Government ministers are aware that the Work Programme is not operating as they hoped it would, according to Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society.
Hurd was speaking at a round-table discussion with representatives from small charities, organised by the Directory of Social Change. He was asked to respond to criticisms that small, local groups struggled to take part in delivering the programme because it was geared to national, commercial firms.
"I am in almost daily contact with Chris Grayling, the employment minister, about the Work Programme," he said. "It was set up on the basis of payment by results and I think we all recognise the logic of that. Our belief was that the primes would engage in a positive way with social enterprises and charities.
"We are at the stage now where the programme isn’t going the way we expected and ministers are aware of that. This is something new and it is going to take a little bit of time to make sure we get it right."
Hurd was criticised at the meeting for using rhetoric about the government’s big society agenda that charities said did not match the reality of their experiences.
"Of course the rhetoric and expectations will run ahead of the reality because that is what happens when you’re trying to drive change," he said. "It is ridiculous to expect it to happen just like that."
Hurd said he was keen for businesses to encourage employee volunteering and to offer charities support in kind, such as the use of buildings.
Beverley Costa, chief executive of the counselling charity Mothertongue, said: "If that’s what you want to offer me, it’s not what I want. I won’t repeat Bob Geldof’s famous words, but I just want the money."
Charity representatives also raised concerns at the meeting about the difficulty of finding funds to cover core costs, and said many local authorities were reluctant to fund local voluntary groups to deliver services because they were overly worried about risk.