Archive for the ‘THE GRAPEVINE! news, comment & a bit of gossip’ Category







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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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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The man, the Myth, the legend.

Richard Johnson has left the stage…..

It is indeed true to say, that under the leadership of Richard Johnson, Serco launched itself financially but more importantly, emotionally into the welfare to work sector.

The Batman and Robin duo of Messrs Johnson and Williams strutted impressive figures on the W2W stage.

Serco made its mark during FND1, however it was during FND2 that Serco did indeed begin to soar like an eagle.

I have to declare an interest here… yesMinister were heavily involved and embedded with the Serco team during FND2.. in fact we were indistinguishable and fitted seamlessly into the team which the dynamic duo had put together… by the way we were also paid on time – this bodes well for Serco’s supply chain!!

The ethical Monolith

Having worked in the sector from the TEC days it was reassuring for me to see and hear high ethics and commendable aspirations being enunciated from within the belly of the monolith which is Serco. What was said internally was communicated externally … there were no double messages, hedged bets, or duplicitous actions… this made it easy for Serco but even easier for yesMinister to engage with Serco and its supply chain.

Pastures New

Richard has gone on to pastures new but lets be clear… many Prime contractors stood quietly whilst Richard expounded on the pros and cons of the new commissioning framework, on the impact of payment by results on providers, beneficiaries – now there’s a word that’s rarely used -, and government. Richard has indeed been a ‘critical friend’;  many have silently benefited from his insights. Richard definitely applied his skills of oratory, his attention to detail and his ability to discern which was bolstered by his confidence in the research that his team had been doing on the ground and which was further supported by the modelling, statistical analysis and attention to detail…

The new level of transparency of accounting which is characteristic of the sector came from RJ. The innovative 3 Step Delivery Model was born out of the belly of the Dynamic Duo…


As Machiavelli says.. the innovator is at most risk because on one hand he has those who have benefited from the old system and are fearful of losing out under a new system.

On the other hand, those who ‘could’ benefit from the proposed new system are fearful of that change and of what it will mean….. this leaves the innovator in a precarious position … still innovating but with others waiting, waiting, waiting and trying to time and negotiate their own advantage……

The sector will definitely miss RJ…..

By the way Richard…. ….. lets do lunch … there are new plans emerging,.,.,….. its not over yet……

Seasons greetings………follow this

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Grayling “encouraged” by Voluntary Sector Involvement in the Work Programme

Minister for Employment Chris Grayling has welcomed initial estimates from Work Programme providers showing 20% of people referred to the Work Programme are receiving support from the voluntary sector.

Voluntary sector organisations are an integral part of the Government’s Work Programme providing specialised support to unemployed people some of whom have very complex needs.

This support can be anything from helping someone beat a substance addiction, overcome homelessness or manage a health condition.

Latest projections show over 650,000 people will be referred to the Work Programme as a whole in 2011/12.

Minister for Employment Chris Grayling said:

“It is still early days, but I am encouraged to see there are people receiving the specialist help they need from the Work Programme.

“These organisations provide a vital service helping us give people the tailored support they need to get into employment. They bring with them specialised skills and expertise to help some of the most vulnerable unemployed people find sustainable jobs.”

“The global economic situation continues to have an impact on the UK’s economy but I am confident we have the right support in place to help people through this difficult time, whatever their individual circumstances may be.”

Click for the list of figures

Click for the list of subcontractors


Amanda Frewin

Research & Project Support

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Is the Welfare Reform Bill in breach of  human Rights?

The Joint Committee on Human Rights warned that elements of the Welfare Reform Bill could be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The committee backed the Government’s aim of supporting more people into work as the best route out of poverty.

However it warned withdrawing benefits for up to three years from claimants if they fail to meet certain requirements, could hit some people who were unable to work.

The parliamentary Human Rights Joint Committee has decided that to do so could put the human rights of the ‘unemployable’ at risk

They also said that taking away jobseekers’ allowance from these people could plunge some families into destitution – something which would amount to ‘inhuman or degrading treatment’.

The committee also criticised Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s plan to impose a welfare cap of £26,000 a year, to ensure that families on benefits do not receive more than the average worker.

The Committee reported;

‘We believe there is a risk that the conditionality and sanction provisions in the Bill might in some circumstances lead to destitution, such as would amount to inhuman or degrading treatment contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights, if the individual concerned was genuinely incapable of work.’


‘We do not consider that making benefits conditional on compliance with work-related requirements is in breach of the prohibition on servitude and forced labour in Article 4 of the ECHR.’


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Latest news!! a few days late… sorry

Unlocking growth, apprenticeships, housing, the North West

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Increase in basic State Pension from April 2012


From next April, Pensioners will benefit from the biggest ever cash increase to their basic State Pension, as it goes up by September’s Consumer Prices Index of 5.2%. This works out as an increase of £5.30 a week and will bring it to £107.45.

Minister for Pensions Steve Webb said:

“Our ‘triple lock’ commitment to give pensioners the best of prices, earnings or 2.5% on their basic State Pension gives them the reassurance that their pension will increase by a fair amount every year.

“It also means that by next April the basic State Pension will be worth 17% of average earnings, the highest it has been in any year since 1997.”

Ministers also confirmed that support for disabled people will be protected with a 5.2% increase to their benefits.



Amanda Frewin

Research & Project Support

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