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Work Programme

Volume 523: debated on Monday 14 February 2011

18. If he will put in place provisions to ensure that the expertise of small employment providers is retained in the transition from existing employment programmes to the Work programme. (39820)

I am pleased to inform the House of two things. First, the Work programme bidding process closed this morning, and we have had a substantial number of bids, which is very encouraging. It looks as if the Work programme is going to go ahead according to plan, which is good news. I would also say to the hon. Lady that, shortly before the start of these parliamentary questions, I placed a written statement before the House, giving details of an extension to the welfare-to-work contracts under existing programmes through to next June. I have also written to the hon. Lady and her Committee, setting out the details of those changes. We believe that we have now put in place all the mechanisms needed to ensure a smooth transition through to the start of the Work programme, which remains very much on track.

I am glad to hear that my letter has had some effect, but will the Minister confirm that the contractors who are currently delivering Pathways to Work and whose contracts are due to expire at the end of March will not have to issue redundancy notices to their staff in the next couple of weeks, because they will be able to continue until they know whether they will be part of the Work programme?

Transitional arrangements will involve the existing providers in all programmes except Pathways to Work. In that instance, we are setting up an interim support programme which will be more substantial than such programmes have been in the past. As the hon. Lady will know, Pathways to Work was severely criticised by the Public Accounts Committee. Our interim arrangements will cover those who would otherwise have received support through Pathways.