12 Mar 2014

Work programme needs more work

The government’s own assessment of how the work programme is going, conducted for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) by independent experts, suggests it is still badly under-performing.

The “work programme evalulation: interim meta-report” was signed off ready for publication in September 2013, but has been sat on ever since.

A Whitehall source told Channel 4 News that the decision not to publish was taken “at a ministerial level” on the basis that the department didn’t want another embarrassment to deal with.

The report is not written in the most strident language, but contains confirmation that one of the DWP’s pet projects is failing in one of its central tasks.

Pre News refresh player – this is the default player for the C4 news site – please do not delete. Ziad



The scheme has been devised to incentivise “prime” contract holders to focus extra efforts and resources on those who are hardest to get into the labour market.

Earlier assessments have complained that instead of doing that the prime contract holders have been “creaming” –  focusing on the easiest to place – and “parking” – reducing attention to the hardest to place.

The September 2013 report, two years into the work programme, suggests that “creaming” and “parking” are still significant problems.

The authors report “participants with health conditions and disabilities … being seen less often and being offered less support than other groups.”

The whole payment-by-results contract structure didn’t seem to be doing what it was meant to do.

The authors report “no clear relationship between an individual participant’s work programme payment group and the nature and intensity of support that participant received, which suggested … that the differential payment regime was unlikely to have effectively mitigated creaming and parking.”

This all matters. Not just to make the scheme work, but to make sure that if the government tenders new contracts it improves the mechanisms.

Payment-by-results is one of the central planks of the government’s public sector reforms, being rolled out in justice and health amongst other areas. Getting it right is pretty important and, you could argue, getting relevant data into the public domain to inform that discussion is pretty helpful too.

The report also challenges the use of sanctions against those who don’t take up work opportunities under the work programme.

Challenging some of the government’s rhetoric and thinking, the report says there is “no conclusive evidence that sanctions were changing job search behaviour or increasing job entry rates.”

It goes on to say there is: “little or no evidence among (work programme participants) of preference for a life on benefits …”

A survey of work programme providers makes horrible reading for the government.

It suggests that only 5.3 per cent think the work programme is “very effective.” Of those surveyed, 22.5 per cent thought it was “somewhat ineffective” and 25.4 per cent thought it “very ineffective.” 10.1 per cent thought it was “neither effective nor ineffective.”

I make that about 58 per cent thinking it’s not helping or worse.

The DWP told Channel 4 News: “the reality is that the work programme is working… Previous schemes simply didn’t do enough for disabled people or the long-term unemployed.

“Since we launched the scheme in 2011, we have taken action to drive performance up significantly and we are committed to making sure providers continue to improve the service they give to jobseekers.

“Any draft interim analysis from the early days of the programme won’t take these improvements into account.”

ACEVO who represent some of the involved charities who’ve been complaining about the way the contracts are structured insist the work programme is “not bust”, but needs re-working and adjustment.

And the participants seem to appreciate the individual attention they get from work programme workers. Satisfaction amongst them is really surprisingly high.

You can see our report on Channel 4 News at 7pm.

Follow @GaryGibbonBlog on Twitter

Read more: Work programme ‘may be unsustainable’

Tweets by @garygibbonblog

23 reader comments

  1. R Bakatcha says:

    predictable – and predicted.
    The wp has been very effective at transferring huge amounts of public money into (very favoured) private hands.
    It’s failure to perform even better than doing nothing is an indictment, not just of the laughable Work Pogrom, bur also of the current rush to outsource just about every public service.
    Greed is not good!
    The fact that this report has been suppressed “at a ministerial level” on the basis that the department didn’t want another embarrassment to deal with£ is a scandal.

  2. Sid says:

    Above the subject is true because I have tried to send many applies for jobs as I want to achieve a wonderful career for my happiness life and support my family however they never offer me a job for nearly 5 years because I am hearing impaired. It’s not my fault BUT any company should stop unthinkable about all disability or deaf/HOH people because one of us should be brilliant brain than you think. They must kindly be accepting to offer any disability or deaf/HOH people the job because too many hearing people get the job easier, is not very fair! In the meantime the disability or deaf/HOH people are more suffering as they earn very little as they desire our dream to become well off. Please stop being selfish and should be thoughtful more for all disability or deaf/HOH people equality as the normal hearing people. Please change for a better service NOW without any excuse. Thank you for understanding our point of view. I appreciate your helping.

  3. Salina says:

    The work programme providers do very little in terms of finding suitable employment for jobseekers. They employ poorly qualified workers mostly IAG qualified, who are unable to deliver the guidance element which is so needed for such jobseekers. Their work does not equate to the thousands they charge the UK tax payer.

  4. Maurice Hastings says:

    Well done Channel 4 news tonight (12 March)! Felt like I was watching a Labour Party Political Broadcast, featuring Margaret Hodge as Labour’s chief presenter.
    Is there ANY chance that Channel 4 News could provide just a semblance of balance to its reporting?
    Probably not based on past experience.

  5. Natalie Graham says:

    “decision not to publish was taken “at a ministerial level” on the basis that the department didn’t want another embarrassment.”

    Besides the minister himself, is that?

  6. Tina says:

    I worked for 34 years, 20 as a Teacher, before being dismissed for Whistleblowing. I am well-educated and should be highly employable. However, I have now been out of work for 28 months. I attend the Work Programme once a month, tell the Adviser what I have been doing to find work. and then go home. I also have to attend the Job Centre and do the same thing, every fortnight. I have tried to find work through conventional routes but have four barriers; 1) Dismissed Teacher, 2) Whistleblower, 3) 54, 4) I cannot get a reference from my former Head Teacher. The Work Programme and Job Centre are only set up to deal with low skilled employees. They make vast sums of money from their conveyor belts, temporary positions, for minimum wage jobs. Every time they place someone, even for a temporary post, they are paid a very significant fee. It is in their interests to keep finding only temporary positions. Some people have been on this conveyor belt for a couple of years. Neither the Work Programme nor the Job Centre have done anything for me or those like me. I have even written to every MP and explained my predicament, hoping with their contacts, the fact that many have their own companies and many have connections to Government offices, they could help me get a job. Twelve answered say that they are bound by Parliamentary rules which says they can only deal with their own constituents; yes, that old chestnut. Every waking moment is devoted to trying to find a way into work. Everyone sees that I am a dismissed Teacher, 54 and a Whistleblower. They don’t see my unblemished, 34 year career, prior to my dismissal. No-one can, without being in the same position, understand how desperate I feel. Regular threats of Job Seekers Allowance sanctions for not finding work leave me with stress pains in my stomach, what can I do?

  7. wendy says:

    The two year I spent with A4E were a joke. They did nothing, considering they should and could have ‘cherry picked’ me if they were fit for purpose, they didn’t get me any training (no budget) nor volunteering (no links in the community) or a precious job. Rather suspect them being economical with the truth over me getting a job lasting over six months – I haven’t-never got an exit questionnaire. Post WP support just as bad – mucked up my CV and threats of workfare and labelled long term unemployed (worked 13 out of last 24 months and as of late on contributions based JSA)

  8. JR says:

    Even the meager employment results from the Work Programme are largely a result of fraud, the unemployed on the WP are being pushed into unsuitable and unsustainable self employment, such as Dog Walkers, Online Poker Players and Cup Cake Bakers, the ‘victims’ of this fraud are told they can live on Working Tax Credits for a year, while they’re not being told the Work Programme providers will be pocketing £13k of tax payers money for each of their non-existent jobs.

  9. Patricio says:

    This will go down as the prime example of privatisation of public sector not working, how ironic. I am a participant myself on the Work Programme, obviously not by choice. I have not been on benefits for two years and I refuse to do so, causing me some financial hardship. Because I know that they will hound me with mandated appointments and unnecessary appointments. Unpaid work is NOT the way forward to gain experience, never mind for someone with a family to support and bills to pay.

    I have refused consent, I have told them no further contact and now I have the ICE investigating my complaints against them, yet they still contact. They have threatened to sanction my benefits 3 times since May 2013, I haven’t claimed benefits since 2012!

    They are continuing to hassle me, this is severely detrimental to my mental health and I refuse to participate in a dodgy welfare-to-work scheme, especially under A4e. Why should private companies profit at the expense of the taxpayer and unemployed? How has anyone not realised how undermining and dangerous that is?

    1. Marion says:

      I heartily empathise with you and am afraid to say not at all surprised that you signed off, yet they still hound you!!! I was with them for 2 years as an older woman with a disability and was promised a “personally tailored programme to suit my needs”, and of course that’s exactly what I didn’t get.

      I worked for DWP for 5 years prior to landing on the Work Programme (don’t shoot me down) I didn’t have much choice in that at the time! , so had insider knowledge and a lot of experience in bringing up a disabled son on benefits, but I found they were actually worse than the Jobcentre, which tells you plenty! The particular small town in Kent I lived in at the time didn’t have either a Jobcentre or Work Programme office, so when I went to either, had to take a long bus journey, coupled with all the hanging around that involves. Going to the Jobcentre as well as the WP was just duplicating things, so waste of time in every sense, when I did go my WP meeting with the Advisor (initially a nice man who had worked at the Jobcentre) he spent most of the appointment typing who knows what on their “system”, looked at my job logs, asked a few naff questions, got me to sign loads of paper, I suggested I go on a course through Learn direct, he thought that was a good idea.

      Every now and again he would ask me had I applied for such and such job, I would respond that I either couldn’t get there by transport or if I could, it was too far for me to walk at each end & he would look blank. I didn’t even bother to ask what about my constant pain, fatigue, lack of concentration/memory problems, going to medical appointments, as I knew they weren’t interested. I then had to attend some truly awful “courses” at their office, they were like something you’d do with school children and when we were all asked for feedback on a truly mind numbing week, we said it was of no use to any of us and why had we been put on it. We were told that they had to justify what they were doing with us!!!

      Another amusing snippet while on that course, I said to the “trainer”(use word loosely) that i felt I was being discriminated when going to job interviews, her suggestion was that I should complain!!!

  10. adrian davies says:

    I am currently on a workprogram placement, i can safely say not not working for me. all though being paid my train fare i have received no other support and was told by the job center it was pot luck were i i got sent. The placement is not the sort of work im looking for, i can do the job and i am enjoying it but its not a job id like to do as a carrier. when i was first told about the program i was under the impression that i would be local and that they would phone me to discuss my circumstances and were and what i would be doing . all i got was a letter saying im to, a start date and a mobile number that was only answered after hours of trying it. when first arriving at the placement i was given a quick safety briefing given ill fitting safety glasses that didn’t fit over my regular glasses, some gripper gloves and a old hi viz jacket then a quick noisy tour not able to hear any thing he was saying then put on a desk were i had to work out what i was meant to be doing and no ear protection cos they had run out dew to the numbers of people they keep sending and not getting new for the new people. when i put my issues with the place with our placement person he stated that the place was one of the better ones that he has us and that he doesn’t have enough placements for the over load of people hes being sent per week and he looses track off people. we are ment to complete 30 hours per week and if you miss any days or hours you have to make them up but one of the supervisors working for the company say there has been a quite a few had unauthorised days of and had never made them up. i am not blaming the company of provider for these falls i am laying blame at who ever set up the work program with out the infrastructure to support it

  11. IAS2014 says:

    Why has this taken so long to gain an investigative response given the lives of those most disadvantaged it was meant to be helping? This in itself is a failure!

    Also, where was he Labour Party in all of this mess? I don’t remember any LOUD voices and any desire to harness the voices of those most disadvantaged, into the media flood light and to create a desperately needed debate o this fundamental matter?

    If politicians and the news media acknowledge that Upwards Social Mobility is as fundamental to the development and mind-sets of ‘ordinary’ people – as it is to the overall economy – then WHY or why has it been left for sub-contractors to pick-up the pieces of those failed by Work Programme contractors instead of someone – at least one political party – stepping in and making a LOUD NOISE about such appalling FAILINGS!!????

    Do politicians really care?

    Why are politicians allowed to waste our tax money on schemes that simply DO NOT work?

  12. Ian says:

    The very fact that the DWP suppressed this for six months shows thy are a rouge department. It comes as little or no surprise to those of us who’ve been on the WP and have had to deal with one or more of the major providers. They’re a byword for failure and mismanagement throughout the New Deal, Flexible New Deal, Pathways to Work and now the Work Program.
    When on the WP, I was not seen for MONTHS on end!

    If as few as 5% of Work Program providers think the scheme is “very effective”, then it really is in more trouble than I though. Iain Duncan Smith is entirely responsible for this debacle.

    He needs to do three things in quick succession and soon.

    Explain just why he has allowed failures such as the Work Program, Univ. Credit (massive cost overruns) and Univ. Jobmatch (riddled with fake vacancies) to continue. Publically apologise. And then resign.

  13. David Bryce says:

    Yet the government closes remploy factories that employed disabled people in worthwhile jobs that paid a decent wage thus forcing them out of work and onto benefits therefore increasing the benefits bill. I’ve worked for remploy since 84 but I’m placed outside a factory but over the years I’ve known a lot of people in remploy factories. No prizes for guessing how many of those i know from closed remploy sites have found work? Errm exactly none. Makes no sense whatsoever to have closed all these sites that were productive. It’s just increased the benefits bill. The government has shot itself in the foot on this. If the sites had remained open all them thousands of people would have been working and contributing to the economy. Bit of a no brainer isn’t it Messrs Cameron Smith and Ms may.

  14. groc says:

    “…participants seem to appreciate the individual attention they get from work programme workers. Satisfaction amongst them is really surprisingly high.”

    Not that will have anything at all to do with the fact that the participants live under the constant threat of being sanctioned by their work programme providers if they so much as put a foot wrong. A bit of Stockholm syndrome may be in play here.

  15. NightOwl says:

    The Government always says its plans are working, whatever the state of things.

    Iain Duncan Smith, on the BBC Sunday Politics show, just kept saying the figures were wrong when presented with statistics showing how things were going wrong with benefit changes.

  16. Waraila says:

    I went through A4E, they pretty much ignored me and just asked me in once a week to do jobsearch, normally they’re supposed to find placements for you and get you into work in your preferred area. However because admin is so hard to do this for, they pretty much didn’t do anything, just told me to keep showing up to do pointless jobsearch sessions.

    I never got help on A4E, they don’t even help you with more specialised courses you might be willing to take, it’s too expensive for them to do that.

    As for sanctions not working as intended, I’m not surprised. Jobseekers Allowance is the minimum required to live on, being sanctioned means you end up with none, or on Hardship allowance, which is £40 per week. You’re too busy scraping by to survive, spending money on Jobsearching is the last thing you want to do with that little money. Especially for those without computers and needing to travel to a library.

    The problem is, sanctions are so easy to be given to you, you can be given them for all sorts of daft reasons.

  17. J Ridge says:

    The government does not understand the nature of the jobs market. My partner I were recently classed as long tern unemployed, though in reality, between us, we were actually getting work. In one twelve month period we were signed off for 35 weeks out of 52, but because the jobs we had were temporary contracts lasting between one and twelve weeks, as each job finished we returned to the unemployment register and were classed as long term unemployed. I think a lot of ‘long term unemployed’ are actually in and out of work as we were. This is what a ‘flexible jobs market’ looks like but no one seems to acknowledge the fact. For that year our joint income was £12,700 including dole payments.

  18. IAS2014 says:

    The Work programme fail to have an efficient policy aimed at building and sustaining relationships with a vast diversity of employers that reflect the employment/career goals of clients. If a skilled, job seeking client is desperate for the support that helps ‘bridge the gap’ between their skills and employers that don’t reflect Morrisons, KFC… etc, then the Work Programme CANNOT help you. It seems to me that this goal to empower clientele is all that the Work Programme offers – rather than a desperately needed innovative & commercialised approach to widening the circle of employers they speak to.

    The perception therefore remains that Job Seekers are simply ‘unemployed’ people who are neither sufficiently skilled nor over ambitious to seek the type of jobs that others have enjoyed in a more sustained employment history. This is a poor perception that fails to mirror the reality of ‘recession failed’ Britain – and those who were failed by banks… and politicians – and the homes of skilled individuals that were also repossessed. Simply put, there are so many ‘skilled’ people who have been extremely challenged.. who have had to rely on a Work Programme whose policy remit is so narrow it fails to do what is desperately and actually needed.

    I have always said that “a market tested by a recession is one that needs the encouragement of innovative minds to empower the development of new and refreshing policies… aimed at changing attitudes – so that the ‘harnessing of Ideas and Skills’ can become the building blocks of Hope and Solutions”.

    Does this Work Programme really aim to do this?

  19. Mark Cosens says:

    This article offers a skewed presentation of dated information.
    The Work Programme is far from perfect, but it is delivering results at around the same (or better) levels as Flexible New Deal (it’s precursor) for approx half the funding.
    And this nonsensical mantra that the programme is worse than doing nothing misleads the public, undermines the morale of those on the programme (or engaging with it) and betrays the hard work and diligent efforts of dedicated and caring professionals (around 50 000) who support some of the most disadvantaged jobseekers in our society and who help to really change lives

    1. IAS2014 says:

      Mark, I do wonder whether your comments reflect someone who has used the programme or, in fact, you are just simply letting off steam from the side-lines?

      As someone who is proud to have experienced both sides of the coin – long term employment and business development, but also have been a job seekers – I have also been a former user of the Work Programme too. Thus, in my personal and professional experience – and given that I have also used my skills (voluntary) to help other job seekers to achieve goals – I have been deeply concerned about the its failure – both in policy and practice – to be much broader in its ’employer building’ scope to reflect the diversity of skills that job seekers have. For example, I was only offered Tesco, KFC and other jobs of this nature – far from any form of innovative approach by the Work Programme to reflect my skills and career goals.

      I acknowledge the fundamental importance of employer engagement and the desperate need for Work Programme contractor to become innovative in their approach and promote the talent that is presented before them as job seekers.

      Finally, I am tired of this myth being spread in form of perceptions that emphasises the term ‘unemployed’ – along with the appalling use of terms used by politicians such as ‘scroungers’ and ‘skivers’ – as they fail to grasp the fact that skilled groups are being failed by the Work Programme in the ways I have described above. These are groups who no doubt, for the first time in their lives, had to ask for employment support.

      In my case, the use of the Work Programme was only met with further gaps in my employment. This is not acceptable! If we acknowledge that the users of this programme are diverse in many ways, but also have experienced ‘failure’ and challenges too, then is it not obvious that they cannot afford to be failed again? But, they are. I have worked with sub-contractors who pick-up the pieces of those failed by the Work Programme.

      Why on earth is such an important subject matter that challenges policy, not being allowed a fair debate on our TV? This adds to the failure.

  20. pete says:

    The Work Programme is a complete waste of money. I had been on the Work Programme with A4e for over 1 year and created my own 1 page CV containing 5 jobs spanning over 20 years, as this is what my advisor told me to do.

    I showed this CV to a friend who works in HR, who said my CV was useless. Through his help, I created a far superior 2 page CV resulting in employment I found myself. I even had to buy myself an interview book containing answers to questions asked at an interview.

    Why did this provider give me incorrect advice on creating my own CV or not provide mock interview skills and good answers to interview questions. A4e is one of the largest providers and are useless, as they provided no professional support. I bet they were paid by the Government for finding me work, when it was I who found myself the job only because of my friend rewriting my CV.

    I would recommend MPs, jobcentre advisors and reporters stand outside work programme centres nationally and speak to the jobseekers and check they have a good CV, as well as understand basic interview techniques, as the Work Programme is a disgrace and a national scandal. The DWP and MPs know many of the providers are providing a poor service, yet do nothing.

    1. IAS2014 says:

      Pete, I hear your frustration and, as expressed in my own comments, you will acknowledge that I also understand not just the frustration but the stress that such poor polices & practices can have on one (a ‘client’) who may already be challenged.

      It is also not helpful when the media place significant emphasis on the ‘reduction of unemployment’ instead of questioning whether ‘Employment’ itself contributes to the reduction of unemployment.. or whether there are clear indicators that job seekers are losing their benefits(?)… or being placed on ESA or Incapacity Benefit(?).

      I haver a friend who was also placed with A4e, and when I asked him to email his CV over to me I found that it was not sufficient in layout, information or ‘action verbs’. I then did something that not many people do for each other…. I developed a new CV for him. He then started to get phone calls from agencies.. and employers. He was soon offered a job.

      With these skills I have… and more, is it no wonder that I, and others like me can get ‘burnt-out’ by having to rely on a Work Programme – such as Ingeus – who continually fail to ‘harness’ such skills? What is more perplexing is that Ingeus is a private sector company… with professional contacts who they could have connected me with. But instead, I was taken on a journey that only installed stress and frustration into my mind… until burn-out became the inevitable outcome for me.

      Why aren’t our ‘stories’ even being given the opportunity to be aired in the news media and politicians held to account via these experiences?

Comments are closed.