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Employment: Work Experience

Volume 709: debated on Wednesday 25 March 2009


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will continue to support all sheltered places of employment so that they can continue to provide opportunities for disadvantaged groups to gain work experience in the current downturn. [HL2306]

A new programme to improve specialist disability employment provision will be introduced from October 2010. The programme will replace Workstep, work preparation, and the job introduction scheme. For the first time, the full provision will be openly tendered on a national basis using the new DWP commercial strategy. This will enable greater numbers of disabled people with more complex support needs to take up work, through the provision of support which is sufficiently flexible to meet their needs. The new programme will provide flexible customised support for disabled people with a greater focus on job outcomes and progression.

On 30 March we will be publishing a specification outlining the service we require suppliers to provide for the new programme. It will provide indicative budgets and customer volumes, provide an overview of the funding model and information about performance and contract management arrangements. This information is provided to help prospective suppliers decide whether to take part in the first stage of the competition—the pre-qualification questionnaire. Those suppliers successful at the pre-qualification questionnaire stage will be invited in July to progress to the invitation to tender stage of the competition. We expect to award contracts in April 2010 and for the new programme to begin in October 2010.

There are a total of 172 current Workstep providers who hold 14,000 places. Of the total number, 93 providers have a supported business and Workstep funds around 3,000 places within these supported businesses. Our intention is to provide some financial protection for Workstep funded places only for the five-year term of the new contracts, bringing us to 2015.

The Government are not responsible for supported businesses run by local authorities and the private and voluntary sectors and the non Workstep funded places provided in these businesses for disabled people. We are not providing protection in the new contracts for non Workstep funded places.

Remploy's Enterprise Business arm currently comprises a network of 54 local business sites spread across the UK. Remploy operates in nine business sectors covering both manufactured products and managed services. These include support services, logistics and recycling as well as extended supply chain and higher added-value manufacturing. Managed services are teams of disabled individuals delivering contracts such as CCTV operations and facilities management.