By Daniel Hunter

New figures reveal that voluntary and community sector organisations constitute the largest number of Work Programme providers - with a growing number joining the scheme.

Twenty new voluntary sector organisations have joined the programme since January. Just 15 organisations from the sector have left in this time.

These new entrants take the total number of voluntary and community sector organisations taking part in the Work Programme to 368. This means nearly half - 47 per cent - of all sub contractors are from this sector.

"As a charity and Work Programme prime provider and sub-contractor we are completely committed to doing all we can to help people find and stay in employment," Roy O'Shaughnessy, chief executive of Shaw Trust and Careers Development Group, one of the scheme's prime providers, said.

"This includes supporting the Work Programme and any other projects and initiatives which share this aim."

The Work Programme is an important part of the Government's welfare reform agenda, and is targeted at those at risk of long-term unemployment or who are already long-term unemployed. Providers from the private, public and voluntary sectors have more than two years to work with claimants giving them tailored support to help them move off benefits and back to work. They are paid according to the results they deliver.

More than 240,000 people have been helped by voluntary sector organisations since the Work Programme began.

"These figures show just how big a role the voluntary sector is playing in the Work Programme. I'm delighted so many organisations are joining forces with us to help people back to work," Minister for Employment Mark Hoban said.

"Voluntary sector organisations have the specialist skills and expertise in helping the hardest to reach in our society. They are crucial partners in helping those at risk of long term unemployment find a sustainable job, and I applaud them for their work so far."

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