The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has set up a special interest group for all charities involved as subcontractors on the the government’s new Work Programme, which begins today, replacing the New Deal set up by the Labour government.
A statement from the NCVO said: "Critics have questioned whether the Work Programme will enable voluntary and community sector providers to provide services on a fair and equitable basis when compared with the private sector – in particular, how they will fare in the new payments-by-results environment."
It said the special interest group would be a "vital forum for the charities involved in the Work Programme to share experiences and gather evidence in order to shape and influence policy". The group will also allow the NCVO to relay concerns about the programme to the government, the statement said.
The group will hold regular face-to-face meetings and will also have an online network. Charities that want to be part of the group should contact Paul Winyard, the NCVO’s welfare-to-work lead.
In the Work Programme, 289 charities will be subcontractors and two charities will be prime contractors to deliver welfare-to-work services.
The national welfare-to-work charity the Careers Development Group will be a prime contractor in east London and a partnership between the Dublin-based charity the Rehab Group and the support services company Interserve will be a prime contractor in Wales and in south-west England.
In total, there are 40 prime contracts on the programme in 18 regions, which will be run mainly by organisations other than charities. Charities including Mencap, Citizen’s Advice, the Prince’s Trust and Action for Blind People will be involved as subcontractors on the programme.
The charities will be paid on a payment-by-results model, based on the savings to the public purse that result from getting people back into work. The Department for Work and Pensions has estimated that the total value of the programme to contractors will be between £3bn and £5bn over seven years.