Get religious groups on board with Work Programme, think tank urges

 

The Government should get religious groups more involved in the struggling Work Programme, a leading think tank has urged, with backing from the shadow employment minister.

The Demos report, Faithful Providers, praises the impact that faith-based services can have for people with complex problems such as the long-term unemployed, and those struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. But it claims that they are being squeezed out by bigger outsourcing specialists because of the way Government doles out contracts.

Under the £3 billion work programme, firms can get between £4,000 and £14,000 for every long-term job they get for those referred to them.

But two months ago it was revealed that none of the programme's contractors hit their target of getting 5.5 per cent of clients a job lasting six months in the 14 months until July 2012, and only one in 28 got clients a job that which lasted that long.

And last week the first official evaluation of the scheme, by York University's social policy research unit, says private firms are “openly seeing their most job-ready participants more frequently than those with more severe barriers to work”.

Stephen Timms, the shadow employment minister who also chairs the report's advisory panel, said: “We certainly want, on the election of the next Labour government, the smaller community organisations, including faith-based organisations without a doubt, to be able to contribute in areas like welfare to work.

”If you look at Australia, the biggest provider is the Salvation Army, and those grass-roots organisations have an important contribution to make. Lots of small charities do.“

Of the current situation, he said: ”It's the opposite of what the big society was supposed to be. It's just not delivered,“ adding that he agrees with the report's conclusions and hoped to highlight ”the importance of removing barriers so that the full potential of faith-based providers in delivering public services can be realised.“

The report’s author, Jonathan Birdwell, said: ”The payment-by-results model means that you are going to privilege larger providers because the payment is going to come off the back of showing results, which means investing lots of capital up front. It heavily privileges these giant companies like the G4S's and Sercos of the world.“

”It seems as if there's a tension here. The government wants a society with small enterprises delivering in the community, but there's this (system which privileges bigger companies).“

”These organisations are good at playing the ‘getting Government money’ game. They know how to write a good application. But a lot of people at the religious groups are too busy doing their work in the community to measure the impact or to put in a huge bid.“

Acknowledging that smaller religious groups are subcontracted by the bigger ones, the report says researchers saw no evidence that small-scale faith-based providers were being fully incorporated into the programme's wider objectives.

A central claim of the report is that workers’ religious fervour “often leads them to volunteer their time, work long hours for less pay, and persevere over the challenges they encounter in working with the most vulnerable.”

It also claims these groups can offer a more holistic approach to getting people into work than their competitors, with ”the involvement of a ‘spiritual’, ‘moral’ or ‘ethical’ element.“

Having studied 20 different faith-motivated service providers, the researchers also seek to assuage doubts that those involved in the service seek to convert their clients or discriminate those of different faiths or none, saying they found no evidence of either.

Mr Timms said: ”I think sometimes people are a bit hesitant about getting faith-based organisations involved. They kind of worry that they might have some other agenda.

“But what the research has concluded is that they don't. Actually the faith basis of these foundations is the right foundation for public service. And we ought to be making more use of that that we have done in the past.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said that faith-based organisations including The Salvation Army and the Faith Regeneration Foundation are already involved in the Work Programme as subcontractors, and: ”Voluntary and community sector organisations play a vital role in the Work Programme by providing tailored support to jobseekers, and have already made a huge contribution to helping more than 200,000 people into a job.

“Voluntary and community sector organisations constitute the largest number of organisations involved in the Work Programme, with a growing number joining the scheme.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Kinapse: Consultant, Advisory Services, Kinapse Ltd

from £35,000 pa: Kinapse: You will take leadership for discrete workstreams an...

Recruitment Genius: Electrical Engineer / Panel Wireperson

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time position for Nottingh...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Customer Service Advisor

£22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading boiler ...

Recruitment Genius: Sports Simulator / Home Cinema Installation Technician

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Simulation Tec...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue