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DWP Management of CEP Report

The House of Commons Work & Pensions Committee has reported on its investigation into Management and Administration of Contracted Employment Programmes.  Following it’s examination of the Commissioning Strategy and FND last year it has now looked at CEP in particular the prevention of fraud, the treatment of subcontractors, and ensuring fair treatment of customers, including vulnerable groups.

It’s a report that everyone working in the sector should take the time to read as it highlights many issues that organisations have experienced and has come up with a number of recommendations that will hopefully have a positive impact.  We’ve summarised the highlights below.

While the Committee couldn’t verify the claims, it was suggested that levels of fraud in CEP are low.  Cases that have been identified have generally been through whistle blowing and DWP’s own processes.  It suggested that DWP must ensure that processes for the detection of fraud are rigorous and robust and that clearer guidance should be issued to providers about how to handle suspected fraud.  A brilliant quote from the report: “It is a matter of concern to us that the Department is moving towards a system based on providers detecting fraud themselves and notifying the Department. On past performance this would seem highly optimistic.”  As we always say … self regulation doesn’t work!  The Committee was also concerned that DWP hadn’t imposed a ban on individual bonuses linked to job outcomes.

The Committee looked at the evidence requirements for job outcomes but didn’t really come up with anything new and until the off-benefit check has been tested there isn’t likely to be any movement on this subject.  It is recommended that “zero hours” contracts are not eligible for outcome payments which has been a real issue in some areas.

There is strong recommendation that where fraud is found providers should face financial penalties beyond the repayment of fraudulently claimed outcome fees and that the information should be shared across other government departments.  Also where wrong doing is found that Risk Assurance Division Reports should be published as a lesson to other providers.  This will be an interesting one to watch.

The Committee recommends that the ERSA Charter is developed to become a compulsory, monitored and enforceable Customer Charter.

As for poor service experienced by customers (which is still too common an experience), DWP and providers “must work harder to ensure problems are dealt with promptly” and be more proactive. 

Concerns seem to have been raised about Ofsted inspection and no real conclusions reached.  It may be harder to get a satisfactory grade for outcomes if you aren’t achieving sustained outcomes in the future! 

FND was looked at closely in how effectively it can help people who are harder to help and there may be developments in this area both in DWP looking at funding and providers having to really prove they are helping all clients. 

The plight of small organisations in the prime / sub contractor model was explored including cartels of large providers, non payment to subcontractors, fair treatment etc.  DWP’s management of relationships was crtiticised and we can’t see this improving by contracting out Merlin eg passing the buck to someone else.  The lack of consequences for “unsatisfactory” providers under Merlin was also highlighted.  The Report further states that:

Decisions made by Merlin will have implications for the viability of individual subcontractors and for service delivery … Potentially Merlin could make decisions which would result in a crucial subcontractor, or large numbers of subcontractors, leaving the market or going out of business.

So all in all some interesting discussions and well worth a read.  This report reads like it will have an influence fairly quickly on the way DWP operates so keep your eyes open for changes as a result of this Report.

 


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