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Public Accounts Committee criticises award of contract to A4e

The  Public Accounts Committee’s chair, Margaret Hodge, asked civil servants why welfare-to-work companies with poor track records of fulfilling previous contracts had been given new work.

“It seemed rather surprising to me that you did not have to regard to the past performance of contractors. Why not?” she asked. “A4e … their performance on [Pathways to Work] was abysmal … Why didn’t you look at past performance of contractors?”

Fellow committee member Richard Bacon, Conservative MP for south Norfolk, added:

“Are you seriously saying that you could not take into account that A4e had dreadful performance in one of the immediate predecessor programmes?”He said that the company got 9% of clients into work in the Pathways to Work programme – it had been expected to deliver 30%.

There was also concern raised about dividends of £11m being paid out.

Read more in the Guardian

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The Government yesterday announced changes to Access to Work, a disability employment programme delivered by Jobcentre Plus, to give disabled people faster and simpler support into work.

 

Access to Work provides financial help towards the extra costs faced by disabled people in work, where this goes beyond what would be reasonable for an employer to meet. For example, the programme provides grants direct to individual disabled people to reimburse them for approved costs, and is very flexible to meet individual needs.

Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller said: “Our changes to Access to Work will give disabled people the confidence to apply for jobs, safe in the knowledge that they are already eligible for support. Employers will also be reassured that support is available towards costs beyond what is reasonable for them to meet.”

The programme has been growing steadily and in 2009/10 supported 37,300 disabled people in employment. It is recognised by the National Audit Office as highly cost-effective. Estimates suggest an average annual net fiscal benefit of £2,600.

Disabled jobseekers will be able to find out immediately if they’re eligible for Access to Work support by completing a short on-line questionnaire at Directgov. If eligible, they will be able to print off a new “Pre-Employment Eligibility Letter” which will help build their confidence when applying for jobs and can be shown to prospective employers.

To be eligible for the programme a person must:

  • have a disability or health condition as defined under the Equality Act which is affecting their ability to work;
  • be 16 years old or over;
  • live and work in Great Britain;
  • be in work already, or have a confirmed start-date;
  • not be in receipt of Incapacity Benefit (however the person may get limited help if they will be working under Higher Level or Supported Permitted Work rules).

Press release here:

Jason McGee-Abe
Project Support Officer
www.yesminister.org.uk

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