Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Firm Puts Fraud Claims Behind It with Work Scheme: Fe News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Firm Puts Fraud Claims Behind It with Work Scheme: Fe News

Article excerpt

Working Links wants to team up with colleges on unemployed.

One of the contractors accused of fraud in the government's controversial welfare-to-work programme is hoping to strike deals with colleges to help them meet targets for working with the unemployed.

Working Links is aiming to form partnerships with three more colleges from September after spending a year working in collaboration with Darlington College. Under a Pounds 1.7 million contract with the college, the firm offers employability training and finds suitable roles for unemployed people, mostly aged between 19 and 25.

The company, along with fellow Work Programme contractor A4e, was accused of fraud by a former employee in evidence to the Commons Public Accounts Committee in May. He alleged that the companies had fabricated proof that they had got people into work - a claim both firms have strongly denied.

The directors of Working Links described their planned expansion in FE as a sensible policy, given that the coalition cancelled all welfare-to-work contracts when it came to power in 2010, forcing companies to bid for the new Work Programme.

Making deals with colleges is an attractive extra revenue stream, given that the Work Programme is financially risky for providers, forcing them to take on costs up front and only paying them as their clients move into sustainable jobs. But Working Links believes its expertise will be valuable to colleges increasingly judged on employment outcomes.

Will Cookson, head of skills at Working Links, said: "It was about supporting (Darlington) for the part of their budget assigned for job outcomes, and they really wanted to understand and learn from us how to work with Jobcentre Plus."

Unemployed people on the training "routeway" usually gain jobs in retail, hospitality, call centres or warehousing for companies such as Tesco and McDonald's, he said.

Working Links' employability programme at Darlington focuses on the soft skills of communication and problem-solving, as well as sector-specific training aimed at improving opportunities for those with no experience of work.

Mr Cookson said that many of the industry sectors where jobs were available only required entry-level skills. "They're looking for someone to have the right attitude, someone who fits in with the existing workforce," he said. …

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