Voluntary group turns away jobseekers sent by Work Programme providers

Third Age Foundation, which provides free computer training for over-40s, says the providers should pay it for its services

Third Age Foundation
Third Age Foundation

A voluntary group says it has turned away jobseekers applying to use its computer training services because they have been sent by Work Programme providers that refuse to pay for the service.

The west London-based Third Age Foundation, which provides free computer training for people aged over 40, has claimed the private sector Work Programme provider Maximus and the not-for-profit provider Urban Futures have sent jobseekers to use its free computer training service without offering to pay for it.

Urban Futures says it has not sent jobseekers to the Third Age Foundation, but has sent some to use other free services. But Sylvia Francis, director of projects at the Third Age Foundation, told Third Sector she had a list of names of individuals that Urban Futures had sent to her organisation.

Francis said it would have cost the organisation £10,000 to support all of the jobseekers that it had been sent by Work Programme providers. The organisation has an annual income of about £70,000.

She said she had asked the companies to either pay the Third Age Foundation for the support it gave to these people, which she said would have helped them find jobs, or to stop sending Work Programme jobseekers to the organisation.

She said she did not think it was fair that the firms would be paid for getting people into work but that her organisation would not receive a share of this money.

Francis said neither company had agreed to do this, so her organisation had started asking new recruits whether they were on the Work Programme and turning them away if they were.

"I really don’t want to be refusing the clients, but I am," she said. "If people turn up from the Work Programme I say they should go back to whoever sent them and tell them they have to pay for it. It puts the clients in a difficult position, but what else can I do?"

Garba Sani, finance director of Urban Futures, said his company had not sent jobseekers to use the Third Age Foundation’s service.

"We haven’t used the Third Age Foundation at all, because they have been asking to be paid if we do," he said. "Why would we pay when there are other free services we can use?"

Maximus did not respond to a request for a comment.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "It would be very difficult for local providers not to point out what support was available. It is the responsibility of Work Programme providers to manage their relationships with other services locally."

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