Two more influential membership organisations have lined up to condemn the execution of the Work Programme, heaping yet more pressure on the Work and Pensions minister responsible for the scheme.
The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), the trade association for the welfare-to-work industry, has called on the government to take urgent action to ensure that Atos, the private-sector contractor tasked with conducting Work Capability Assessments, eliminates the backlog of assessments that have built up.
It claims the number of assessments being processed is falling significantly behind projections, meaning fewer people are being referred to the Work Programme for help.
This in turn is adversely affecting the sub-contractors who are waiting to provide specialist support to these people.
Meanwhile, London Voluntary Service Council (LVSC) has published a damning report about the involvement of voluntary organisations in the Work Programme.
Its investigations found that the expertise of specialist sector bodies is “largely unused, in danger of being lost, and that employment inequalities will worsen in London as a result”.
The report is launched just as new labour force figures show that one in ten Londoners are now without a job.
LVSC found that in London the overall rate of subcontracting by the sector is around 20 per cent, a third lower than the 30 per cent figure that DWP had hoped for. It also found that the vast majority of second-tier sub-contractors had so far had no job-seekers referred to them at all.
ERSA added that only around 3-5 per cent of referrals to the Work Programme so far were Employment Support Allowance customers, despite government projections that these would make up around 20 per cent of referrals.
And a Freedom of Information request revealed that Atos has completed only 56,000 Work Capability Assessments since the programme began in April, whereas the target was for 11,000 per week.
These findings will heap more pressure onto DWP minister Chris Grayling, who earlier this week was warned that the Work Programme was "at risk of systematic failure", in a feedback document compiled by NCVO for a coalition of more than 100 sub-contracting charities.