permission from the primes in order to use the third tiers. Is this the case?

It seems the second tier providers are having a substantially different experience to the knowledge banks. Those directly sub-contracted by the primes are doing relatively well and although they were hoping for a few more referrals they are in general receiving the predicted amount. Could it be argued then that the process of passing the customer from JCP to the primes, onto the subcontractors is more elongated than initially though? If the knowledge banks can hold on and essentially ‘ride the storm’ will referrals eventually reach them? Many of the knowledge banks predict that it will be spring time before they have the opportunity to be fully involved with Work Programme customers.

The primes seem to be getting huge numbers of referrals but only time will tell as to whether it is a profitable investment and ultimately whether they can make a real difference.

Overall the Work Programme has received mixed reviews but has seemed to produce more concerns and questions so far than tangible results. However can all who are involved with it be considered as being too impatient? Alternatively can the government be seen as unrealistic, providing us with false hope as to how quickly we would see results and how involved smaller organisations would be?

Either way the year anniversary and official results will make for an interesting read….

I wonder what the participants on the Work Programme think?


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Paul Champion
Strategic Project Manager

Mobile: 07540 704920

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