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Daniel Wainwright

Why is the Work Programme failing?

Authors: Daniel Wainwright Daniel Wainwright

22 February 2013

The Work Programme is failing everyone. But it’s the most vulnerable that are being hit the hardest.

The report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) found that none of the providers contracted to deliver the Government’s Work Programme have hit their target. In fact, fewer people moved into sustained work as a result of the programme than would have done if there had been no intervention at all. It’s clear that the programme faces huge problems. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has blamed the providers, and some may stand to lose their contracts for poor performance.

The DWP dismissed the idea that local economic conditions have played a part in these generally dismal figures. Instead, it attributes poor performance to the competence of the providers. But when even the highest performing provider is achieving less than half of their target, then it’s clear that there are wider problems. In a year of flat-lining economic growth, helping the hardest to reach into work is tougher than ever. Without growth, we will continue to see providers and job-seekers struggle, though the Treasury wouldn’t be happy for DWP to shout this from the rooftops.

But the overall failure hides a more worrying problem. The Work Programme has fundamental flaws in its design. The National Audit Office highlights several ‘innovative’ features that were supposed to address weaknesses in previous schemes. One of those was the differentiated payment rates for different claimant groups, which means providers earn more for successfully placing harder to help groups (such as the disabled) into work.

This was supposed to ensure that providers focussed their efforts on helping everyone into work, rather than just spending their time on the easiest to help (creaming) whilst leaving those with complex barriers without any support (parking). But according to the PAC’s preliminary findings (released in December) ‘the available evidence to date suggests that providers are engaging in creaming and parking...those assessed as hardest to help are in many cases left with infrequent routine contact with advisors, and often with little or no likelihood of referral to specialist (and possibly costly) support, which might help address their specific barriers.’

The data bears this out. There were just 20 successful outcomes for individuals who had moved from Incapacity Benefit to Employment Support Allowance (therefore ill or disabled). That’s out of 9,440 referrals – a success rate of just 0.2%.

The Work Programme is clearly not delivering. Without a step change in performance, the programme will continue to fail both the unemployed and the tax payer. Working is not just a means of accruing income. It is a source of pride, it gives people an identity and it allows them to connect to other people, which is why ensuring that all those who want to work are able to is vitally important.

Comments in Chronological Order (Total 6 Comments)

Rodney Yates

27 Feb 2013 7:32PM

With the absence of support or appropriate transitions for long-term unemployed with a back-ground of serious ongoing unresolved or incurable illness, plus a wide-spread practice of 'parking' people for years at a time, Why would it be Working??

Mike Barton

05 Mar 2013 12:00PM

The Work Programme differs from other government funded 'back to work' programmes because the 'providers' are paid retrospectively, based upon their success or otherwise of firstly securing a real job for their candidate and then ensuring the candidate stays in that job for 26 weeks and up to 104 weeks whereupon the provider is paid.
There is good funding from government to facilitate the coaching and preparation of young people into work. The core issues are: attempting create a match that effectively meets the needs of the employer and the competencies and abilities of the young person. I would like to know if the Workfounation has carried out any research into this problem area?

LT Unemployed

17 Mar 2013 10:56PM

As someone who is on the work programme, the scheme has offered me nothing at all to help overcome long term unemployment and I am a professional jobseeker with disabilities and with good experience but now long term unemployed. Granted I have been offered life coach sessions for a limited period to boost confidence and presentation but without the appropriate job search support this is a waste of my time and actually detrimental to both my physical and mental health.

The scheme is an utter waste of taxpayer's money. Leaving those of us who want to work and can work with no hope at all.

Blogger Books

16 Jul 2014 8:36AM

The very next time I read a blog, Hopefully it does not disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, Yes, it was my choice to read, but I really thought you would probably have something interesting to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of crying about something you could possibly fix if you weren't too busy seeking attention. #I Like

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06 Dec 2014 10:59AM

bunch of crying about something you could possibly fix if you weren't too busy seeking attention

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20 Dec 2014 9:57AM

for family members I recieve 4 emails with the same comment.