9 Jul 2012

Is the Work Programme working?

About ten days ago we revealed that one of the government’s biggest contractors on the Work Programme, A4E, is only getting three out of a hundred people into sustainable work.

At the time the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) suggested that our analysis, based on leaked figures undisputed by A4E, was “ludicrous”. Their argument mainly centred around the timeframe. Our figures covered June last year to March 2012 and focused on job outcomes, the number of people who’d been found work through the Work Programme which lasted for 13 or 26 weeks.

The DWP then said we’d have to wait until the autumn before official statistics could give any clear sense of how the Work Programme is going.

So it was all rather a pleasant surprise today when they invited us to the offices of the DWP headquarters and presented us with some new figures of their own. They cover the period June to March – sounds familiar – and they show, according to the employment minister, that the Work Programme is having a “positive effect” on helping the long term unemployed.

Read more on FactCheck: is the Work Programme worse than nothing?

So here are some of the key numbers they gave us today.

Tracking the progress of 29,000 people who joined the work programme in June last year, they found that:

–  Just under half had signed off benefits at some stage,

– 24 per cent had signed off for 13 continuous weeks

–  And 14 per cent had come off benefits for six months or more.

A ‘promising start’?

Now to be fair, the minister was keen to put in lots of caveats, early days and so on, but insisted that these figures show a “promising start” in a very difficult labour market. But do they?

There’s a very important distinction here. These figures are specifically about people coming off benefits. That is not the same as people getting into work. Chris Grayling [pictured] did concede that point today but told us that he believes, of those who have signed off, “most” are finding a job of some sort.

Analysts who looked at the figures for us today, disagree. And here’s the evidence they point to: in the last few months for instance, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals that on average only around half of all the people who signed off benefits actually went into jobs lasting 16 hours a week or more.

A further breakdown shows that many choose instead to go back to school, go on a training course or simply stop signing on and disappear from the system. Now clearly the government assumes a lot of those people who come off benefits for “unknown” reasons are getting work. That may be true. It may not.

So what do today’s figures tell us about how well the Work Programme is working?

Well if the aim is to get people off benefits then on today’s numbers – yes, that’s happening. If it’s about people actually getting back into work, then we will have to wait for more detailed figures before we can safely say that too is true.

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22 reader comments

  1. Philip says:

    The truth revealed – The Government is more interested in getting people off benefits than into work. So if they go into the black economy, that is a good thing? If start a career of petty crime, is that a good thing? Politics has stopped being about actually achieving anything, it seems to have become entirely about presentation & spin. Every piece of data & presentation of it should be cleared with the ONS & ideally the NAO as well. And as FACTCHECK has noted, there’s quite a high rate of frictional movement into jobs irrespective of the much-vaunted Work Programme. Indeed, these figures may well below that rate.
    I thought the previous Government couldn’t be topped for spin & misleading use of figures. I was wrong.

  2. Gopher says:

    “three out of ten” should be “three out of 100”

    Is the WP working?
    Mathematically it can’t! – Doesn’t create any new jobs.

    1. SilverHeart says:

      There are jobs in my field but hard to get interviews and the WP have NO power.

      Until the Gov STOP people saying ‘we will not interview the unemployed’ or companies who advertise on http://jobseekers.direct.gov.uk tell you that you are over qualified then I will remain unemployed.

  3. Keith Povall says:

    I knew somewhere along the way it would involve people not being counted as jobless when they go into training. I remember in the 90s being pressured after a dismal week on a restart course, to take up training. Talk about massaging the figures.

  4. SilverHeart says:

    The WP is not working at all. I have been on it for 11 months now and I have 20 years experience in accounts. I lost my job of 5 years in 2010 due to redundancy.

    The WP provider has told me there is nothing they can do for me as I need no help. This is only geared up for the lowest common denominator and not for people from a professional background.

    In the year I have been on it I have only had 5 appointments!!

    I attend the provider’s office once every 4 weeks for approx 6-10 minuets where I am just asked ‘how is it going’ etc and then the ‘homework’ is just set again for the next 4 weeks. I apply for up to 50 jobs a week and the provider only wants me to prove 5 applications. I look for jobs all day, every day and send many speculative emails also with little response.

    They hold NO power to get anyone interviews at all and I have this in writing.

    They are meant to be looking for jobs and are meant to act like a recruitment agency but there is no evidence of this where I attend. I was told they get jobs in and match people to them. No evidence of this at all.

    I have emailed Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith many times about the WP and they refuse to reply as they really have no idea what a disaster it is.

    Employers are allowed to discriminate against the unemployed. They favour people in work over the people who have been made redundant.
    There are over 300 people applying for the jobs and your CV doesn’t get read
    I am deemed over qualified for a lot or roles I apply for.

    They can not help and have no idea what they are really meant to be doing with people like me.

    When I have been on it a year I will lodge a formal complaint and ask for proof of what they have done to help me.

    1. Robert Taggart says:

      SH, you say you have contacted CG and IDS – without reply ? you say they do not know what a waste the WP is ??
      Au contraire… they know, but, they would rather not know, and, they would prefer you not to know they know !

      1. SilverHeart says:

        No they do not know what a waste it is nor do they know WHAT IT IS!

        No one can tell me what it is meant to be doing for me. NO ONE! The Gov, the DWP or the provider.

        They say it’s to suuport you into a job but how?

        It’s only geared for the under classes who probably do not want to work or have never held a job down for longer than 3 minutes.

  5. Philip Edwards says:


    You could always pose this question to our 2.6 million on the dole.

    One guess as to what the answer would be.

  6. Robert Taggart says:

    Austerity demands cuts.
    Where better to start than these misappropriating, menial, meddling ‘work’ and ‘training’ schemes ?
    They offer the recipients little and the taxpayer even less!
    It would be better for the taxpayers to simply pay-up and the busy-bodies to simply ‘shurrup’ – ‘shurrup shop’ !!

  7. I love cabbage says:

    I have been on the work programme since june 2011 and still unemployed. No chance of any decent training unless I can guarantee a job as a result even though the training would enhance my prospects of employment. It would be interesting to find out about the 29,000 people who were tracked on the programme. Were they tracked from the beginning before they found work or left benefits or selected later to produce a good result for the government?

    1. SilverHeart says:

      Trianing to do what? Will that get you a job interview? Where were you doing before to want training now?

      1. Lesley says:

        When you’ve not been working for over a year, getting up-to-date RELEVANT training ma be essential in getting a job.

  8. Jobwanted says:

    I think it is time Panorama (BBC) opened the Pandora’s box on the WP and then the government will have to respond seeing they are not responding to anyone writing. WP is a sham (yes it is not for those with vast experience – they told me this themselves and cannot help with specialist fields) and another way of letting people down. It is time we become ‘we the people’ or a handful of out of touch individuals will lead the whole country to ruins.

  9. I love cabbage says:

    Although I have been on the work programme for over twelve months and can see the waste of money it is, I do accept that the unemployed can’t just be allowed to sign on every fortnight without any checks. The jobcentre could easily have done the job the work programme providers are doing for far less money. I attend on average once a week for jobsearch that I do at home anyway. I was hoping that they would be positive and contact employers in the hope of obtaining interviews for me but that isn’t going to happen. As I’m in my mid 50s it won’t get any easier and I guess I could end up spending the next 11 years or so unemployed or doing some kind of workfare every now and again until I reach pension age. I apply for many jobs but CVs and cover letters alone won’t be the answer to finding work in this competitive market at my age. These work programme providers change your CV and cover letter and still no positive outcome. When I started on the work programme the woman who interviewed me said that I was unemployed because of my CV although it had been altered many times by other so called experts who in reality produced a worse CV for me everytime. All this time since I started on the work programme and still unemployed but they won’t accept that the CV they produced for me is the reason I’m still unemployed. I have now gone back to my own CV.

    1. Les says:

      My experience with the work programme has been exactly like yours. It is a waste of taxpayers’ money doing a less efficient service than the jobcentre. They stick you on this programme after being unemployed for a year, presumably because you need extra help. But they offer no extra help or relevant training to help you get a job. All they provide is a computer to search the internet for jobs. What is the purpose of the work programme? Somebody’s getting a lot of money for providing this “service”, I wonder who.

  10. t says:

    Avanta (another work program company like a4e) spends virtually their whole time trying to make people either leave benefit entitlement or using a ‘one size fits all’ strategy for everyone making them apply for any inappropriate temporary job, thats why the only figures theyre providing are of people theyve managed to push out of the system. its easier to make someone leave benefits using sanctions than to find them a job.

  11. terence humphreys says:

    Terrible interview by Krishnan on A4E. It cannot be called questioning when more than half of the talking time is taken up by the interviewer. The questions were just longwinded argument and gave little chance for the interviewee either to properly reply or convict herself out of her own mouth.

  12. jane says:

    just watching on channel4+1 the women talking about a4e, what a joke, i work full time and my husband is diabled and was recieving esa, he was sent to a4e, by our local job centre, when he told them that he could not work because of his condition, that he most of the time stops him from sitting for long periods never mind walking, the women at a4e told him that if he did not sign up to a4e his money would be stopped, and thing you would not get any benefits, so he did so because he felt presurized as we relied on the little money that we recieved to pay our rent caused we do not get any help with rent or council tax, after he signed up not one month later, my husbands esa was stopped, and he has been told because he has signed with a4e he cannot get any money from anywhere, he has rung them and said in no uncerntain terms tuff u have signed up and there is nothing you can do until july 2013 when it runs out.

  13. Martyn says:

    I use to be on the work programme, till recently, Avanta used bullying tactics and the adviser even swore at me for not having the confidence to go for factory work! ( I suffer from social anxiety and thanks to them, I now suffer from depression now) it got so bad I ended up quitting the job center to get away from avanta, as it would of cost me my life in the end!

  14. Doesntmatter says:

    Well, I can’t add anything that hasn’t already been said but the Avanta programme clearly doesn’t work. It hasn’t helped me at all, I go once every 3 weeks, stay for a little while, do a job search that I could do, and have been doing, at home. I don’t need an “advisor” to tell me to do so. I hope that channel 4 can help end this pointless scheme since the government don’t listen to any individuals. The whole capitalist system is broken, but I’ll not go on about that. I suffer from severe social anxieties and depression, which seriously affect which jobs I can realistically commit to. I’m not just lazy before people make that assumption! I have tried many jobs that involve talking over phones, or being surrounded by people and I just end up getting in trouble for being unresponsive and having no confidence with customers, and eventually being asked to leave, even when I really tried my hardest. It’s demoralising, and I’m just completely disillusioned with the society we live in. A friend of mine recently lost her job, and when she applied for benefits she was told they wouldn’t help her on account of her being bipolar. So it goes without saying that I haven’t told them of my issues for fear of being cut off completely. I only use mt benefits to pay my mum rent so that I can feel slightly less guilty about her having to support me.

    Avanta does nothing to help, no jobs at all. They even have a pile of friday ads on the table when I walk in the door but I don’t drive and the jobs in the friday ad are just too far away for me to get to each day. The woman at Avanta recently told me to sign up to a site for teaching sports to kids. I don’t play any sports and don’t have any clue how to teach them, letalone how to teach them to kids. When I told her this, her response was to go and see her in 2 weeks time for another pointless meeting (she phrased it differently) It’s all abig joke. Even the staff know it’s a joke, and we, the unemployed, are the punchline. I realise there are people who just wanna live off benefits but I don’t and neither do many others so we shouldn’t be wasting taxpayer money on this rubbish. That money could be going to the NHS, or helping to fund small businesses. Instead, it’s being paid to a bunch of people who do nothing, and barely know how to use a computer (the lack of IT skills can be genuinely shicking at times) I really hope channel 4 can help to expose how utterly useless the work programme is.

    1. notmyself4years says:

      They know I’m depressed, so they depress me further hoping for a money saving outcome, that’s how it feels!

  15. karl buckley says:

    i was on avanta work program , be very careful when you talk to them make sure you have at least two witnesses or record the conversation . just got a sanction went in to speak to them the lady at reception got very irate told me to leave , which i did that was on tue 2 july 2013 . then on friday 5 july , four police officers came to my home two at the front door banging and shouting to open the door , the two at the rear of house attempted to climb over the wall . i was arrested taken to the police station after 5 hours charged with section 4 public order offence , in court 25/7/2013 . lets see how the court see it , will let you know .

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