Government considers mechanism to protect Work Programme partners

Voluntary sector delegation says employment minister Chris Grayling is keen to involve charities

The government is considering setting up a mechanism that would enable it to cancel the contracts of first-tier contractors delivering its new Work Programme if they mistreat voluntary sector partners, according to a sector delegation.

A group led by chief executives body Acevo met employment minister Chris Grayling this week to talk about the voluntary sector’s involvement in the Work Programme, which will replace existing welfare-to-work schemes including the Flexible New Deal and Pathways to Work.

The group included Acevo staff and members such as Debbie Scott, the Conservative peer and chief executive of employment charity Tomorrow’s People, Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Groundwork, and Sally Burton, chief executive of the Shaw Trust.

Ralph Michell, head of policy at Acevo, who attended the meeting, said Grayling had promised to consider some form of mechanism that could see prime contractors lose their contracts if they "stuff the voluntary sector".

He said Grayling was keen to involve third sector organisations in the delivery of the Work Programme, which is expected to involve first-tier contracts awarded on a regional basis and worth as much as £50m each. Payment will be made according to results.

Grayling said he was considering introducing different rates of pay for helping people from varying circumstances back into work, because third sector organisations were more likely to be working with people who would be harder to help into employment, according to Michell.

He said Grayling also planned to talk to City investors to try to persuade them to see the Work Programme as an opportunity to invest in third sector organisations.

A DWP spokesman said Grayling had told the meeting he was particularly interested in third sector organisations telling him how they could get involved with the Work Programme.

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