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26 October 2007
Capita Commercial Services, part of the private sector group which supplies lie detection software for use on innocent disabled claimants, is poaching charity sector staff for its government funded benefits advice line.

Adverts offering salaries of up to £32,000 a year for specialist advisers have appeared on the voluntary sector's Rightsnet website.

The Capita Group won the contract to run CLS Direct, which provides telephone advice to people with benefits, housing, employment or debt problems, earlier this year. The service was previously staffed primarily by a consortium of voluntary sector agencies including Citizens Advice Bureaux and Shelter. The loss of the contract to a profit making company was a severe blow to the sector and, arguably, to claimants as well. Experienced advisers were replaced by recent graduates who, according to adverts run by Capita at the time, did not require any previous experience in these complex areas of law as full training would be provided.

However, Capita is now providing telephone advice at specialist level and is seeking to tempt experienced benefits advisors away from the voluntary sector with offers of salaries of up to £32,000 per annum.

Capita's advert on Rightsnet says that they are "are particularly keen to hear from people who are presently working for voluntary advice providers or solicitors who hold the Specialist Quality Mark, and have at least 2 years experience and are able to meet the Specialist Quality Mark supervisory standard."

Small charitable advice agencies invest heavily in training specialist staff on often very limited budgets and the loss of such key workers to a profit-making multinational will be a real blow.

CLS Direct's phone line is just one example of a new trend for profit-making companies to move into areas that, until now, were the preserve of the public and voluntary sector. It comes as no surprise, then, that multinationals seek to tempt ready-trained charity staff with offers of high salaries. What will bewilder many observers, however, is that the charitable sector appears to be happy to collude in the process by carrying recruitment adverts for companies like Capita. Given that Capita are also making a fortune out of selling lie detection software for use on innocent claimants, it may astonish many disabled people too.

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