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Work Programme

Volume 564: debated on Wednesday 19 June 2013

1. What recent discussions he has had with civil society groups on the effect of the Work programme on their organisations. (160374)

I have regular discussions with organisations that deliver the Work programme. I recognise that they operate in a challenging environment, but I salute their collective early success in getting more than 200,000 long-term unemployed people into work, as I am sure does the hon. Lady.

I thank the Minister for that response. A recent report by the Work and Pensions Committee on the Work programme found that many voluntary sector organisations that are listed as sub-contractors do not consider themselves to be involved at all, leading to suspicions that specialist organisations are being used as “bid candy”, rather than to deliver services. What will the Minister do to ensure that such charities are treated fairly?

It is for the Department for Work and Pensions to respond to that report; my role is to ensure that the relevant Minister understands the concerns of the voluntary sector. We should recognise that more than 350 voluntary sector organisations in the supply chain are doing incredibly valuable work to get long-term unemployed people back into work. My other role is to ensure that we learn the lessons from that programme in forthcoming payment-by-results programmes, not least in the transforming rehabilitation and probation programme.

Has my hon. Friend noted the figures from the Department for Work and Pensions that show that voluntary and community based organisations, such as Whitwick Community Enterprises in my constituency, make up the largest proportion of workplace providers under the Work programme at 47%?

My hon. Friend is right that almost 50% of the supply chain is in the voluntary sector. We all know from our experience of such organisations what extraordinarily valuable work they do to get people ready for work and into work. We want to make the programme work.

Surely the Minister knows that New Philanthropy Capital has advised the Government not to repeat the mistakes of the Work programme. What lessons will he learn so that those mistakes are not repeated and so that third sector organisations and charities that want to help unemployed people are encouraged to do so?

I do not necessarily recognise that mistakes have been made. Payment-by-results is a tough and challenging regime, but each exercise will be different and the process will evolve. It is a better regime than paying for failure and mediocrity, which is what the Labour Government did. The next test is the probation reforms. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the detail of what the Ministry of Justice has produced, he will see that lessons have been learned on having more contracts, paying much more attention to how the supply chain is managed and investing in capacity building in the voluntary sector so that it can do more.