The charity sector has been undermined by the bidding process for the latest DWP welfare-to-work procurement programme, a sector infrastructure body has said.
DWP announced the successful bidders of its Umbrella Agreement for Employment and Health Related Services (UAEHRS) competition in January. The shortlisted organisations now able to tender for prime contracts in the department’s Work and Health Programme, a £130m welfare-to-work programme for disabled people.
The WHP replaces the Work Programme, a much larger welfare-to-work service. Most other welfare-to-work services are being taken back in house by DWP.
Of the 11 organisations shortlisted, only one, the Shaw Trust, was a charity. It appeared on the list for five of six regions as well as a national programme.
There are separate lots for Greater Manchester and London, and the charity is also applying to the London framework.
Now the shortlist has been drawn up, a further competition will decide which of the entities actually delivers contracts in each region.
Rhidian Hughes, chief executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group, an umbrella body for charities working with disabled people, said he felt thought the “charities sector has been undermined” because only one voluntary sector body is shortlisted in the main tender.
Hughes said the process was likely to make it difficult for charities which want to bid to be subcontractors.
He said it could be damaging for the future of his organisation’s members if they are not offered a sustainable way to provide services for the programme.
“The large outsourcing firms will take a margin and the terms and conditions are weakened and eroded,” he said.
The Shaw Trust says on its website: “We are the only charity to make it through to this stage.
“We are particularly interested in hearing from organisations that combine a deep understanding of the communities they serve with a track record of high performance working with similar customer groups.”
Regions too big, says ERSA
The Employment Related Services Association, 80 percent of which’s membership is from the voluntary sector, said there was “an opportunity for charities to be heard” as the tendering process continues.
Chief executive Kirsty McHugh backed the devolved procurement systems in London and Manchester, saying they were likely to offer more money due to backing from the EU and offer “local cash and more local ownership”.
She said: “The problem is the contract areas outside London and Manchester are too large. There is not enough money in the Work and Health programme outside London and Manchester.”
A DWP press officer told Civil Society News the programme is still scheduled to open in autumn.
It will provide specialised support for people unemployed for over two years and, on a voluntary basis, to those with health conditions or disabilities.
The Government expects that the majority of people referred to the programme will be disabled.
Funding for the Work and Health Programme will be £130 million a year by 2019/20, including funds devolved to Scotland.
The full list of shortlisted organisations
Central England: G4S, Ingeus, People Plus, Reed, Shaw Trust,
Home Counties: APM, G4S, Ingeus, People Plus, Shaw Trust
North East: G4S, People Plus, Shaw Trust, Reed, Working Links
North West: G4s, Ingeus, People Plus, Reed, The Work Company
South England: G4S, People Plus, Pluss, Prospects, Shaw Trust, Working Links
Wales: People Plus, Pluss, Remploy, Shaw Trust, Working Links
National lot: G4S, Ingeus, People Plus, Pluss, Reed, Shaw Trust and Ingeus.