29 Jun 2012

Figuring out the Work Programme

No one ever said it was going to be easy. But getting people back to work clearly looked less challenging back in 2010 when the Work Programme was conceived.

The Government certainly raised expectations though. They said it would be a “revolution” in welfare to work. Up to five billion pounds would be given out in contracts to private companies to help two and a half million people back to work.

Little wonder that we’re all desperate to know whether it’s working.

Last night we  were able to broadcast the first real data from the Work Programme as it hits its first birthday. We obtained performance figures from A4e, the controversial welfare to work company and the second biggest contractor.

My colleague Job Rabkin has done a full resume of the cross country figures on the main newspage.

But the headlines make grim reading – and not just for the company but for the Government too.

A4e are falling well short of the minimum targets set by Government for the end of the first year, getting on average, only 3 in a 100 people into what’s deemed sustained work, a job for at least three months.

Now these are tough times and jobs are hard to find. Ok. But even in places where there’s very little unemployment, A4e are performing very poorly.

Look at Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire: 419 jobseekers were put on the Work Programme with A4e between June 2011 and the end of March. Yet A4e succeeded in placing just 7 people into jobs which lasted 13 weeks or more – a success rate of just 1.7 per cent. And this in a town where unemployment is only just over 2 per cent.

Under the hugely complex contractual arrangements of the Work Programme,  sometimes A4e are the “secondary providers” – essentially under contract to another company.

So in the north-east where the programme is run by Avanta and Ingeus Deloitte, A4e’s figures as the sub-contractor had a success rate of 4.18 per cent.

There are clearly enormous questions for A4e. They say they can’t talk about how things are going until official statistics are released later in the year.

The DWP says the same and that analysing the figures we have for the ten months from last June to March is “ludicrous.”

So we wait for the whole-year figures in the autumn sometime. Will A4e’s performance be better by then? Are the other contractors doing so much better that the Work Programme will have proven itself to truly have been a revolution?

I can’t wait.

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