After this weekend’s revelations in the Guardian that job seekers on the UK Government’s Work Programme were bussed in to steward the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations it’s worth reminding ourselves that one of the two work programme providers in Wales, Working Links was accused of 'systemic fraud' a few weeks back by a former employee.
Working Links (WL) in a UK company that won Work Programme contacts in Scotland, Wales and the South West and the allegations were made about several areas and contracts issued by the previous Labour Government in a private session to the Public Accounts Committee in the House of Commons by a former Head of Internal audit who also worked for the notorious A4E.
From the Western Mail ‘In evidence given to the House of Commons’ public accounts committee earlier this week, the firm’s former head of internal audit Eddie Hutchinson claimed that “fraud and irregularity became so extensive and disruptive to the work of the internal audit team... that by May 2008 we were both suffering from exhaustion and stress due to the immense physical demands being placed on us as we chased such incidents at many locations across England, Scotland and Wales”.
Since being set up in 2000, WL – the biggest provider in Wales of welfare-to-work services through its contract with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – says it has helped more than 30,000 people in Wales gain skills and work.
In his evidence, Mr Hutchinson stated: “Things got so bad that by spring 2008 it reached the farcical situation over a sustained period of time in which we would arrange to carry out work in the Midlands, then be required to hastily divert to Brighton (including flights being booked), only to then be instructed by my line manager to urgently change our plans to Wales, followed quickly by new priorities for coverage in other areas including London and Glasgow.”
In June 2008 Mr Hutchinson wrote a briefing note for the company’s executive team which quantified the losses from 15 separate frauds and irregularities over the previous 15 months at around £250,000.
He told MPs: “The common theme in relation to the DWP contracts was that all of these frauds involved the falsification of job outcome evidence to illegally claim monies from the DWP, together with the false claiming of bonus payments by staff through the company’s incentive bonus system.'
The full article is here, so what effect will this have on Working Links in Wales and should our AM’s and MP be more interested and concerned as to what the Work Programme in Wales is achieving especially as they are always banging on about job creation and getting more people into work but not this type of work surely?
Left Foot Forward also has a good analysis of five reasons why the Work Programme is the wrong option when jobs are scarce.