Sara Hawthorn 29 July 2014

Charities in ‘excellent position’ to support Work Programme

Charities in ‘excellent position’ to support Work Programme image

Government must work closely with charities and service users to ensure success in its Work Programme, a report claims.

Analysis based on figures from the National Audit Office and feedback from charities involved in contracts shows lower than expected performance of the Work Programme in the first two years of the scheme.

According to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), the design of the programme was not discussed with the voluntary sector while the speed of the launch also caused limitations on a creative approach to the scheme.

The report claims just 2.3% of Employability Support Allowance (ESA) claimants forecast to be fit for work within 12 months of being referred to the Work Programme have been successful in finding a job, while prime contractors have reduced their budget for harder to help claimants by 54% since the start of the programme.

Karl Wilding, director of public policy at NCVO, said: ‘Front-line charities are in an excellent position to help people furthest away from the job market to gain skills, experience and confidence to help them towards and into employment.

‘The Government can benefit from taking their expertise into account at the earliest stages. In the future, we would like to see voluntary organisations involved in the design process from the very beginning, to prevent the waste and inefficiencies that have blighted the Work Programme so far.’

Responding to the report, a Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: 'The Work Programme has transformed how long-term unemployed people are helped into work. Charities and voluntary sector organisations play a vital part in its success by using their expert knowledge to tailor services for some of the very hardest to help people.

'The Work Programme is helping more people than any previous employment programme and we have already helped 300,000 people to find lasting work, which has contributed to the largest fall in long-term unemployment for 16 years.'

The NCVO report sets out recommendations for the Department for Work and Pensions to work more closely with charities and umbrella groups for future contracts. Final referrals for the Work Programme take place in March 2016.

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