Liberal Democrat minister raises concerns about Work Programme with DWP

Nick Harvey, a defence minister, writes to work and pensions sector Chris Grayling after being contacted by Westward Pathfinder, a charity in his constituency

Nick Harvey
Nick Harvey

A local charity in Devon has prompted the armed forces minister Nick Harvey, a Liberal Democrat, to raise concerns about the government’s flagship welfare-to-work scheme, the Work Programme, with the Department for Work and Pensions.

Harvey wrote to the employment minister, Chris Grayling, saying charities were struggling to deliver the scheme and urging the government to review the programme’s funding model, in a letter leaked to The Guardian newspaper.

A spokeswoman for Harvey told Third Sector he had written the letter after concerns were raised by the training and support charity Westward Pathfinder, which is a subcontractor on the programme and is based in Harvey's North Devon constituency. 

"The charity is having real difficulty because the programme is run on tight margins and the money does not come in until a client has been back in work for six months," she said.

Harvey raised the concerns in his role as the local MP, she said, rather than as a government minister. The spokeswoman said he had not yet received a response to the letter.

George Curry, chief executive of Westward Pathfinder, declined to comment on the leaked letter, but said: "In order to do a good job, you need the money and you can’t do it with money that is paid six months down the line."

Asked whether it would make any changes to the Work Programme in the light of Harvey’s concerns, the DWP issued a statement that said: "DWP holds contracts with prime providers. We do not determine how they select subcontractors. Primes manage their business in different ways and supply chains are often diverse.

"DWP has worked with the welfare-to-work industry to develop the independently accredited Merlin Standard, which aims to promote excellence in supply chain management."

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