The government launched the Work Programme in June last year, calling it the biggest welfare-to-work initiative in UK history.
Is it working? With more than 2.5 million people unemployed, there’s a huge amount riding on that question.
And the government now says it wants to export the same kind of model – outsourcing the problem to contractors and paying them according to the results – to other areas including cutting reoffending rates among prisoners.
Since last summer there’s only been one statistical release, which was seized on by ministers as evidence that the Work Programme was working, but failed to pass the FactCheck test.
The first full set of performance figures was due to come out this autumn, but the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) told us the release date is still to be confirmed. Why the delay?
Channel 4 News’s social affairs editor Jackie Long has now obtained performance figurescompiled by the second biggest Work Programme provider, A4E, after the first full year. It’s not perfect but it’s the best data we have seen so far on how the flagship policy is panning out.
The data covers June 2011 to June 2012. The five areas of England where A4E acts as the “prime contractor” – the company in charge of how the scheme operates locally – are all included, covering the east Midlands, east London, Merseyside, Cumbria, Lancashire, the Thames Valley, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and South Yorkshire.
Figures are also included for other regions where A4E works as a smaller partner under a different prime contractor. But here the company would have less influence on how the model operates, so we’ve left them out.
Over the first full year more than 93,000 unemployed people went on to A4E’s boooks. That alone netted the company more than £41m of taxpayers’ money in “attachment fees”.
Of those people, about 3,400 people have found sustained work – crossing the three- or six-month mark that triggers more payments for A4E, depending on what category the jobseeker falls into. That’s a success rate of less than 4 per cent.
The different categories are important because the government has laid out minimum performance targets for three groups: 18-24-year-olds claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance, over-25s claiming the same benefit and the supposedly ill or disabled people getting Employment and Support Allowance who have been assessed as fit to work after all.
DWP carried out historical analysis of the numbers of people who would be expected to find jobs for themselves even if the government did nothing to help them. They settled on 5 per cent and gave Work Programme contractors a cushion of an extra half of a percentage point.
FactCheck: Why leaked A4E data suggests Work Programme isn't working.