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Charity under fire after poor report

PUBLISHED: 09:00 12 June 2009 | UPDATED: 08:15 01 August 2010

A BECCLES-based charity has been slammed in a recent Ofsted report for its provision of a scheme that helps disabled people get into work.

Yesterday New Thresholds tried to defend its position following the report that deemed its provision of the Government program Workstep as "Inadequate" in five of the seven categories- the lowest possible grade.

A BECCLES-based charity has been slammed in a recent Ofsted report for its provision of a scheme that helps disabled people get into work.

Yesterday New Thresholds tried to defend its position following the report that deemed its provision of the Government program Workstep as “Inadequate” in five of the seven categories- the lowest possible grade.

It was rated as only “Satisfactory” in the other two categories.

New Thresholds, a charity based in Hungate that provides employment and training opportunities for people with mental health, learning and physical disabilities, have admitted they were “ill-prepared” for the Ofsted inspection, and have cited staff illness and changes to government legislation as the main reasons for the disastrous report.

They have also emphasised that Workstep is only one of many services on offer at New Thresholds.

The Workstep Scheme provides support to disabled people facing barriers to getting and keeping a job, and offers practical assistance to employers.

The damning report, compiled in April, states that “teaching, training and learning and the extent to which participants needs are met” are “Inadequate,” as is “provision in preparation for life and work.”

It also states that “most Workstep participants employed at New Thresholds are working with clients with a range of learning difficulties and/or disabilities but have had no formal training in awareness of, and support for, specific needs, and how best to meet them.”

The report rates New Threshold's capacity to improve the Workstep Scheme as “Inadequate,” stating that “areas of improvement highlighted at the previous inspection in 2005 remain unaddressed.”

However Jim Lumsden, chairman of the trustees of New Thresholds, has been quick to emphasise that the scheme is only one of the “many strands of the valuable work” carried out at New Thresholds.

He added that New Thresholds has had to cope with “a whole raft of different problems” over the last two years.

He said that the Workstep Programme Manager fell ill, meaning that “deficiencies were later discovered in the day to day running of the organisation.” Another pressure they faced was adapting their other services to new ways of working due to changes to the system in which contracts are drawn up.

He added that their Workstep Scheme received a grading of “Good” at the last inspection in 2005, which was then undertaken by the Adult Learning Inspectorate. In that year they were named as one of the top 150 providers in the country.

“Our unsatisfactory result is an organisational problem for which the trustees and all the managers are also responsible, not only our over-worked chief executive,” he said. “However we are already working positively with the Department of Work and Pensions, Jobcentre Plus, and their Improvement Service to ensure that we regain our previous 'Good' grading at our Workstep re-inspection in nine months' time.

“Despite the unsatisfactory grading we do take heart from the fact that included in the report were comments from our Workstep participants, which were largely appreciative of New Thresholds and the opportunities that we are providing for them on this programme.”

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