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Chris Grayling and Work & Pensions Committee

Chris Grayling gave evidence to the Work & Pensions Committee yesterday regarding the Work Programme, with particular interest around the transitional and contracting arrangements, but also looking at the differential payments, customer groups, and the future for ESA customers.

It was an interesting two hours (!!!), and yes we did watch the whole thing. 

It was good to see the Comiittee championing the cause of Pathways staff currently undergoing redundancy consultation, but Mr Grayling and his partner in crime, Mr Cave, were keen to point out that TUPE doesn't apply to Pathways to Work staff because the programme is "very different" to the Work Programme and the service delivery being undertaken by Jobcentre Plus. CG put the ball firmly back in the court of the employers, challenging why they were making staff redundant at this point.  A later assertion was made that until the bids have all been evaluated, DWP won't know what the model for the Work Programme looks like. and it is expected to look totally different to existing provision.  Does this mean that technically TUPE won't apply to FND, New Deal and other existing provisions?

CG stated that the announcement for the Work Programme bids will be early April.  He has not yet seen the bids, but will before decisions are made.  So unless CG is blatantly lying then those providers who are currently circulating rumours that primes have already had news about their bid are also lying!

He did give a clear message that if primes have not assembled a coalition of organisations in their supply chain with a mix of skills to address specialist and local needs, they will not get a contract.

With regard to Merlin Code of Conduct and whether it has teeth CG responded that it was basically a case of, "If you duff up the little guys, we'll duff you up."  Not quite the tag line one would expect from a minister.  There were a few cases where the team being interrogated didn't appear to be totally honest or knowledgeable.  Alan Cave indicated that there were 7 or 8 providers on the ERSS framework in each LOT, which we all now is blatantly untrue.  That was the original plan, but reality has been very different.

All in all it wasn't particularly exciting, and there are possibly better ways to spend two hours of your life but if you're so inclined ....  

The Committee report is due out some time after Easter.


15 March 2011

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