FourstaR Employment & Skills and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) were amongst the winners at the inaugural DWP Supplier Excellence Awards presented by Leigh Lewis, Permanent Secretary to DWP, in London today. FourstaR won the Innovation Award for the delivery of Flexible New Deal in Birmingham & Solihull, whilst SCVO won in the Third Sector Category for their delivery of the Future Jobs Fund. Vertex Data Science won in the overall Supplier of the Year Category as well as the Collaboration Award. The Royal Mail, NYS Corporate and Atos Healthcare made up the rest of the winners list. DWP are understood to have received over 120 entries for the awards. The awards were presented at DWP’s 4th Annual Supplier’s Conference, attended by around 100 delegates, broadly a quarter of which were representing welfare to work providers. The conference, which had the strap line of “New Government, New Challenges” affirmed the current priorities of deficit reduction, social justice and benefit reform. The biggest announcement of the day was, ironically, that there would be a further Ministerial announcement on Thursday relating to the roll out of the Work Programme. Speakers at the conference included Hunada Nouss, DWP Finance Director General. She noted that the restructuring of DWP’s £140bn AME spend would be a major piece of work, alongside a full review of DEL expenditure, especially for new projects that would be subject to a tight approval process with Ministers and the Treasury. She also made the point that over £2bn of DWP’s administration spend was incurred by third party suppliers. Sheelagh Keyse, Customer Service Director at Jobcentre Plus, made a challenge to the audience in terms of whether supplier efficiency gains might be being made at DWP’s expense. She broadly cited instances of poor supplier administration, progress chasing on the part of Jobcentre Plus, and the replacement of supplier staff with lower calibre candidates as areas of concern. She made a call for there to be more clearly defined Service Delivery Standards within DWP contracts. There was a wider message from DWP in terms of seeking active consultation and contributions from suppliers on the way ahead. The themes of open dialogue, partnership working, pace of reform and greater innovation were also strongly enforced.