Charity survey shows up shambolic work programme

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One of the big ideas behind the government’s welfare reforms is that local charities would be better at getting the unemployed into work than government.

Iain-Duncan-SmithIt just so happened that there would be a middleman – often a big contractor like A4e that, despite suffering several fraud arrests, still carries £200 million of public sector contracts.

Once the contractor takes on the case, they then find a subcontractor – the small local organisation – who will actually help secure employment for the jobseeker.

Except that specialist trade magazine Third Sector have reported the majority of welfare-to-work subcontractors in one survey have had precisely no client referrals.

The survey, conducted by the London Voluntary Service Council, found that out of 16 different subcontractors throughout the capital, 11 of the subcontractors had yet to receive a single referral in the first year of the Work Programme.

Five were considering withdrawing, two had already done so, and one had never signed a contract in the first place.

All 16 were ‘Tier 2′ subcontractors, which, Third Sector note, ‘deliver shorter, more specialist interventions than those in the tier 1 category, focusing on tackling a particular barrier to work.’ None, the Voluntary Service Council’s report continues, have any indication of how many clients they might receive in the next year.

This is, they observe:

“…symptomatic of flaws in the design of the Work Programme, which suggests it isn’t offering disadvantaged clients the support they need.”

Certainly, the least it suggests is a gap between the theory and practice of the Work Programme, what the DWP describes as “…very much a partnership between government and providers from across the public, private and third sectors”, is, in reality, a partnership between government and a small number of major private contractors.

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