Sector's role in Work Programme has 'exceeded expectations'

Half the delivery bodies are voluntary organisations, says DWP official

Alan Cave
Alan Cave

A senior civil servant at the Department for Work and Pensions said yesterday that the voluntary sector’s involvement in the Work Programme had exceeded expectations.

Alan Cave, the DWP’s contracted customer services director, said voluntary organisations accounted for about 50 per cent of organisations delivering the welfare-to-work programme.

Cave said that, in terms of workflow, the sector had dealt with about 20 per cent of referrals.

But he said it was too early to give figures on the breakdown of the value of the contracts according to sector.

Speaking at yesterday’s annual meeting of the Employment Related Services Association’s annual conference in London, Cave said the sector made up about 30 per cent of welfare-to-work subcontractors before the programme was introduced this year.

He said this had set a benchmark for expectations about the level of sector involvement in the new programme, which began this year. "Our expectations about involvement have been more than met," said Cave. 

He said the DWP had not received any notifications of breaches of the Merlin Standard, the code of conduct for organisations in the supply chain.

Cave said he was sympathetic to the financial difficulties of charities, particularly given that he served as a trustee of a charity.

But he said many organisations were suffering, including the DWP, which had seen its budget cut by 40 per cent, and it was wrong to view the programme as a funding mechanism for charities.

"The debate is about to move on quite dramatically," he added. "It’s not going to be about the funding of the voluntary sector. It’s going to be about the performance of organisations."

He said scores relating to performance would be available shortly and there would no hiding place for poor performers. "That’s going to be uncomfortable for some, but from my point of view it’s a welcome reality," said Cave.

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