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Welfare Reform on the Web (July 2011): Social security - UK - welfare to work

Welfare-to-work and the responsiveness of employment providers to the needs of refugees

I. Shutes

Journal of Social Policy, vol.40, 2011, p. 557-574

Refugees have been identified as one of the most disadvantaged groups in the UK to be prioritised for employment assistance. This article presents findings of research on the responsiveness of employment assistance providers to the needs of refugees in the context of an outcome-oriented performance system. It is concluded that an emphasis on short-term job outcomes may conflict with supporting refugees who are harder to help, especially those with a poor command of English. It may also conflict with helping refugees to access employment related to their skills and interests, by encouraging providers to place them in readily available unskilled jobs.

Work programme: providers and contracting arrangements

Work and Pensions Committee

London: TSO, 2011 (House of Commons papers, session 2010/12; HC 718)

The Work Programme will replace the range of existing programmes that help benefit claimants find jobs. The programme will be delivered on a regional basis by a framework of prime contractors, the majority of which will come from the private sector. These prime contractors will be paid by the government based on their results in achieving sustainable employment for jobseekers. Prime contractors are expected to subcontract service provision to specialist local organisations, including voluntary sector providers. There is a risk that, even under the payment-by-results model, Work Programme providers might focus on the clients they assess as being easier to help. The Committee recommends that the Government keeps the payment model under review and assesses the outcomes for all participants. The Work Programme creates a significant financial challenge for prime contractors. This might lead to some clients receiving lower quality support and to significant costs to the government in responding to service failures. The government should put contingency arrangements in place to ensure the continuity of provision for clients. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should remind prime contractors that a key aspect of their role is to bear financial risk, rather than passing it on to subcontractors disproportionately. Contracting arrangements need to ensure that subcontractors are fairly managed and that prime contractors are able to hold subcontractors to account for poor performance. The DWP must establish robust and independent arbitration and sanctioning arrangements.

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