Published on 27 Nov 2012

Official: Work Programme gets 3.5 per cent into work

Making the best out of bad news is clearly part and parcel of the job when you’re a government minister. And today the minister in charge of employment at the department for work and pensions did his very best to portray pretty disastrous results from the Work Programme, as clear signs that everything’s going to plan.

The problem is, you don’t need to be our own dear Faisal Islam to work out that the flurry of figures which rained down from the DWP actually hide – and not very well – an entirely different story.

One of the government headlines, as anticipated, was focused on the “off benefit” figure. 56 per cent of the earliest participants in the Work Programme have come off benefits at some point.

But coming off benefits is clearly not the same as getting into work and is – in the context of how the government itself actually measures success in the Work Programme – irrelevant.

The real measure of success – or failure – is how many people are getting sustainable jobs, jobs which last six months for most claimants (three months for those furthest from the job market.)

On that measure alone, not one of the 18 different Work Programme providers met the government’s end of first year minimum target of 5.5 per cent. The overall outcome rate stands at 3.53 per cent.

All in the timing

And here’s an interesting thing. The figures the DWP released today cover the first 14 months of the Work Programme.

If you take only the figures for a full first year – the 12 months to which the key performance target was tied – the success rate across the programme drops back even further, to 2.3 per cent.

Closer analysis from the Social Market Foundation shows that results for people on employment support allowance – which replaced incapacity benefit – are a staggeringly low 0.93 per cent.

Employment Minister Mark Hoban said that it was early days and disagreed with my assertion that they were at best disappointing, at worst, disastrous.

These are challenging economic times and it was taking companies a while to “bed in” to the way the programme should work.

So the government’s own minimum targets for the end of this year no longer seem that important a milestone. The deadline now for companies who are failing – and that’s all of them under the current measure – is next April when Mr Hoban says he will consider taking market share away from those under-performing.

Read more on FactCheck:  Why the Work Programme isn’t working – yet.

Bad news for A4e

One of those companies is of course A4e. We established back in May and again in October that they were consistently falling short of the minimum performance levels required – with a job outcome rate of around 3.6 per cent.

The company founder, Emma Harrison, came onto the programme, and said our figures were wrong and that we’d been proven wrong twice. She couldn’t however provide her own figures. Today the DWP have done it for her.

A4e final official figures for the first full year show that we were slightly out.

Their outcome rate is actually lower now, at 3.35 per cent.

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16 reader comments

  1. Ian Davies says:

    Despite chronic illness I’ve created work for over a dozen UK businesses, yet help from the jobcentre is non-existent all they want to do is place people on programs where companies like A4e get paid. Some of the companies I’ve created work for want to employ me and have tried through the permitted work scheme, the jobcentre know I want to work, that I’ve tried and that 3 hours a day 2 days a week made my condition so bad the employer stopped it. There’s no effective scheme to help people off benefits it’s about pressuring people into vulnerable situations with little if any consideration for their health or well being.

    1. Karen says:

      It’s all insincere rhetoric from these bogus PPI bodies. The only people the job centre want to get back into work in Torbay are their own redundant staff and wives, whom invariably get re-deployed on a work programme where they seem committed to obstructing all the most able people from finding work, thus effectively taking them prisoner.

      Who do the government think they’re kidding? I’ve even been prevented from going on an enterprise scheme as a new start up social entrepreneur because the penal rules in place prohibit anyone on a work programme from participating in a scheme specifically set up to assist small businesses.

      Of course, it’s all much more sinister than that, you know. Here in Torbay, you have job centre staff making up malicious stories about long-term claimants being “mentally ill” or not “job ready”, usually because of complaints about their endless, petty heckling of claimants who are infinitely better qualified than they are on signing days. A couple of weeks ago, I was interrogated and made a public show of in the job centre by three inept housewives with no formal qualifications who tried to bully me into declaring work I hadn’t done. All because I’d steamed a friend’s hair for half an hour as a favour to get rid of her dandruff. Apparently, this constitutes some kind of voluntary work and I had to provide times and dates for the DWP. These people are inept to the point of being pathetic at times and, as Ian rightly says, they are out to make as many claimants ill as they can – presumably for the purposes of redeploying more of their kind in some kind of mental health or counselling role.

      We hear the government going on and on about the UK’s welfare dependency culture and the lack of incentives to work. But they seem unwilling to do anything about the institutional causes and impediments in place that prevent some of the most talented and able people from securing incomes even now. Instead, they fling millions of pounds into the work programme and say they’re handing things over to the private sector, when all the while it’s former civil servants who’ve already been pensioned off who are employed to run them.

      What a stinking lie it all is!

      There you go, Jackie. I’ve just done your research for you again!

  2. Cynthia Martin says:

    Billions for private companies to get people into work, with poor results. This money should be used to generate a state enterprise that can give people real jobs!!! Enough of corporate welfare; investors become lazy and want a share of contracted out welfare, as they are guaranteed money, in many cases regardless of results.

  3. Stephanie says:

    My experience are slightly different ( I Think ) The Jobcentre is very reluctant to hand over people to the Work Programme, however after been on Job Seekers for a year they have to. At least with the JobCentre I used to get at least 30-45mins with an Advisor. Now, with the Work Programme I am lucky if I get 10 mins. I had a session today with an Advisor, I was in at 9.40am I was out the door by 9.48am… and the problem is I am stuck with them, and they don’t do anything for me… I just fill in a form, they copy it into their computer system and off I go with a new form for the next fortnight. What help is this? I know I am not alone, Work Programme doesn’t work and those number shows it.

    I’ve been with the Work Programme for 12 months now and I’ve changed 5 advisors. They keep leaving because they get better jobs with other companies, what rapport can you build with anyone if you aren’t happy within your own organisation? I am very frustrated and bitter about the whole system and I would rather go back to the JobCentre instead being mishandled by the Work Programme.

  4. MikeyX7 says:

    In case my previous comment gets rejected by the moderators I would like to state my case again.

    I agree with Ian Davies, he is experienced and correct. A4E is purely about profits and I believe the idea has failed abysmally. Despite governments claims that the recession is caused by lazy people who won’t get a job – like all recessions unemployment rises in recession and when it ends unemployment declines. This has been shown to be true in all recessions.

  5. Robert Williams says:

    You need to remember Jackie, that this data release is a snap shot and is not indicative of the overall performance.
    If we can make the assumption that it takes up to 5 months ( if not more) to get someone into work from referral, and then all things going well, a further 6 months before a job outcome is achieved, you will need to wait until December 2012 for a job outcome to be recorded for someone referred in Jan 2012.
    This is almost a best case scenario for the majority of participants.

    Todays DWP data released up to July misses out a further 5 months of performance, and includes those referrals where it would be virtually impossible to gain a job outcome prior to July 2012.
    Clearly there is a statistical mismatch, and your analysis needs to be be mindful of this.

    What the data does do is provide a good indication as to how work programme contractors are performing against each other and how the different regions are doing. There are no real surprises in the regional variations compared to historical programmes.
    Signiificantly, for the first time, a substantial programme is measured in its effectiveness over time, rather than a one hit wonder of previous programmes.

    Poor analysis has the potential to kill an increasingly successful programme as its critics gleefully pick up on every negative story. Report honestly, but report fairly.

    1. e says:

      Given such faith in the power of data you should remember to ask yourself if the collectors of it know and understand what they’re measuring. Counterfactuals, data left out or deemed irrelevant might suggest not, as with the majority opinion here. But, given the consequences are ‘only’ unnecessarily miserable and hungry lives for some and a degraded society for all (and that this has to be balanced against big money profits for the few known as “wealth creators”) doubtless you will be proved correct in the short to medium term.

      1. Seek help says:

        e – paranoid posts do not help. There is not the mass fudging of data. If there was the performance would be higher. Being a provider I know that the data is accurate for what it is – a snapshot. It does not give the full performance picture (this is considerably higher) but the outputs are correct as a snapshot.
        You also need to let go the very tired ‘nasty big company stepping on the poor’. Its not correct and its not clever. It also demeans that work that the front line staff do and the success that individual customers have had in gaining work.
        if you so hate the system and the programme, what is your alternative?

      2. e says:

        Employment is the alternative – exchanging labour for wages. For government to be employer of last resort when “the market” fails, using its network of “providers” to develop and manage schemes that allow the dignity of earning a miserly benefit – approximately £70 a week currently. Exchange that £70 for approximately 8 hours labour given to the community, not of course, private profit. Private profit must bear its own costs – the whole cost of the labour it requires – the cost of training, feeding, housing, necessary down time, and play. Abolish “unemployment” and offer a hope in hell of tackling the greater part of democratic concern, gross inequality, insecurity, rotting societies and the kid’s futures.

  6. Chas says:

    It just goes to show how the JCP are more successful than the Private Providers. Perhaps we should have a little more faith in the JCP and stop cutting there jobs, so that they could do a more effective job.

  7. melanie says:

    As an advisor on the work programme and reading and understanding the frustrations above and of my customers on the programme, I feel the difficulty is time spent. As caseloads are very large ( 200) and increase minimum of 7 – 10 a week it becomes increasingly hard to provide a service that we as advisors want to give to you our customers. The compliance (admin) which we as providers have to follow as stipulated from the DWP and primes can at times override. ( This of course is not what we as advisors want, we want to spend the quality time with our customers, which you all deserve that service) however finding the balance for compliance , huge caseloads,fornightly interventions and getting you into work what with the recession is very very difficult. The provider I work for is small, resources are limited so as advisors we do everything for our customers, Its at the point where I personally work late every evening, I take calls at all times and i regulary work weekends. This is possibly as |I care for my customers and i need to keep up with the compliance.
    As I try to make my customers aware that im there to support them every step of the way, supporting them in half an hour every 2 weeks (this is down to the volume of customers we have) is very difficult what can you do in half an hour?… a couple of applications together?? sometimes the onus has to be put on the customer as they to have their responsibilities to find work. We do our best to teach , educate all on how to apply for work, however you can lead a horse to water but you cant make it drink!

    Yes I have some frustrations about the work programme, we have targets to get people into work each month and we regulary over achieve this and sustainment is high. I feel this is down to having a good rapport with our customers and supporting them each step of the way. We go above and beyond to make sure our customers are going to manage when they get work and keep that going. But then I guess my true reward from my job as I have managed to get my customer from A to B and Im truly happy when I see the sheer happiness from my customer.

  8. Jj says:

    My experience with the provider Ingeus has so far been disappointing. Elements of ‘tailored support’ do not seem to exist and ‘customers’ all seem to undertake universal activities.
    So often I find myself meeting with a personal advisor who asks me what workshops I’d be interested in attending, when in truth, surely the advisor is meant to recognise my barriers to work (i.e. the scarcity of jobs parading under the guise of lack of readiness/skills or not finding ‘hidden’ job vacancies) and appropriately mandate me to activities to improve my situation.

    Personally, I’d rather see the entire programme scrapped immediately as a damage-limitation measure. It’s clear from participation that any of that severely insignificant success is serendipitous. To date, ALL of the interviews, call backs and interest in my applications have been from vacancies I have sourced myself.

  9. Andrew Kunman says:

    We are a CIC company, with no government help or support we took 16 young adults off the dole, long term unemployed made them employable.
    All have past their NVQ and now into year 2 work.
    We run a 4 week BootCamp and took a further 10 on this and 80% have found fulltime employment or an Apprenticeship.
    Too many providers teach theory and not practical skills, perhaps the Government should look at us for the way forward.

  10. Karen says:

    I forgot to mention the fact that, when claimants do manage to find work for themselves, people from the work programme or job centre then secretly contact your employer behind your back to warn them about certain little ‘behavioural’ problems or ‘delusions’ you might have that might impact on your chances of sustaining work. I think the sociological term they use for this kind of thing is ‘negative integration’ of older workers in order to limit their promotional prospects and undermine the longevity of any casual employment. It’s precisely the same institutional tactics that have been routinely used to marginalise former offenders and disabled people for donkeys years.

    When are we finally going to hear government ministers discussing what is, after all, solid, empirical evidence pertaining to the oppressive and, frankly, diabolical state we’re in here?

  11. Karen says:

    This horse drinks her 2 litres of water a day, BTW Melanie! The only people I encounter in Torbay with flatulence due to insufficient intake of fluid are invariably those lounging about in job centres and work programme offices trying to obstruct exceptional and enterprising people from securing an income. We need to pull all this pointless funding and go over to direct payments.

    If redundant job centre staff want to attend work programme sessions and be condescended to by their own inept, former colleagues, they are welcome to form their own back to work clubs out of their own pockets.

    My own experience of this diabolical, bureaucratic parasitism has led me to seek ways of dropping out of Council Tax altogether, incidentally. I only use the public library occasionally, after all, and I’m of the view that job centres deliberately take claimants prisoner on welfare because they can extract public funding locally that wouldn’t be available to them in such large measure if they were solely dependent on central government grants.

    It comes as little surprise that so many impoverished people in Torbay would rather sleep rough or hang themselves than tolerate this kind of ineptitude any longer.

  12. NotTheOnlyOne says:

    I totally agree with the people saying these programs are appalling. They doesn’t offer the type of help needed. I’ve been to several organisations that promise to help you find work but all they do is give CV/interview advice and some websites to look at to find jobs. All of which I could do myself at home. My problem was lack of energy/confidence/anxiety and I find it hard to apply for enough jobs to have a chance of finding one. What I and many unemployed people need is an organisation that proactively seeks out jobs for claimants, building relationships with employers and finding the ‘hidden vacancies.’ Instead they tell me to look at popular sites where most jobs get 150+ applications. I have a first class degree and almost a year of work experience, plus I have volunteered in 3 different charitable organisations over the last two years. I’ve been on ESA for 6 years because going from temp job to temp job for a year after I left university as I struggled to find a permanent role caused me so much stress that, combined with other issues, I developed major depression and anxiety. I had to wait 2 years for any NHS support. By then I was so ill it took a long time to even go out alone. I worked hard to get well enough to volunteer and have received great feedback from the places I’ve been at. I’m good with people, well presented, quite attractive and so am capable of many jobs. I just have to struggle to find a break alone as I don’t have family/friends in a position to swing me a job or useful help from the employment organisations. Oh and it seems if someone finds a job off their own back the company can claim they’ve got that person into work-even though they may have done nothing to assist the person in finding and applying for that job. I agree with Karen that these incompetent organisations only exist to keep the DWP staff in a job. Most would never find one in the private sector as they don’t get results.

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