Employability, skills and offender rehabilitation provider Working Links has become one of the few organisations to be awarded the highest Merlin Standard rating, recognising its excellent work with partner organisations.
The Standard, developed by the Department for Work and Pensions, is designed to encourage excellent supply chain management between prime contractors delivering government contracts and their supply chain partners.
Assessed across the whole of the wide range of government contracts it holds, Working Links has been classed as ‘excellent’ in three of the five criteria and good in the remaining two, placing Working Links firmly as one of the best providers.
Particularly pleasing for Working Links, looking ahead to the Health and Work Programme, was the assessors’ praise of the organisation’s strong Work Choice programme which helps people with significant health problems on their journey towards work.
Brian Bell, Working Links’ managing director of employability, said: “We’re committed to helping as many people as possible maximise their potential and we know we can’t do that alone. As a public, private, voluntary company ourselves, we recognise that all the sectors have a part to play and we’re delighted our work with partners continues to be recognised by others too.
“We are extremely proud the hard work of our people and fantastic collaborations with partners have been officially recognised.
“We fully support the government’s target to halve the numbers of disabled people who are out of work and looking ahead to the Work and Health Programme, we are particularly pleased at the assessment of our Work Choice programme, demonstrating we have the approach, partnerships and skill to deliver services to those who have the greatest barriers to gaining employment.
“Standards in supply chain management have undoubtedly risen, and we have set the bar in lifting those standards. We work hard with our partners to help them make a difference to people’s lives.”
The accreditation looks at supply chain design, commitment to partners and business and commercial integrity, with Working Links achieving an overall score of 85 per cent – an increase of eight percentage points on the last assessment two years ago.
A number of significant strengths and areas of excellent practice were identified during the assessment, including Working Links’ investment in ‘extensive research at local, regional and national levels to ensure a good understanding of the issues being faced by potential customers and communities’.
The report also highlighted that ‘collaborative working is embraced across the supply chains’ while ‘communication is open and honest’.
Working Links was also praised for encouraging its own people to identify issues within local communities and being able to support more people through its partnership approach.
All of the organisation’s contracts delivered on behalf of government departments and funding bodies were assessed, including Work Programme, Work Choice and the management of three Community Rehabilitation Companies.
About 30 per cent of Working Links’ Work Programme delivery is subcontracted to partners, while up to 100 per cent of delivery of Work Choice is subcontracted in some areas of the UK. Currently, 19 per cent of the organisation’s supply chain is in the public sector, 44 per cent private firms and 37 per cent third sector organisations.
As part of the accreditation process, assessors spoke to a number of people across the business, as well as to current and former partner organisations.
Partner quotes included: