Charities involved in the work programme are being treated with contempt by the private sector companies they are sub-contracting to. Only around a third of charities have so far signed contracts and many of those who have done so have yet to be sent a single client.

When almost all the contracts to provide the work programme went to the private sector, ministers claimed that the voluntary sector would have a major role to play by providing specialist support to prime contractors. Not only that, but they introduced the ‘​Merlin standard’​ which obliges private companies to treat charities fairly or facing losing their contracts.

However, companies have a year in which to become '​Merlin compliant'​ and in the meantime can behave as aggressively and unfairly as they choose.

As a result, according to surveys of the voluntary sector, only 38% have so far signed contracts to deliver services as work programme sub-contractors. In many cases this is because of the deeply unfair terms, such as low payments and having to take on unwanted staff, being offered by primes. Even where charities have accepted these terms, many then find that the private sector companies simply fail to refer any claimants to them.

It is scarcely surprising then, that the DWP have forbidden charities to publish any details of how many people they have got into work - in the majority of cases the answer will be none.

Full story on the Third Sector website


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