National body launches investigation into low referral levels
Charities miss out on £5bn work scheme
Homelessness charities have received far fewer referrals than expected under a £5 billion government scheme to get people back into work.
London-based Broadway has received just one referral since the UK-wide work programme launched at the beginning of June. Meanwhile the Single Homeless Project said it is not receiving enough referrals to make the arrangement financially viable.
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations is so worried about the level of referrals it is polling 40 participating organisations to research their experience of the programme so far.
The Department for Work and Pensions’ work programme is designed to help get people back into work by giving them advice and skills training. Under it, the Job Centre Plus refers individuals to 18, mainly private, contractors some of which are using specialist sub-contractors - including three homelessness charities and five housing associations - to help harder to reach people get jobs.
The sub-contractors invest in their work programmes up front and hope they receive enough referrals to sustain their commitments. The government pays contractors and sub-contractors by results, with different payments for people in different benefit categories, for example former jobseeker’s allowance claimants under the age of 24. This has led to fears that prime contractors might get the most lucrative types of claimaints, such as incapacity benefit claimants, into work themselves to maximise their income.
Paul Winyard, welfare to work policy lead for the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: ‘We are hearing a few whispers that organisations are not getting as many referrals as expected. There are fears that prime contractors will cherry pick and keep some contracts for themselves.’
Toni Warner, director of services at Single Homeless Project, has received 24 referrals. ‘This would not be enough volume to sustain the contract,’ Ms Warner said. She said her organisation needs 214 a year needed to make its work programme sustainable. She added, however, that the low level of referrals could be due to the way Job Centre Plus is referring homeless people to the contractors.
Alison Bunney, business development director at Seetec, the prime contractor for SHP, said the company will work with them to make sure it has an adequate number of referrals. She said: ‘There is no incentive for us not to refer cases to SHP.’
Howard Sinclair, chief executive of Broadway, said: ‘I would be concerned if the number of referrals does not rise in the next couple of months.’
A DWP spokesperson said it was too early to judge the progress.