Shadow ministers hold summit to discuss Work Programme 'crisis'

Gareth Thomas and Stephen Timms say the sector's share is less than ministers predicted

Stephen Timms
Stephen Timms

Gareth Thomas, the shadow minister for civil society, and Stephen Timms, the shadow employment minister, will hold a voluntary sector summit today to discuss what they call the "growing crisis" in the government’s Work Programme.

A joint statement from the two said charities and social enterprises were missing out on contracts under the programme.

"Francis Maude claimed that 35 to 40 per cent of the value of the contracts under the Work Programme would go to the third sector," the statement said. "However, this has not been the case – figures suggest that the sector represents less than 20 per cent of the Work Programme suppliers."

It also said that of the 508 voluntary sector providers announced at the start of the programme, only 423 remained as of the 12 August 2011. "This represents a huge loss of expertise," it said.

"Many experienced charities [who] signed up to deliver the Work Programme in local communities…have not yet had a single jobseeker referred to them. This needs to be fixed urgently, or unemployment will continue to soar," said Timms.

The summit at the Houses of Parliament will discuss problems highlighted by charities including the size and complexity of Work Programme contracts, a lack of referrals and charities being offered high risk, low value contracts, the statement said.

It comes on the same day as the Employment Related Services Association, the trade body for the welfare-to-work industry, published a 10-point plan for improving the Work Programme supply chain.

Its recommendations include increasing the number of Employment and Support Allowance referrals that go to voluntary sector organisations and better communication between contractors and sub-contractors.

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