Charities fear welfare-to-work plans will hurt beneficiaries

Charities that bid to run proposed back-to-work services could find themselves having to impose sanctions on their beneficiaries, a disability charity has warned.

The Department for Work and Pensions this week published the welfare green paper No one Written Off: Reforming Welfare to Reward Responsibility, which puts forward a raft of radical proposals for overhauling the benefit system.

The measures include forcing the long-term unemployed into doing full-time community work courses to help them get back to work, which charities and voluntary organisations could be involved in (Third Sector Online, 22 July).

Guy Parckar public policy manager at Leonard Cheshire Disability, said the proposals could increase the opportunities for charities to be involved in providing public services.

But those charities that get involved could find themselves facing moral dilemmas over those that do not comply with the requirements of the courses, he added.

"One of the things we are concerned about is the increasing threat of sanctions, and voluntary sector organisations will need to think very carefully about this," said Parckar.

"They could be in a position where they are having to impose sanctions on their own beneficiaries, and that is something that has to be squared up."

Kate Green, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, warned that moving to payment by results, a move previously announced by James Purnell, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Third Sector Online, 28 February), could adversely affect the way services were provided.

"The proposed resurrection of David Freud's controversial proposal to privatise welfare to work provision for the most disadvantaged will cause concern," she said. "Providers paid by results may not have the best interests of claimants at heart - we need guarantees the profit motive will not trump fairness in the system."

Mike Locke, director of public affairs at <a href="http://www.volunteering.org.uk">Volunteering England</a>, said the paper's mentions of volunteering were encouraging. "There are some things in there that we see as promising signs that we would want to encourage and develop with the Government," he said.

It was good that the paper said that community work was not compulsory volunteering, he added.

Stephen Bubb, chief executive of chief executives body Acevo, hailed the paper as the chance for third sector organisations to radically increase the amount of public services they provide.

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