Archive for January, 2012







23 January 2012

Welfare to work providers respond to National Audit Office report on Work Programme procurement

The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), the trade association for the welfare to work industry, today comments on the findings of the National Audit Office (NAO) report into the procurement of the Work Programme (released 24 January 2012).    ERSA welcomes the focus of the National Audit Office on referral numbers and type.  However, it believes that the NAO’s conclusions in relation to likely performance levels are premature. 

In particular, ERSA highlights the following points in response to the report.

  • The rapid procurement and implementation timetable of the Work Programme was met by the welfare to work industry, with a great deal achieved over a short time.   Undoubtedly, the process of transition from previous welfare to work programmes to the Work Programme was difficult for many providers, with largescale TUPE transfers taking place across the sector.  This has necessitated industry-wide collaboration, which has been to the benefit of customers.
  • ERSA does not recognise the performance levels anticipated by the National Audit Office.  These appear to be speculative and not based on performance information.   ERSA believes that it is too early to draw any conclusions on likely performance levels across the life of the contracts.  Providers are working hard to achieve the best possible performance levels for all customers and early indications of job entry levels are in line with expectations.
  • Clearly, however, the economic backdrop has worsened since providers submitted tenders in spring 2011.  In particular, regional variations in economic outlook may have an impact on performance levels over the next two to three years.  ERSA will therefore track the UK’s economic performance very carefully and is ready to help facilitate dialogue with the Department for Work and Pensions if this were to become necessary.   ERSA does not believe that this is the case at present.
  • ERSA welcomes the recognition by the National Audit Office of the problems faced by the industry of the lower than expected level of customers on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).  ERSA believes that this is currently the number one problem that the government needs to solve.  Low level of ESA referrals have disproportionate affects on voluntary and community sector providers, as this sector disproportionately provides the specialist support many of these customers need.


  • ERSA regrets any suggestion that providers will act unethically in the delivery of services.  ERSA members are asked to sign up to a code of conduct, while all providers are subject to the Merlin standards of responsible supply chain management.  In addition, the sector is introducing its own set of qualifications and is setting up a dedicated professional institute to ensure the very highest quality standards across the entirety of the industry.

Speaking in response to the NAO report, ERSA chief executive, Kirsty McHugh said:

‘The welfare to work industry welcomed the ambition of the Work Programme, believing that its design and scale will help to facilitate high quality support to jobseekers.   Providers have achieved a great deal in implementing the programme over a short period of time.    We welcome the focus by the NAO on the need to increase the number of ESA referrals to the Work Programme, but do not recognise the performance figures in the report. 

‘Clearly, however, the worsening economic backdrop must be taken into account and therefore the industry will require a strong partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that the Work Programme delivers for the benefit of all customers. ‘


Notes to Editors


ERSA is the trade association for the welfare to work industry. Established in 2005, by the industry for the industy, it exists to help members achieve their shared goal – to help people achieve sustainable work.  ERSA’s membership ranges from large multinational corporations to small specialist charities. It represents over 90 percent of those organisations that have been awarded prime contracts for the Work Programme. Approximately half its members are third sector organisations.

Press enquiries should be directed to Philip Curry at philip.curry@ersa.org.uk or 07919622053.


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Lone Parents on JSA latest – up 50% on last year. Over 30,000 due on Work Programme

We now have the November 2011 figures for Lone Parents on JSA*

  • Lone parents on JSA  up 50% on November 2010 at  121,450
  • Lone parents account for 8% of all JSA claimants.

Between November 2010 and November 2011 the number of JSA claimants went up by 140,000, and 40,000 ( 30% ) of these were lone parents

Lone parents on JSA Broken down by youngest child 

Youngest child aged 0-4            6,395                5%

Youngest child aged 5-6            2,000              2%

Youngest child aged 7-9            50,680           41%

Youngest child aged 10-11         24,980          21%

Youngest child aged 12-15         37,400          31%


The number of women unemployed reaching a 23-year high of 1.128million.

Unemployed for more than a year – and so on the work programme.

The Daily Mirror reported that more than a quarter of women – 301,000 –  have been unemployed for more than a year. If these figures carry through for Lone Parents then around 30,000 are likely to be on the work programme.

* Figures from the Office for National Statistics. http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/index.html

Liz Sewell
Programme Director
Take Three Days

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Nationality of benefit claimants published

The Government has published a piece of research which tracks the country of origin of benefits claimants currently in the UK who were overseas nationals when entering the country.

The report shows that as of February 2011 there were 371,000 people claiming DWP working age benefits who were non-UK nationals when they first registered for a National Insurance Number, of these 258,000 were non-EEA nationals.

Many of the 258,000 non-EEA nationals at the time of National Insurance Number registration are now British Citizens and as such are fully entitled to means tested benefits as are EEA nationals and some non-EEA nationals.

The DWP is co-coordinating with UKBA to review the small number of cases where it appears that benefit is being claimed illegitimately. Where this is the case, benefit will be stopped and further enforcement activity considered.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said:

“It is not acceptable that people from other countries can claim our benefits if they have not worked or paid tax in the UK. We will root out those claimants who can not prove their immigration status and in turn they will be stripped of their benefits.

“I was shocked to discover that the current system does not record the nationality of benefit claimants and we are urgently taking steps to make sure we know exactly how many non-UK nationals are claiming UK benefits. 

Read the research report

Amanda Frewin

Research & Project Support

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Charities delivering on the Work Programme may face financial risk

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has published research warning that charities delivering on the government’s welfare-to-work programme may be exposed to financial risk.

The research shows that more than half of charities delivering said their prime contractors had not protected them from financial risk; 39 of 72 charities surveyed said they have not been shielded by their prime contractor from risk and a further 14 said their prime had only done so to a small extent. Just 2 reported being protected “extensively”.

Under the Work Programme, charities are required to fund the work themselves and are only paid by the Department for Work and Pensions once a person placed in work has completed six months.

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO, said: “The prime contractor model is supposed to safeguard small providers from financial risk, but these findings suggest it is currently falling far short of expectations. The Government must take these concerns on board and ensure that no bad practice is allowed to slip through the net.”

Read the full NCVO Work Programme Special Interest Group Survey

Amanda Frewin

Research & Project Support

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Unemployment up by 118,000 but JSA claimant less than expected.

The Office for National Statistics has published the latest employment figures showing 2.69 million people were ILO unemployed in the September to November quarter, up by 118,000 on the June to August period


Inactivity fell by 61,000 on the quarter and the rate fell 0.2 percentage points to 23.1%. Meanwhile, the number claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance rose by 1,200 in December 2011 to 1.6 million. This is, however, less than the 10,000 expected.


Today’s figures show a fall in youth unemployment reflecting the numbers in full-time education. Full-time students now account for 30% of all those unemployed between the ages of 16 and 24. The number of 16 to 24-year-olds who have left full-time education and are seeking work is 729,000. The number of full-time students looking for a job rose 44,000 to 313,000.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling has responded to these latest figures:

“The overall level of unemployment is, and will remain, a major concern for the Government. The latest figures reflect the current challenging economic climate but also show more women entering the workforce and more students looking to supplement their income through work. When you take into account our welfare reforms the number of Jobseeker Allowance claimants has actually fallen.

“Despite the exceptionally difficult economic circumstances, finding work for the unemployed will remain top of the Government’s agenda.”

Click here for the latest Labour Market Statistical Bulletin

Amanda Frewin

Research & Project Support

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Sad death of Dame Lesley Strathie

Sad death of Dame Lesley Strathie

After joining the senior civil service in 2000 Leslie became the Department for Work and Pensions’ London field director in 2001; chief operating officer of JobCentre Plus (which she had helped create) in 2003.

From 2005 she was simultaneously chief executive of JobCentre Plus; Second Permanent Secretary at the DWP; and head of profession for operational delivery in the civil service.

Our condolences go out to her family

Dame Strathie

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The worst speech ever – (Eric Pickles)

This has got to be the worst speech in christendom or at least in 2012

Eric Pickles’s speech!!!!!!

Clearly the speech ‘writer’ was having a bad day..,

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