New data on the progress of the Work Programme reinforces fears that the voluntary sector is not playing as big a role in the scheme as was expected, according to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.
The Department for Work and Pensions has today published a new set of figures on the programme, which show that 370,000 jobseekers have been referred to Work Programme prime providers and 332,000 of these have had an "initial engagement activity" with one of the providers.
However, Paul Winyard, the NCVO’s welfare-to-work lead, said he was concerned that relatively low numbers of Employment and Support Allowance recipients had had an initial engagement with groups that are delivering the programme.
The new figures show that 17,000 ESA recipients have reached this stage, representing 5.1 per cent of the total. They also show that 332,000 Jobseeker’s Allowance recipients have reached this stage, representing 94.6 per cent of those who have done so.
Winyard told Third Sector: "People receiving ESA tend to be the harder-to-reach groups that are more closely associated with voluntary sector provision. It seems that low numbers of these people are being placed on the Work Programme, which supports concerns raised by our special interest group that referrals to voluntary sector groups have been lower than expected."
Winyard said the DWP had initially pledged that the voluntary sector would deliver between 35 and 40 per cent of the programme.
He said the NCVO was concerned that the DWP had not published figures on the number of referrals to voluntary sector organisations. "The data covers only the prime contractor level," he said. "We would like to see a more detailed breakdown of where jobseekers go after being sent to prime contractors so that we could ascertain the level of voluntary sector involvement."
Of 40 prime contracts to deliver the Work Programme, one is held by the charity the Careers Development Group and another is held by a partnership involving the charity the Rehab Group. Other prime contractors are from the public and private sectors, and other charities are involved in the scheme as subcontractors.