The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) has today (18 December) welcomed the publication of the recommendations of the Work Programme Building Best Practice group and recognises the commitment of the Employment Minister to implementing the group’s recommendations.

In particular, ERSA, welcomes the recommendation to increase the transparency of performance data across all providers of the Work Programme, including subcontractors. At present, the time lag between performance achieved and official reporting means that it is extremely difficult to gain an up to date view of overall performance, whilst subcontractors require a greater ability to benchmark their performance against that of peers.

ERSA also welcomes the recommendations related to the development, in future, of more easily accessible service standards across the sector.  ERSA believes that all jobseekers supported by any part of the employment support landscape, be that Jobcentre Plus or an outsourced provider, must be clear about the roles and responsibilities of all parties. 

Finally, ERSA welcomes the recognition by the Best Practice Group that the dramatic drop in the number of referrals to the Work Programme means that it is likely to be impossible to increase the number of voluntary and community sector suppliers to the programme at this stage. However, it also agrees that far more should be done to prepare third sector organisations for future contracting rounds. 

Welcoming the report, ERSA Chief Executive, Kirsty McHugh, said:

‘I am delighted that the work of the Best Practice Group is being taken so seriously by the government.  The Work Programme has got many things right, but there is significant room for improvement in some aspects of its operation, including the need for greater transparency of performance data and support for subcontractors. 

Steve Swan, chair of the Voluntary and Community Sector Sub Group, said:

‘I very much welcomed the government’s consultation with the third sector and am pleased that it’s response to our report recognises that falling referrals of jobseekers is a major concern for third sector providers of the Work Programme.  We need government to increase referrals in order to safeguard provision for future employment support contracts.’

Gareth Matthews, chair of the Customer Service Standards Sub Group, said:

‘It is in all our interests that customer service standards sit at the heart of the Work Programme and future employment support provision.  The next round of contracts must ensure that there is far greater consistency across all parts of the system about what jobseekers can expect. However, this shouldn’t take away from the ‘black box’ which allows for the tailoring of services.’


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Notes to Editors

1. The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) is the sector body for those delivering or with an interest in employment support services.  ERSA’s membership spans the private, voluntary and public sectors and ranges from large multi-nationals through to small specialist charities.  It has 180 members, including all prime contractors of the Work Programme. The majority of its members are not for profit.
2. The Work Programme is the government’s largest back to work scheme and caters for the most disadvantaged jobseekers in the labour market. Further information about how the programme operates, including the financial model, is available in this Policy Briefing on ERSA’s website.
3. The Building Best Practice Group’s report can be found here. 
4. ERSA is able to set up interviews with jobseekers who have found work, Work Programme providers and employers who are recruiting form the scheme. Case studies are available on ERSA’s website. Interviews with ERSA’s Chief Executive Kirsty McHugh are available on request.