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Back-to-work privateers 'neglecting the neediest'

PRIVATEERS operating the government’s flagship back-to-work scheme were accused yesterday of neglecting to help people most in need.

The government’s National Audit Office (NAO) yesterday accused privateers of “cherry-picking” job seekers most likely to find work and cutting cash aimed at those with least chance.

The NAO found the privateers’ success rate was way below forecasts made by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP); that they had “reduced what they plan to spend on the hardest to help” and identified an inability of the DWP to stop firms cherry-picking people most likely to get jobs.

It said that as a result contractors could be paid £31 million — even though they were entitled to only £6m based on their performance.

The Public and Commercial Services union said it had warned about privateers cherry-picking cases to manipulate their results.

General secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This is a damning verdict on a flagship scheme that, three years in, continues to reward private companies for failure.

“We warned that payment by results would lead to providers cherry-picking the easiest cases and this is exactly what has happened, leading to the scandal of the people who need help the most being neglected.

“This report makes the case for the work to be done by experienced jobcentre staff so the unemployed, sick and disabled are treated with respect as people to be helped, rather than as cheques to be cashed.”

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