Welfare to Work

– ERSA comment on NCVO voluntary sector provider survey


For immediate release


8 October 2011



ERSA comment on NCVO voluntary sector provider survey

The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), the trade body for the welfare to work industry, today responds to the survey by the National Council of Voluntary Organisations on the experience of voluntary sector providers of the Work Programme.

ERSA strongly believes that all providers should act fairly and responsibly and that ERSA members should abide by its Code of Conduct, the principles of which are enshrined in the Merlin Standard.

Although it is important to note that referrals to Work Programme have yet to settle down, it is clear that there is a significant concern with the underperformance of Atos, the government contractor for the Work Capability Assessments.   ERSA believes that voluntary sector providers may have been disproportionately disadvantaged by the low level of Work Capability Assessments taking place and the subsequently low level of customers on Employment Support Allowance who have been referred to the Work Programme.  Many of these customers would, on referral, be in receipt of specialist services, many of which are provided by charities.

A recent Freedom of Information request indicated that Atos has completed 56,000 Work Capability Assessments since the commencement of the national roll out.  This is against an expected figure of 11,000 cases being assessed each week.

Kirsty McHugh, ERSA Chief Executive, commented:

‘It is vital that people in need of specialist employment services receive them.  It is unacceptable that the delay in carrying out Work Capability Assessments means that some of the people who need the most help are not being referred to the Work Programme in a timely matter.  This is a particularly significant issue for ERSA voluntary sector members who often provide this type of specialist employment support.  We are therefore calling on the government to take urgent action to make sure that the backlog of WCAs is cleared and we can get referrals rolling to the voluntary sector.’


Notes to editors

  1. ERSA is the trade association for the welfare to work industry.  It represents 90% of those organisations that have been awarded prime contractors for the Work Programme and 90% of providers for Work Choice, the government’s new specialist disability programme.  ERSA’s membership is split 50/50 between voluntary and private sector.
  2. A response to a FOI request published on 23 September (http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/foi-2310-2011.pdf) reveals the numbers having undergone a WCA to date. A statement on 25 January 2011  (Hansard: Column 6WS) stated that Atos would be processing a full caseload of around 11,000 per week.
  3. ERSA’s chief executive can be contacted at kirsty.mchugh@ersa.org.uk or on 07932 792 435.

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