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Government Work Programme referral numbers ‘unacceptable’

Government Work Programme referral numbers ‘unacceptable’

The government has been criticised for not referring enough people in receipt of Employment Support Allowance to the Work Programme.

Between 20-25% of referrals to the Work Programme, the government’s flagship programme to support the unemployed back into sustained employment, were initially predicted to be of customers in receipt of Employment Support Allowance.  However, reports from Work Programme providers to the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), the trade body for the welfare to work industry, indicate that only 3-5% of referrals are from that group.

Some commentators have suggested that the discrepancy is due to a delay by government contractor Atos in carrying out Work Capability Assessments and a much lower than expected level of referrals of ESA customers by Jobcentre Plus.

Kirsty McHugh, ERSA Chief Executive, commented:

“It is extremely worrying that, six months into the Work Programme, providers are still not seeing the predicted number of Employment Support Allowance customers on their books.  These are the people who need the most support and it is unacceptable that, to date, too few of them have been able to access specialist Work Programme employment services.

This failure to refer customers also has important knock on effects on voluntary sector subcontractors to the Work Programme, many of whom disproportionately offer the type of specialist employment support these customers need.  Many charity employment specialists will have been banking on a greater flow of customers, putting them under increasing financial pressure.”

Posted by Beth O’Shea

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