Accent Group drops its Work Programme slavemaster contract

Landlord to end work programme contract

22 March 2013 | By Emily Twinch

A landlord will not to continue its contract for the government’s £5 billion flagship work programme saying that it is unsustainable for housing associations.

Accent Group has found it difficult to get people into sustained work through the programme because of the hard-to-place people referred to it by the main contractor Ingeus.

It has decided that the payment-by-results method used by the scheme is not financially viable for the group. Contractors are paid dependent on success, which relies on people staying in employment.

The housing association has decided not to renew its two-year contract when it ends in six months’ time.

Chief executive Gordon Perry said the group had recently completed a major review of its strategy for getting people into jobs and training and will continue this outside the work programme.

‘Accent has been a training and employment provider for over 15 years,’ Mr Perry said. ‘In this time, we have helped to place over 1,500 people in training or employment.

‘Our success has always depended on a range of things; good relationship with partners, training schemes matching the needs of the job market and training programmes that are sustainable.

‘Unless all these elements are in place, housing associations cannot sustain their involvement in the work programme.’

Claire Stone, managing director of Accent Foundation, a subsidiary of Accent, said because the organisation cannot pick the people it helps it is sent people furthest from the workplace.

The clients ‘take an awful lot of effort and resources’ to place in a job, Ms Stone said, ‘coupled with that you don’t get paid until the end of the programme’.

‘The challenge for us is as a tenants’ care service – we are asking for our tenants’ cash [rent] to pay for a programme that does not benefit them.’

She also pointed out it was difficult to get people into sustained employment because of the lack of jobs at the moment.

Ms Stone said the housing association will now concentrate on training and employment programmes that help its own tenants. The work programme is not for its own tenants.

The housing association is also having to shut a training centre in Middlesbrough it has been running for seven years, losing about 13 members of staff, because it had become financially unviable for the group.

Ms Stone said this was in some part due to the payment-by-results nature of the work done there and the lack of jobs currently in the area. The work programme was not being run from the centre.

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