Charity cites small payments as its reason for leaving the Work Programme

Liz Rutherfoord of the Single Homeless Project says the charity was having to subsidise its own work, which was not sustainable

SHP works with homeless people in London
SHP works with homeless people in London

The charity the Single Homeless Project says its decision to pull out of the Work Programme was made because of the low number of referrals it was receiving and the small payments it got for helping those people.

The charity, which offers accommodation and other support services to homeless people in London, was delivering the government’s flagship back-to-work scheme as a subcontractor to the private company Seetec. Third Sector reported yesterday that the charity had withdrawn from the programme.

Liz Rutherfoord, chief executive of SHP, said that, according to its contract with Seetec, people who were sent to use the charity’s services would be sent back to use Seetec’s services after the first six months.

Under this system, she said, the charity received an up-front payment of between £400 and £600 for each person sent to it and a further payment if an individual found work within six months. If they found work after that, she said, Seetec would receive the payments.

According to Rutherfoord, however, most of the people sent to use its services faced immediate and complex issues such as rough sleeping, drug use and mental health problems. During that first six months, she said, the charity had been helping them to cope with these issues and they would be employable only in the longer term. The up-front payments did not cover the costs of doing this, she said.

Rutherfoord said that 64 people had been sent to use the charity’s services under the Work Programme since it began its involvement with the scheme nine months ago. The charity had hoped, she said, that more people would be referred to it and that those people would have varying levels of need. This would have allowed the charity to cover the cost of giving intensive support to those that needed it by using the funds it was given to help those that did not need as much support, she said.

"We didn’t get into the Work Programme thinking it would cover all of our costs, but it became clear that the amount of money we were having to pay to subsidise it was not sustainable," she said. "I think that even the second payments we would have received for those who found work after six months were unlikely to be enough to cover our costs."

A spokesman for Seetec said: "This doesn’t reflect the conversations we have had with SHP. It is not something we can comment further on."

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