Scottish National Party MSP Joan McAlpine has written to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith calling for an urgent review of DWP contracts around the Work Programme – after the ‘callous and uncaring’ appearance of a contractor before the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee.
At last week’s meeting of the Committee, MSPs cross-examined representatives of firms implementing the Work Programme and Work Choice. While MSPs raised concern that people on the Work Programme are three times as likely to be sanctioned as find a job, a representative of Working Links claimed a “positive impact” from sanctions – and was forced to deny that he was “unmoved” by the plight of those who have been sanctioned.
Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:
“The appearance of DWP contractors before the Welfare Reform Committee this week laid bare the uncaring, callous attitude at the heart of this Tory government’s welfare agenda – and shows exactly why we need a total rethink from the DWP about how they deliver these programmes.
“For someone representing an organisation working on the frontline to show such a callous indifference to people suffering from sanctions was scarcely believable.
“But it wasn’t just the hard-hearted attitude of the contractors which was cause for concern – the complete disregard for any facts presented on the effect of sanctions on vulnerable people was just as troubling.
“We were faced with the absurd situation of a DWP contractor defending the sanctions and conditionality regime just after being told that people on the Work Programme are three times more likely to be sanctioned than to find a job.
“The fact is that the DWP’s Work Programme is completely failing the very people it should be helping – and it’s time for Iain Duncan Smith to commission an urgent review of how his department’s contractors are going about their business.
“With evidence like this piling up, it’s no wonder that there is growing concern in the third sector and across Scotland that powers over sanctions and conditionality are set to remain reserved.
“The fact is, any package of devolution which keeps powers over sanctions and conditionality in the hands of the Tories simply isn’t good enough – and all progressive forces should join the growing calls in Scotland to take these powers into our hands and deliver a new and better system, which protects and empowers people rather than punishing them.”
Notes to editors:
The text of Joan McAlpine’s letter to Iain Duncan Smith is copied below:
I am writing to you regarding this week’s meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee – and the appearance before the Committee of Nicholas Young of Working Links, an organisation which has been in receipt of a £167 million contract from your department.
Like many of my colleagues on the Committee, I was taken aback at the uncaring – almost heartless – attitude of Mr Young to those suffering as a result of sanctions, and his complete disregard for any of the facts presented to him on the Work Programme and the failures of the sanctions and conditionality regime.
In light of Mr Young’s appearance before the Committee, it’s even clearer than before that everyone involved in this process is completely out of touch with the reality of those who are seeking work – and who are suffering from your government’s callous cuts to social security.
With this in mind, I am urging you to conduct an urgent review of those who your department has granted contracts to deliver the functions of the Work Programme and Work Choice – and for you to ensure that the needs of those seeking work are put first, rather than being treated as an afterthought by an organisations you have chosen to allow to deliver services for your department.
I look forward to your swift response.
Joan McAlpine MSP