The government has refused a Freedom of Information request from Gareth Thomas MP, shadow minister for civil society, to provide him with the risk register that it prepared for the Work Programme.
Thomas revealed that he had submitted the FoI request to DWP at yesterday’s Civil Society Question Time debate on the first two years of the coalition government, organised by Civil Society Media and NCVO and attended by dozens of charity sector chief executives.
In his opening critique of the coalition's record to date, Thomas said: “It is the big issues, where warnings were given and warnings were ignored, where ministers are most culpable.
“I am currently using the FoI process to seek the risk register for the Work Programme, because I believe and have been told that ministers were warned and deliberately ignored advice that charities would lose out under the Work Programme.
“Francis Maude promised that charities would get 30 to 40 per cent of referrals but nothing like that has happened, it’s been about 20 per cent at best.”
After the event, Thomas told civilsociety.co.uk that his original FoI request for the risk register had already been rejected by the government and that he was appealing against that decision, on the grounds that the information is in the public interest.
“I think we need to know whether ministers were given advice and ignored it, or is there something fundamentally wrong with the way they designed the Work Programme,” he said.
The Work Programme came in for yet more bashing during the debate, with NCVO chief Sir Stuart Etherington describing it as “a walking disaster for voluntary organisations”. He said that the vast majority of voluntary sector groups simply don’t have the required working capital to enable them to participate.