Welcome to October’s public services news round up. This month I’ve looked at a number of reports on welfare to work and the role of the voluntary sector, government transparency, social investment and Kids Company. If you have any thoughts, questions or challenges then please leave a comment below or tweet us @NCVO @NJ_Davies
Work (better) programme
Current Work Programme contracts end in 2017 and procurement for its successor, Work Programme Plus, is likely to begin in spring 2016. In advance of this, following a consultation to which NCVO submitted evidence, the Work and Pensions Select Committee has published an analysis of the existing programme, with recommendations for how it could be improved.
Overall, the report concludes that the Work Programme has been significantly cheaper than previous programmes yet just as effective in supporting mainstream participants into work. It has, however, performed poorly in supporting those furthest from the labour market. Echoing NCVO’s Stepping Stones report, it calls for a more systematic assessment of claimant need, rather than using benefit claimed as a proxy, and for upfront services fees to be paid to organisations supporting those with the most complex needs.
The report acknowledged concerned raised by NCVO and others that smaller, specialist organisations had been excluded from the Work Programme. The Committee noted that very little public data is available on sub-contractor performance and called on DWP to not impose, and restrict primes from imposing, restrictions on subcontractors publishing their own referral and job outcome data.
Also published this month is a review of the Merlin Standard which is designed to improve management of welfare to work supply chains. Stakeholders views of Merlin were found to be broadly positive though it is notable that voluntary organisations consistently gave it lower scores than other groups.
Lastly, in what has been a busy month for welfare to work reports, the London Assembly has produced a report on how to enhance the role of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector in employment support programmes in London. It recommends reforming payment by results, promoting good practice and championing voluntary and choice based approaches.
In July, the government launched an Independent Commission on Freedom of Information. It took nearly three months but, finally, the Commission has now published a call for evidence. We know that many of our members use the Freedom of Information Act to hold public bodies to account and we are concerned that the Commission will recommend restricting its use. If we are to protect our existing rights then it is vitally important that the voluntary sector makes a strong case. NCVO will be submitting a response but we need examples of where your organisation has successfully used the Act. More details over on Karina’s blog.
October has also seen the publication of an open government manifesto by the UK Open Government Civil Society Network. I’d particularly draw your attention to the open contracting proposals which NCVO helped draft.
Kids Company and the sector’s reputation
This week saw the publication of the National Audit Office’s report into government funding of Kids Company. Karl Wilding has been on TV and radio trying to get across the message that Kids Company wasn’t a typical charity. We know how hard you work to keep your organisations sustainable and how competitive it is to secure statutory funding. It is important that the public doesn’t think other charities operate like Kids Company. I’ve written a blog post setting out three reasons why the charity’s funding was so unusual.
Want to know more about social investment?
This is not for every charity, but social finance can provide cash needed to scale up, develop a service, or for internal capacity building that can’t be funded through contracts or grants.
Everything about social investment is now on our support website KnowHow NonProfit including detailed information about different finance products and top tips for trustees.
NCVO is now approved provider of Big Potential, a Lottery-funded investment-readiness programme that offers grants to enable voluntary organisations and social enterprises to build their internal capacity to become investment-ready. We can help you though the application process and then support you right through to receiving the social investment. All is explained on NCVO’s website.