Back-to-work programmes investigated 125 times
Ministers were urged last night to strengthen checks on companies running employment schemes after it emerged that there had been 125 investigations into providers in the past six years over the use of public money.
The disclosure follows the controversy over the company A4e, where four people were arrested last year by police investigating allegations of fraud. Its founder, Emma Harrison, resigned last month both as David Cameron's adviser on troubled families and as the firm's chairman.
The Prime Minister revealed the number of inquiries during an appearance before senior MPs.
He said: "My understanding is that there have been 125 total investigations since April 2006. There were 11 referrals for A4e, eight of which resulted in investigations."
His disclosure suggests that problems with companies running back-to-work programmes run deeper than just one firm and will increase pressure for greater scrutiny by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of its contracts.
The department stressed last night that the investigations all related to contracts signed by the last government to run its Flexible New Deal scheme.
Margaret Hodge, the chairwoman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, was astounded by the number of inquiries. "I have been worried that what we stumbled on with A4e was systemic," she said. "The fact we have got so many investigations really puts a question mark about how these big welfare-to-work companies are operating."
Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, said: "The evidence that handing welfare-to-work contracts over to big private companies actually helps more people back into work is, at best, mixed. "Many of these companies are enjoying profits associated with success without actually getting people back into work for more than a short period. Ministers are failing to hold these companies to account."
He added that the Government "must ensure money isn't being wasted on rewards for companies who are not doing enough to get people back into sustained employment."
A DWP spokesman said there had been no allegations of fraud relating to the current work programme set up by the Government.
He said it had been designed differently from previous schemes to ensure full payment for getting someone off the dole was not made until they had been in work for two years.
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 US? China? India? The 10 biggest economies in 2030 will be...
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
General Election 2015: David Cameron catching up in polls – but he badly needs a clear lead
Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
South Africa xenophobic attacks: Shops looted and violence on streets of Johannesburg as foreigners are forced to hide in police stations
18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...