£3m Households the Department for Work and Pensions insists will be better off after ongoing welfare reforms
£3m Amount councils have spent subsidising food banks over last two years as demand for their services has tripled
COULD employees of Working Links, which has £300m of government “benefit-busting” contracts, soon join their customers among the unemployed?
Their boss has warned staff that the company faces “serious financial challenges” because of missed targets for the ailing Work Programme. Interim chief executive Brian Bell wrote to employees in late July to break the bad news: “By far the biggest part of our business is the Work Programme,” he told them, but “we are not finding work for as many people as we had planned.”
Having a hard time
With operations in Scotland, Wales and the South West, “in some locations we are struggling to fill the vacancies that we are finding”. Failing on these massive Work Programme contracts means “we are not hitting some of those income targets and put starkly, if we do not quickly make changes now and do things differently, then the company will face some serious financial challenges”.
Working Links’ difficulties suggest wider problems with Iain Duncan Smith’s Work Programme as rising unemployment has found the companies wanting. According to Bell, “pretty much all the businesses that rely on the welfare to work industry are having a hard time right now”.
Management will be talking to all staff about cutting spending. In the meantime, Bell tries to drum up enthusiasm with new “internal league tables”.
Totally reliant on the Department
All this represents a big headache for the work and pensions secretary. While Bell says Working Links is “totally reliant on the Department for Work and Pensions contracts”, Duncan Smith has in turn made the DWP totally reliant on big contractors such as Working Links, A4e and G4S to deliver the Work Programme. Unlike previous schemes, there is no public sector element.
If Working Links et al start to fail, Duncan Smith is left with the stark choice of bailing the struggling businesses out with more taxpayer cash or closing the scheme and starting again.