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Volume 490: debated on Thursday 26 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of (a) contractors for Workstep and (b) specific disability charities in securing sponsoring employers and mentoring-assisted employment placements for disabled people; (261782)

(2) what steps he has taken to ensure that contractors under the Workstep programme provide equal treatment for people with different categories of disability.

All Department for Work and Pensions contracts, including Workstep, are managed using a standard contract management operating model involving review of performance, delivery and quality of service to customers. This includes monthly monitoring of performance, formal provider performance reviews and assessment of quality of provision. In addition, external inspection and validation ensures the quality and accuracy of Workstep providers.

The Department for Work and Pensions assesses the effectiveness of all Workstep providers, including charitable organisations, by following the standard contract management processes. A performance improvement plan would be agreed with the provider if the terms of the contract were not being met.

Workstep providers are required under the terms of Department for Work and Pensions contracts to cover all disabilities and health conditions and this is checked as part of the contract management arrangements. In addition, Workstep providers with a contract value over £50,000 are accredited by an external organisation on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions. These accreditation checks include compliance with diversity and equal opportunities policies in respect of Jobcentre Plus customers and providers’ staff, including non-discrimination on grounds of gender, ethnicity, disability, religion or belief. This also includes compliance with the requirement to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ within the meaning of the Disability Discrimination Act.