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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

3 February 2012

ERSA calls for a review of TUPE regulations

ERSA has signalled that it would support a decision by the Government to consult formally on changes to the 2006 TUPE regulations.

In a submission to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, ERSA highlights how the Government’s decision to terminate previous welfare to work contracts during the 2011 to make way for the Work Programme led to unprecedented complexity and uncertainty across the sector about the potential application of TUPE rules.  This led to significantly increased costs to both primes and subcontractors and is likely to have led to some potential subcontractors deciding not to take on contracts.

ERSA’s chief executive, Kirsty McHugh, said:  ‘Whilst ERSA believes that TUPE principles can help to maintain staff performance in a contracting environment, we believe that the experience of the welfare to work industry, where there has been transition from multiple provider to multiple provider in rapid timescales, has raised a range of questions in relation to TUPE regulations that make them warrant review.

In 2011, ERSA’s HR Forum, made up of welfare to work providers from around 50 organisations, took the lead in attempting to co-ordinate an industry view on transition arrangements across the welfare to work sector.  The process helped to deliver a more coherent approach that might not otherwise have been achieved.

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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, plus a larger number of subcontractors. Approximately half its members are third sector organisations.

For copies of ERSA’s submission and for all press enquiries please contact Philip Curry at philip.curry@ersa.org.uk or 07932 792 435.

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Will providers act unethically

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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

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.

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  • 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. ‘

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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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PRESS COMMENT

For immediate release

 

8 October 2011

 

 

ERSA comment on NCVO voluntary sector provider survey

The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), the trade body for the welfare to work industry, today responds to the survey by the National Council of Voluntary Organisations on the experience of voluntary sector providers of the Work Programme.

ERSA strongly believes that all providers should act fairly and responsibly and that ERSA members should abide by its Code of Conduct, the principles of which are enshrined in the Merlin Standard.

Although it is important to note that referrals to Work Programme have yet to settle down, it is clear that there is a significant concern with the underperformance of Atos, the government contractor for the Work Capability Assessments.   ERSA believes that voluntary sector providers may have been disproportionately disadvantaged by the low level of Work Capability Assessments taking place and the subsequently low level of customers on Employment Support Allowance who have been referred to the Work Programme.  Many of these customers would, on referral, be in receipt of specialist services, many of which are provided by charities.

A recent Freedom of Information request indicated that Atos has completed 56,000 Work Capability Assessments since the commencement of the national roll out.  This is against an expected figure of 11,000 cases being assessed each week.

Kirsty McHugh, ERSA Chief Executive, commented:

‘It is vital that people in need of specialist employment services receive them.  It is unacceptable that the delay in carrying out Work Capability Assessments means that some of the people who need the most help are not being referred to the Work Programme in a timely matter.  This is a particularly significant issue for ERSA voluntary sector members who often provide this type of specialist employment support.  We are therefore calling on the government to take urgent action to make sure that the backlog of WCAs is cleared and we can get referrals rolling to the voluntary sector.’

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Notes to editors

  1. ERSA is the trade association for the welfare to work industry.  It represents 90% of those organisations that have been awarded prime contractors for the Work Programme and 90% of providers for Work Choice, the government’s new specialist disability programme.  ERSA’s membership is split 50/50 between voluntary and private sector.
  2. A response to a FOI request published on 23 September (http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/foi-2310-2011.pdf) reveals the numbers having undergone a WCA to date. A statement on 25 January 2011  (Hansard: Column 6WS) stated that Atos would be processing a full caseload of around 11,000 per week.
  3. ERSA’s chief executive can be contacted at kirsty.mchugh@ersa.org.uk or on 07932 792 435.

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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

18 July 2011

 

ERSA calls for measures to increase the transparency and effectiveness of future Government procurement.

 

The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), the trade body for the welfare to work industry, today welcomed the publication of the Government’s response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee Inquiry on Work Programme procurement, but released survey data showing that more could be done to increase the transparency and effectiveness of future Government procurement.

 

Speaking in response to the publication, ERSA chief executive Kirsty McHugh said ‘This is a useful exchange which places the Government’s commitment to evaluation and transparency of information firmly in the public arena.  ERSA’s membership has always backed the principles of the Work Programme, but our recent survey of ERSA members shows that the speed at which it was conducted has had a range of consequences that need to be taken into consideration by future Government procurement exercises.  In addition, it would be helpful for the Government to publish a statement of intent about future procurement intention to help increase confidence in the market’.

 

ERSA surveyed its members between 25 May and 16 June 2011 and received a 61% response rate. The survey results show that 71% believed that Government procurement timetables had been difficult and that 40% thought the procurement process allowed providers insufficient scope for introducing innovative ways of delivering welfare to work services.

 

In addition, there was a call from subcontractors for prime contractors to reduce the bureaucracy of their own procurement processes.  Some potential subcontractors had filled in over 100 Expression of Interest forms, which had presented a substantial opportunity cost to smaller organisations.

 

ERSA also called for greater transparency from Government on a range of other issues, including:

 

  1. The extent to which the Government is undertaking a DEL/AME switch.  The Government’s statement in the response to the Work and Pensions Committee report that benefit savings ‘will help pay providers for the results they achieve’ seems to indicate that a full DEL/AME model has not been implemented.  This has implications for the wider roll out of payment by results across the public sector;
  2. Any future adaptations of the payment model need to be undertaken only after close dialogue with the sector, particularly given previous concern among some ERSA members about how the financial model and performance criteria had been arrived at.   Similarly there needs to be close dialogue at an early stage regarding the introduction of the Universal Credit.  The definition of a job outcome payment under the new benefit system is a major concern and contractual variation will only be acceptable after extensive dialogue with the sector; and

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  1. A lack of certainty about the interaction of the Work Capability Assessment and the Work Programme, particularly in instances where individual customers are referred to Work Programme providers when unable to work.

 

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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 about 85% of those organisations that have been awarded prime contracts under the Work Programme all Work Choice providers.

 

Press enquiries should be directed to Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive, available on 07932 792 435 or Kirsty.mchugh@ersa.org.uk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wednesday 22 June – for immediate release

 

 

Leading voluntary sector provider elected to chair trade body for welfare to work sector

The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), the authoritative voice of the welfare to work sector, has today announced that Matthew Lester, Operations Director of Papworth Trust, has been elected as its new chair. This means that a subcontractor will be presiding over a majority prime contractor board. 

Stuart Vere, chairman of Work Programme prime contractor Avanta, has been elected as ERSA’s vice chair.

Matthew Lester will be presiding over a freshly elected board, consisting of a mixture of prime and sub-contractors who deliver a range of employment programmes.  ERSA’s board has been elected from its membership who represent 85% of the organisations that have been awarded prime contracts under the Work Programme and many of the subcontractors. ERSA also represent 90% of the prime providers of Work Choice, the specialist disability programme.

There are a total of twelve board members, with six coming from the private sector and six from the voluntary/public sector. Turnout for this year’s board election was exceptionally high with 75% of full ERSA members casting a vote.  Joining the board for the first time will be chief executive of Maximus, Bob Leach, managing director of G4S Welfare to Work, Sean Williams, chief operating officer of Ingeus, Chris Blackwell, and deputy director and development manager of Salvation Army, Helen Robinson.

Matthew Lester of Papworth Trust said he was delighted to be elected as ERSA’s new chair:

“My vision is for ERSA to represent all provider types across the UK as credibility comes from diversity of membership. In 2011/12 we will continue to lobby to shape the future legislative landscape of the welfare to work industry, drive up standards to improve quality of delivery and establish our role as a trusted thought leader in the welfare to work space.”

Matthew Lester was ERSA’s vice chair from 2009 to 2011. He has been at Papworth Trust since 2003 having previously worked in the private sector.  Papworth Trust is a leading disability charity and subcontractor for the Work Programme.

Commenting on his election as vice chair, Stuart Vere of Avanta said:

“It is an honour to be elected as vice chair of ERSA. The diversity of ERSA’s membership means that ERSA is in an excellent position to effectively represent the membership going forward on issues that are of strategic importance. As vice chair I would like to continue to shape and contribute to that progress.”

Stuart Vere has been chair of Avanta, which incorporates TNG and inbiz, for six years.  Avanta is a Work Programme prime contractor operating in the North East, North West (Manchester / Cheshire) and the South East (Surrey, Sussex and Kent).

ERSA will soon be launching two new forums, one dedicated to supply chain issues, and the other dedicated to skills within the Work Programme.  These join the existing plethora of forums, including the HR Forum, PRaP and MI Forum, Finance and Commercial Forum and Policy and Communications Forum, which cover major aspects of welfare to work.

The full ERSA board is as follows:

  • Matthew Lester, Operations Director, Papworth Trust (ERSA chair)
  • Stuart Vere, Chairman, Avanta (ERSA vice chair)
  • Chris Blackwell, Chief Operating Officer, Ingeus*
  • Sally Burton, Chief Executive, Shaw Trust
  • Bob Leach, Managing Director, MAXIMUS Employment and Training*
  • Rob Murdoch, Executive Director, A4E
  • Dan Murphy, Director of Communications, Remploy
  • Helen Robinson, Deputy Director and Development Manager, Salvation Army*
  • Ian Smith, National Delivery Director, Working Links
  • Kate Still, Director of Development, Wise Group
  • Steve Swan, Director of Welfare to Work, Tomorrow’s People
  • Sean Williams, Managing Director, G4S Welfare to Work*

*indicates they are new members of ERSA’s board for 2011/ 12

For press enquiries please contact Philip Curry: Philip.curry@ersa.org.uk / 020 7960 6317.

Notes to editors

  • The key contacts of full ERSA members were asked to vote for members of the board from Monday 23rd May to Friday 3rd June. The chair and vice chair position were elected by ERSA’s new board between Monday 6th June and Friday 17th June.

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