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Merlin Standard Update - Nov 2014

The Merlin Standard has now been in operation for almost 3 years and DWP Work Programme primes contractors, the very first organisations to be assessed, have completed their first 2-year accreditation cycle and all have successfully undertaken their second Merlin assessment.



Results were impressive, with most demonstrating significant improvement and 17 of the 18 assessed achieving better outcomes. Eight achieved ‘Excellent’, of which two showed remarkable progress moving from a previously ‘Satisfactory’ rating. Of the rest, all except one were rated ‘Good’.



Merlin accredited organisations are expected to strive for continuous improvement by addressing areas highlighted for improvement in their assessment reports, and to ensure Merlin Principles are being followed throughout all tiers of the supply chain.



It is clear that the introduction of Merlin has positively influenced the formation, management and development of supply chains, as good practices incorporated in the Standard are embedded in service delivery.



Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive of ERSA and a member of the Merlin Advisory Board said:



“The Merlin Standard has put in place the frameworks for - and expectations of - good supply chain management across the sector. The Standard isn't a magic wand of course and there are some issues, such as overall referral numbers, which it cannot affect. However, Merlin has led to the professionalisation of supply chain management across the piece - and much could be learnt from that by other sectors”


A comprehensive review of the Standard is being planned which will demonstrate DWP’s commitment to ensuring that Merlin continues to evolve to meet the needs of primes, subcontractors and other stakeholders. All will be given the opportunity to participate by providing feedback and suggestions to influence Merlin’s future development. Details on how stakeholders can contribute will be communicated shortly.

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Merlin Standard review

Research and review of the Merlin Standard is being planned following the recent publication of the DWP Commissioning Strategy. Further updates will be provided on this site.

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Youth Engagement Fund prospectus

"The Government has published a prospectus for the Youth Engagement Fund:

Take a Look Here.

This new, cross Government fund will use Social Impact Bonds to build on the success of DWP’s Innovation Fund. The Initial Application Form specification will be published in early July.
. It is expected to reach up to 18,000 young people aged 14 to 17 in the UK. It will reward innovative new forms of support for disengaged or at risk young people."

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28/01/14 - Leonard Cheshire Disability achieved Merlin Standard



Leonard Cheshire Disability was the first non welfare to work organisation in the UK to achieve the prestigious Merlin Standard at a presentation in London on Tuesday 14th January.

The Lead Assessor Ruth Regan said, “What stood out to us was the way they involved and communicated with their Supply Chain Partners to ensure the delivery of the contract as a whole on behalf of their Commissioner, the Greater London Authority.”

At the presentation by Paul Bridle CEO of emqc, contract manager Rob stated, “It helps you understand the areas you are good at and identifies the areas for improvement”. After months of pre-assessment prep and a week’s worth of assessment being carried out across the UK it is a tribute to the organization how well they work with their Supply Chain partners. Rob added “it’s a benchmark for us to help us know how we are doing”.

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03/01/13 - Merlin Webinars

emqc are hosting the following free webinars ran by Lead Merlin Assessors:

Preparing for Reaccreditation
Date: 31st January 2014
Time: 10am to 11am
Target Audience: Representatives of Prime Organisations who are due for reassessment in 2014.

Topic areas will include: The review process, scope of the review, engaging with supply chain organisations, continuous improvement, Q&A

What is the Merlin Standard and Assessment Process
Date: 14th February 2014
Time: 10am to 11am
Target Audience: Representatives of Commissioning Organisations and Supply Chain Partners who wish to know more about the Merlin Standard.

Topic areas will include: An overview of the Elements and Criteria, the assessment process including evidence gathering, scoring, Q&A

To register for either of these webinars please send an email expressing your interest of the webinar you wish to attend to merlin@emqc.co.uk.

Both of these webinars are now full

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22/11/14 - Urgent reminder from DWP to organisations preparing CWP tenders to use the Standard Expression of Interest

The Invitation to Tender (ITT) for DWP’s Community Work Placements initiative was launched in October.


DWP wrote to Welfare to Work providers on 14th November 2013 reminding them of the importance and benefits of using the Standard Expression of interest, available for completion and to view on the search EoI page



Use of the standard EOI format, developed by Welfare to Work industry representatives, is a Merlin Standard best practice example providing evidence against Element 2c.6, that will be taken into account in future Merlin assessments

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01/10/13 - Merlin Information Briefing Session

Thursday 14th November – 10am till 2pm (refreshments and lunch provided)

This briefing session has been designed to give you all the necessary information to help you get started on your Merlin journey.
Led by one of our highly experienced Merlin Assessors, these workshops will give you an introduction to the Standard and help you to prepare your organisation for a Merlin Assessment.
The Assessor will also be able to share numerous hints and tips from their experiences and, there will be opportunities to network with colleagues and share good practice.
What this session will cover


  • Background & Introduction to Merlin & emqc Ltd

  • Benefits of working with the Standard

  • Overview of the Standard

  • The Assessment Process

  • Confidentiality & Conflict of Interest

  • The Costs

  • The Merlin Website & Expression of Interest (EOI)


Please complete the booking form to book a place

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05/09/13 - The September Issue of the Merlin Newsletter

The September issue of the Merlin newsletter has been published and distributed to all organisations registered on the Merlin Website. To view a copy, please click here.

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20/07/13 - Merlin Information Briefing Session

Tuesday 15th October – 10am till 2pm (refreshments and lunch provided)

This briefing session has been designed to give you all the necessary information to help you get started on your Merlin journey.
Led by one of our highly experienced Merlin Assessors, these workshops will give you an introduction to the Standard and help you to prepare your organisation for a Merlin Assessment.
The Assessor will also be able to share numerous hints and tips from their experiences and, there will be opportunities to network with colleagues and share good practice.
What this session will cover


  • Background & Introduction to Merlin & emqc Ltd

  • Benefits of working with the Standard

  • Overview of the Standard

  • The Assessment Process

  • Confidentiality & Conflict of Interest

  • The Costs

  • The Merlin Website & Expression of Interest (EOI)


This workshop is now full

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14/06/13 - New Case Study Published

emqc are pleased to publish our latest case study for the Merlin Standard. A4e was accredited in June 2013 and have agreed to publish their case study highlighting the benefits of the Merlin Standard.

A4E is a leading public service provider, among the largest of 18 prime providers of the government’s work programme; A4e helps unemployed people into training and sustainable jobs. A4e aims to ensure that its customers, especially those with significant barriers to work, can receive the tailored support they need to get into work by drawing on a diverse network of more than 200 end-to-end and specialist intervention partners from the public, private and voluntary sectors. Read the Full Case Study

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20/05/13 - The May Issue of the Merlin Newsletter

The May issue of the Merlin newsletter has been published and distributed to all organisations registered on the Merlin Website. To view a copy, please click here.

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24/04/13 - Financial Support Available for Smaller Organisations

emqc Ltd recognise that the standard assessment cost of £8583 may be a barrier to small organisations and we may be able to offer support. Discounts will be considered on application, on a case by case basis, for small organisations having a supply chain of under 20 and interested in applying for Merlin on a voluntary basis, but struggling to meet the financial cost. Please contact emqc on 0845 304 8600 to discuss how we may be able to help.

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02/04/13 - emqc Ltd are pleased to launch the revised Expression of Interest (EOI) facility on the Merlin Website

emqc Ltd are pleased to launch the revised Expression of Interest (EOI) facility on the Merlin Website as of the 2nd April 2013. The EOI is used by both Welfare to Work Prime and Sub Contractors when applying/bidding for new contracts in Contract Package Areas (CPA).

This is a result of extensive work by DWP, the Merlin Advisory Board (MAB) and emqc who have been involved in the design, development and testing of this online facility. The new EOI offers an enhanced search facility and consists of an online form that is searchable by both Prime Contractors and Sub-Contractors alike using the new EOI Search function.

The opportunity to review the EOI has additionally enabled DWP and emqc the ability to review and update other related website functionality, enabling the EOI to be presented in a package of website tools that will support Prime Contractor and Supply Chain Partner engagement.

All current EOI’s will be held on the system until the 1st September 2013. At this point the word document version of the EOI will no longer be available. If you have a Merlin Website Account we highly recommend that you log in to it and complete the new version of the EOI as soon as possible, if you have forgotten your password please use the forgotten password function.

The main benefit of using the new EOI is the ability for users to search by different criteria such as delivery location or service experience and return results of other organisations who match the searched upon criteria. This gives the Prime Contractors the ability to search for Sub Contractors based on a range of different requirements. Once a search is completed the EOI will be downloadable once permission has been granted by the user. It’s possible to request permission directly from the search results page.

To complete a new electronic EOI, simply login to your Merlin account if you already have one or register as necessary. From here you will need to scroll down to the EOI section. You will also find the EOI Management Tool, this gives users the ability to review who has access to view their EOI and the capability to accept and revoke user access to it.

Guidance and on screen help is available, which we hope will be of benefit, however for any questions or query’s relating to the new EOI please contact emqc Ltd on 0845 304 8600 or email: it@emqc.co.uk.

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04/02/13 - The first case study for G4S has now been published

We are currently producing a number of case studies to inform and illustrate the level of organisational review and change that may be required as well as the associated lead in time, in preparation for achieving accreditation. The case studies will also provide further examples of the impacts of using the Standard as a business improvement tool.

The first case study for G4S is now available for Download

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04/02/13 - First ‘Excellent’ Merlin Standard Assessment Outcome Achieved by Skills Training UK

At the end of 2012 a landmark was reached by the Assessment and Accreditation Service for the Merlin Standard, a Standard of excellence in Supply Chain Management, with the first ‘Excellent’ overall outcome achieved, by Skills Training UK.

Skills Training UK’s achievement caps a successful year for the Merlin Standard. emqc Ltd, which carried out the assessment on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions, has successfully completed the assessments of all DWP’s Work Programme providers in 2012, and the assessments of all European Social Fund providers are in progress. Preparations are already underway for the assessments of prime providers for DWP’s Mandatory Work Activity ReLet, Personal Independence Payment and Application Deployment Implementation Project (ADep) service providers, as well as Department for Education, Skills Funding Agency’s Youth Contract. The future is looking bright for the Merlin Standard as interest continues to grow in both the public and private sectors.

All Merlin Assessment Reports are published on the Merlin Website, and Skills Training UK’s is the first with the overall outcome of ‘Excellent’, with ‘Excellent’ outcomes for the Merlin Standard Principles of Supply Chain Design, Commitment and Conduct, and a ‘Good’ Outcome for Review.

Dave Allan, Managing Director at emqc Ltd, said of the achievement: “Lorna Bainbridge, the Lead Assessor appointed by emqc to assess Skills Training UK against the Merlin Standard, has awarded them the highest overall score achieved so far, setting a benchmark for the sector in the way it designs and manages supply chains with private, public and third sector organisations.”

Julia Sweeney, Department for Work and Pensions’ Contracted Customer Services Director and Chair of the Merlin Standard Advisory Board, said: "I am pleased to congratulate Skills Training UK for this notable accomplishment. I am sure that it will encourage prime contractors and supply chain partners alike to embrace the Merlin Standard, helping to spread good practice in supply chains."

Kirsty McHugh, Merlin Standard Advisory Board member and Chief Executive of the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), said: "ERSA, as the trade body for employment service providers, is delighted that Skills Training UK has achieved such a high score under Merlin. It is a really impressive result, indicating a strong commitment to excellence in supply chain management."

Commenting on the successful Merlin assessment, Martin Dunford OBE, Chief Executive at Skills Training UK, said: “Skills Training UK is driven by the genuine desire to improve the quality of life for the individuals in the communities where we work. Developing and supporting effective and trustworthy partnerships in our supply chain underpins this goal and we are very pleased with the Merlin Standard Accreditation.”

The Merlin Standard Assessment report for Skills Training UK and all other assessed organisations has been published in full at: http://www.merlinstandard.co.uk/merlin-accredited-organisations.php or for further information about The Merlin Standard please visit http://www.merlinstandard.co.uk/about-merlin.php

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01/02/13 - The Revised Merlin Standard Launched

The Merlin Standard has gone through a series of revisions to make it more generic in design, so it can apply to all organisations managing a supply chain regardless of their sector.

It will also enable emqc to further support and add value to an Organisations Year 2 Assessment and enable Organisations to demonstrate their progression against the Standard.

The revisions have now been agreed following input from emqc, Merlin Assessors, DWP and the MAB and the Revised Merlin Standard 2013 is therefore being launched as of 1st February 2013. Any organisation that books an assessment after this date will be assessed against the revised Standard.

As a result of these revisions the guidance has been updated to reflect the new terminology and is included within the new document “The Standard and Explanatory Notes”.

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21/01/13 - First Merlin Newsletter Published

The first newsletter about the Merlin Standard has been published and distributed to all prganisations registered on the Merlin Website. To view a copy, please click here.

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19/10/12 - Merlin Presents at the PARES Conference

At the beginning of October Jane Malbasa (DWP) and Fiona Grant (emqc Ltd) were guest speakers at this years European Commission - Employment Social Affairs and Inclusion; PARES Conference (Partnership between Employment Services) in Brussels.

They presented two workshops to EC representatives, government representatives, Public Employment Services (PES) representatives, commercial organisations and third sector organisations from across the EU. The workshops highlighted and explored the rationale for developing the Merlin Standard, as well as the impacts and benefits working with the Standard can bring for both organisations and commissioning bodies.

"It was a pleasure to have been invited to this years Conference. To share internationally the good practice that the UK is undertaking in relation to the Merlin Standard. And excellence in supply chain management within the Welfare to Work sector" Fiona Grant (emqc Ltd).

Part of the EU's Agenda for new skills and jobs, PARES will encourage EU-level dialogue to:
- improve cooperation between the different employment services (public, private and non-profit) in EU member countries
- define fields where they can deliver complementary services.

Why do we need this partnership?
- To make publicly-funded employment services more efficient, whether delivered by public or private employment agencies
- To improve the quality of services provided - through well-structured partnerships between private and public providers.

For more information about PARES, please see the following link;
http://ec.europa.eu

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02/08/12 - emqc presented at the Welfare to Work annual convention in Birmingham

emqc presented at the Welfare to Work annual convention in Birmingham, to view the presentation, see Session 28 Making it real: an overview of the Merlin Standard

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27/07/12 - Work Programme Assessments Completed

emqc Ltd and DWP are pleased to announce that the first round of Merlin assessments, for Work Programme Prime providers, has been successfully completed. Initial feedback from the organisations assessed has been positive, both about the Standard and the assessment process.

All reports for these assessments have now been published and can be found either by navigating directly to the Organisation's account using the Organisation Search on the left, or by visiting the Accredited Organisations page and following the appropriate link.

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19/06/12 - First Merlin Reports Published - And Other Website Updates

There have been a number of useful and interesting files made available on the Merlin Website recently.

We are proud to confirm that the first Merlin Assessments have been completed and the reports made publically available for view. The Organisations are:
esg Group - Report available here
Serco - Report available here
Working Links - Report available here

If you want to see whether an organisation's report has been published yet please visit the Accredited Organisations page, which will be updated with links to the organisation's page on the site when the report is available.

Further guidance on the Standard has also been made available for download on the 'About Merlin' page of the website, or downloadable directly from this link.

Finally, the minutes of the most recent MAB meeting on the 18th of April 2012 have been published on the 'About Merlin' page, also available for download by clicking this link.

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30/04/12 - Updates to the Website and Downloadable Documents

Today a number of small updates were made to the website and downloadable documentation. A slight revision was made to the About Assessments Guidance, with the Assessment Outcome section on page 12 updated.
Also the Scoring Template used by Merlin Assessors is also available for download. Both of these can be found on the About Merlin page.

Also slight amendments were made to the Contact Merlin page, about emqc Ltd being available to discuss informal enquiries or concerns as well as the formal Compliments, Comments and Complaints Procedure.

Finally, if you wish to be informed whenever updates like these are made available please simply send emqc Ltd an email using this link, and your email address will be added to the mailing list. This information was also added to the About Merlin and Contact Merlin pages.

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Merlin FAQs and Assessment Guidance Updated

The Merlin FAQs and Assessment Guidance have been updated, with the new versions available for download from the About Merlin page.

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Merlin Standard: A code of excellence to ensure fairness in Supply Chain contracts

The Assessment and Accreditation Service for the Merlin Standard - the code of excellence in Supply Chain Management - was launched on 15 March 2012 by Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society at Cabinet Office, and Chris Grayling, Minister for Employment at the Department for Work and Pensions.

The Merlin Standard Assessment and Accreditation Service is to be available to any organisation – within Government as well as the private sector, public or voluntary sectors - managing a supply chain to encourage excellence. It is delivered by emqc Ltd, the new Service Provider who were appointed following a competitive tender.

Assessments will commence in April, with DWP’s Work Programme Prime providers being the first organisations to be assessed between April and 30th June 2012.

The Merlin Standard will ensure smaller contractors, including voluntary organisations, are treated fairly; local organisations delivering the Work Programme as subcontractors will be able to hold prime contractors to account, if they have grounds for complaint.

Chris Grayling, Minister for Employment, said:

“The Standard not only gives subcontractors reassurance of fair and equal treatment, it also ensures they can hold bigger national contractors to account."

“We want to drive continuous improvement, encourage excellence and generate healthy, high performing supply chains. We will monitor through Merlin Standard assessments to see providers are operating effective, healthy supply chains. And there will be sanctions for non-compliance.”

The Minister for Employment added that the Standard cannot in itself prevent organisations from signing up to terms that they later regret and it is up to subcontractors to negotiate acceptable contracts. It is also important for supply chain partners to be clear that the Merlin Standard is crucially not a defence against under-performance; poorly performing subcontractors can and should be replaced by better performers.

Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, said that the Standard will reassure local organisations that they will be treated fairly in the supply chain and that there will be consequences for Prime contractors who failed to adhere to the Standard. He said:

“The Merlin Standard will protect and give reassurance to the Voluntary and Community Sector so they can continue to flourish and develop the grass roots delivery of our back to work programme."

“It is our flagship code of excellence that will underpin our ambitious programme to revolutionise procurement.”

Ministers were speaking at one of four one-day briefing sessions organised by emqc Ltd, in preparation for Work Programme assessments starting in spring 2012.

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Minister for Employment to launch the Merlin Standard Assessment and Accreditation Service

The Right Honourable Chris Grayling, Minister for Employment at DWP, and the Right Honourable Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, will launch the Merlin Standard Assessment and Accreditation Service at the beginning of a Prime Contractor Briefing on 15 March 2012 in London.
The event is one of four one-day briefing sessions organised by emqc Ltd, the new Service Provider, in preparation for assessments starting in Spring.
Please click here for more information and to register for any of the four events.

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emqc Ltd and the Merlin Standard

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has selected emqc Ltd, one of the UK’s leading standards assessment companies, to deliver the Merlin Standard assessment and accreditation services. The Merlin Standard has been designed to recognise and promote sustainable excellence and positive partnership working within supply chains and provide guidance to those seeking to achieve it.

emqc Ltd are committed to ensuring that the Merlin Standard is established and recognised as an exemplar of best practice supply chain management across public, private and voluntary sectors in the UK and Internationally.

Assessments will commence in April with Work Programme (WP) Prime Providers being the first organisations to be assessed between April and 30th June 2012.

WP Prime Providers are advised to register on the Merlin website via http://www.merlinstandard.co.uk/register.php as soon as possible and preferably no later than 09.03.12. A Lead Assessor will be appointed by emqc Ltd to support each organisation through the process, including reviewing the self-assessment questionnaire, agreeing dates for the pre-assessment planning meeting and the onsite assessment.

The timetable of upcoming Briefing Events for WP Prime Providers is available here and places can be reserved by registering here.

Assessments for European Social Fund (ESF) Prime Providers not already assessed as WP Primes will commence from July and until the 31 December 2012.

Prime providers are advised to download the Merlin Standard and its Guidance.

Each organisation’s Lead Assessor will identify the Sub-Contractors that they would like included in the assessment. All evidence gained from a Sub-Contractor will be received in confidence and will not be attributable to the Sub-Contractor or individual representing the Sub-Contractor. The Lead Assessor will confirm the most appropriate approach to gain feedback from the Sub-Contractor, however this will predominately be through interviews (either face-to face or via appropriate media). Each assessment will cover up to 60% of the Prime Provider’s supply chain and will also include organisations that were unsuccessful in becoming a subcontractor.

Further information can be found on this website, including registering your organisation's details in preparation for your assessment, a copy of the Merlin Standard, Frequently Asked Questions, Guidance and Briefing Sessions. However if you do have any questions, please contact emqc Ltd directly on 0845 304 8600 or via the contact us page of the Merlin Standard website.

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Innovation Fund Update

The first of the two Innovation Fund bidding rounds ended on 5 August 2011 and DWP are delighted in the level of interest. Bids are currently being evaluated and short-listed bidders to go through to the Invitation to Tender stage are expected to be announced mid September 2011.
In July the Indus Delta website (Indus Delta) set up a forum for potential Innovation Fund partners to share information, and although this first stage of the procurement exercise has closed, the forum remains open. The forum will provide a useful tool for organisations either looking for local partners if their bid is successful to go through to the next stage of this round, or for those who are considering submitting a bid in the second round, which is due to begin later in 2011.
For further information about the Innovation Fund, including a comprehensive question and answer log and contact details of the organisations that attended the Initial Application events in July visit the DWP Innovation Fund website or email Innovation.Fund@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

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Merlin Standard Communications Strategy Published

Today the Merlin Advisory Board published the Merlin Standard Communications Strategy for January - April 2012.

To view a copy, please click here.

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Merlin Standard Assessment and Accreditation Service Provider

DWP has appointment emqc Ltd as the Merlin Standard Assessment and Accreditation Service Provider. emqc Ltd has a breadth of experience of delivering assessment and accreditation services across national standards including the Matrix Standard, Committed2Equality Diversity Assured, Customer Service Excellence, LEXCEL, and SFEDI in partnership with Government Agencies and on behalf of public and private sector organisations of all sizes.

Merlin Assessments are to start in spring 2012 with Prime providers delivering the Work Programme.

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Work Choice Key Strengths and Areas for Development

A summary of Key Strengths and Areas for Improvement arising from the Work Choice Merlin Pilot Assessments has just been published here. The article also includes some examples of good and poor practice observed during the course of Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Work Choice assessments.

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DWP Innovation Fund Update

On 22 September 2011, DWP published details of the short-listed bidders to go through to the Innovation Fund Invitation to Tender (ItT) stage. Details are available via Supplying DWP website - Innovation Fund. The Innovation Fund Partnership Forum remains open on the Indus Delta website and for further information about the Innovation Fund visit the Innovation Fund website or email Innovation.Fund@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

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DWP Supply Chain Management Framework

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is employing strategic supply chain management and has developed the Supply Chain Framework based around a 5-stage cycle of activities undertaken by Account Managers to support our prime providers. The aim is to ensure continuous improvement in supply chain management.
The DWP Supply Chain Management Framework can be found here.

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MAKING “EXCELLENCE” THE STANDARD!

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has selected emqc, one of the UK’s leading standards assessment companies, to deliver its new Merlin Standard.

The Standard has been specifically designed by the DWP to build and maintain world class supply chains for the delivery of services provided to the public.

emqc’s pivotal role is to assess, monitor and accredit every organisation within the DWP supply chain, and ensure they provide outstanding service. emqc will also champion positive relationships with companies and organisations that deliver employment-related services on behalf of the Department.

Dave Allan, Managing Director of emqc, said: “We are delighted to have been selected to carry out this critical role and we are very excited by the opportunity to support the Department in its work.”

“In the coming months all organisations involved in DWP programmes - including information system and technology providers - will be required to meet and maintain the Standard. This Standard will transform the way providers work together and will dramatically enhance the way services are delivered to the public”.

“The processes behind the Merlin Standard are extremely robust and the principles behind it will ensure that delivering ‘excellence’ is the minimum standard in every aspect of the DWP supply chain.”


Further information on the Merlin Standard is available by visiting www.merlinstandard.co.uk, by contacting emqc on 0845 304 8600 or by emailing info@emqc.co.uk.


About emqc

emqc is one of the UK’s leading organisational improvement and assessment companies and works in partnership with Government, other agencies and private businesses to help deliver performance-enhancing, national quality standards. Based in Derby and working across the UK, emqc has contracts to deliver a wide range of prestigious quality standards, including: the matrix Standard, C2E Diversity Assured, Customer Service Excellence, Lexcel, SFEDI, The Information Standard and the Merlin Standard.

For further information about emqc, visit www.emqc.co.uk

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Introduction of Merlin Standard Mediation Service

DWP is pleased to announce the introduction of the Merlin Standard Mediation Service, a new and independent mediation service provided by the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) that is available to subcontractors in the event of a complaint against a prime provider that has not been resolved through the prime's own disputes handling process.

Information on how to access this free service can be found here.

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First Phase of Work Choice Pilot Assessments Completed

The first phase of pilot Merlin assessments for Work Choice Prime providers was recently concluded. A Summary Report providing some head line findings from those assessments and recommendations for improvements to the Standard and assessment methodology can be found here.

This report was accompanied by a more detailed review of the Merlin Standard and rationale for suggested changes to the Standard. DWP have consulted on all the recommendations and will make the new version of the Standard available at the Merlin stand at this year's Welfare to Work Convention.

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DWP Innovation Fund: Prospectus and Bidder Events Announced

On 12 May 2011, the Government announced a package of measures to help address youth unemployment. These included a new "Innovation Fund" of up to £30 million over 3 years for social investment projects, paid on an outcome funded basis. The projects will support young people aged 14 and over who are disadvantaged or at risk of disadvantage.

The Innovation Fund will be awarded through a competitive bidding process over two rounds. The first round begins today with the publication of the Prospectus. This will be followed by an invitation to bid in early July 2011 with a view to contracts being awarded towards the end of 2011.

To support the bidding process, events will be held for potential bidders in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh during week commencing 4 July 2011. The purpose of which is to introduce the Innovation Fund, provide details of our requirements and enable prospective bidders to begin partnership development.

The second bidding round will begin later in 2011, with contracts awarded mid 2012. This will enable those organisations that need more time to develop proposals and partnership arrangements before bidding in the second round.

We recognise that many of you will want to begin discussions quickly with potential partners and you may wish to access the IndusDelta website (www.indusdelta.co.uk) which has a forum for potential Innovation Fund partners to share information.

If you would like more information about the Fund please see http://www.dwp.gov.uk/supplying-dwp/what-we-buy/welfare-to-work-services/innovation-fund/ or email Innovation.Fund@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

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