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Back-to-work firm attacks offensive behaviour claim

A SCOTS company has hit back over allegations that its staff referred to clients as "lying, thieving b*******" and were told to "park" unemployed disabled clients on a Government employability scheme.

Stirling-based Triage claimed the use of the term had been an isolated incident and said the BBC had not provided a balanced or fair portrayal by implying that the use of such terminology was endemic.

Programmes aired by BBC Scotland and the BBC's Panorama last night featured claims from a former staff member the phrase was so commonly used it was shortened to LTB.

Triage is sub-contracted under the UK Government's Work Programme to help the long-term unemployed back to work and is rewarded on a payment-by-results basis. The company's founder, Kate Carnegie, was awarded an MBE in the New Year's Honours List at the beginning of this month for "services to unemployed people in Forth Valley, Fife and Tayside".

However the reports claimed the firm picked up high fees for taking on difficult to place clients, then made minimal efforts to find them work.

They quoted former employees who described a culture at the firm which was dismissive of those it was meant to be helping to find work. Some said it told staff to spend as little effort as they could in helping the people referred to them.

One former worker, Linda Smith, told BBC Scotland Investigates Parking the Dis-abled the company could earn more money from taking on the disabled as clients.

She said: "These people were probably more difficult to place in employment for us as employment workers, but for them (the company) these people were bigger money ... these people were the bucks, the ker-ching."

Working Links, one of the Government's prime contractors which delivers the Work Programme on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions, is investigating.

A spokesman for Working Links confirmed Triage was one of its subcontractors under the programme. He said: "We work with a number of subcontractors all of whom go through a stringent vetting and approval process. We take any allegations of poor practice seriously and will be looking into matters further."

The Herald understands Triage is also one of the sub-contractors used by Ingeus, the other prime contractor responsible for the Work Programme in Scotland.

Last night a Triage spokesman said: "We regret there has not been a balanced or fair portrayal of the facts despite having provided information that would have allowed an equitable representation of the work being carried out by Triage.

"We find it disgraceful an isolated and wholly atypical terminology, about which a formal complaint was never raised, has been manipulated by the BBC, who suggest that use of such terminology is endemic in the organisation. Triage refutes this entirely.

"All Triage staff are trained to highest professional standards in order to provide high-quality guidance, support, advice and job matching. Many thousands of people have had positive experiences and benefited from engaging with Triage staff."

Rutherglen and Hamilton West Labour MP Tom Greatrex, who has campaigned on dis-ability issues, said the programme's claims should be investigated.

He added: "This is an outrageous way to treat disabled people who should be helped back into work by this company, not mocked and ridiculed. The company must carry out a full investigation into these allegations and take swift action."

A BBC spokesman said: "We put the allegations to Triage before the programme, and the BBC stands by its journalism."

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Careers and Jobs

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