The work programme – a £527 million failure

The government’s flagship work programme stood revealed as an abject failure today, when the Department for Work and Pensions admitted only around three per cent of jobseekers have found “sustainable” work.

Of the 878,000 people who joined the programme, only 31,000 found a job for six months or more.

The figures mean as many unemployed people are finding sustainable jobs on their own – and are staying in employment six months after joining the work programme – than if the scheme had never existed.

There was “no direct evidence of movement into sustained employment”.

Ministers have, of course, refused to accept that the scheme is a failure – despite it reaching only three-fifths of its 5.5 per cent target (3.53 per cent) – and are claiming it is taking longer than expected to succeed. The next set of figures will be better, they claim. They said it was “early days”.

We should bear in mind that three top officials on the work programme resigned recently, before the results were released. Oh, and the figures aren’t for a year but for 14 months, from June 2011 to July 2012. Cooking the books?

Under the scheme – replacing the New Deal, Employment Zones and Pathways to Work – approved providers in England, Scotland and Wales – mostly private companies – try to find work for claimants on a payment-by-results basis. In practice they get paid per referral, with more cash coming to them for providing ‘work-related activities’.

According to Vox readers, the contract is outsourced to our good friend SERCO, which is then supposed to pass money on to six different agencies. There is a question mark hanging over whether that has actually happened.

Providers can earn between £3,700 and £13,700 per person helped into work, depending how hard it is to give support to an individual, with an initial payment of between £400 and £600.

Again, Vox readers have helped with the details: “The few hours spent on ‘work related activities’ cost the taxpayer another £200 per person.

“What did we do on this ‘course’? We drew graphs with our barriers to employment. No one was allowed to mention lack of jobs and no training. We also played silly games: the one in which everyone had to say three things about themselves and everyone had to guess the lie. We all drew a pig. If it’s facing forward you are a straightforward person. The ‘ teacher ‘ told us that this all came from some American psychologist. It looked more like one of those quizzes in Cosmopolitan.”

So we can see that, with hundreds of thousands of people being put on the work programme but only 31,000 actually finding sustainable work, the big winners are, as this site suggested previously, the private companies contracted to provide the service at up to £600 per referral plus £200 for the ‘activities’ themselves. And if the rumours are correct, even these firms are losing out because SERCO hasn’t released the cash.

It may interest you to know that 878,000 (the number of people referred to the scheme) multiplied by £600 (the minimum amount we can say was given to private companies for them) is a whopping £526,800,000!

This site reported previously that the number of people being referred to the work programme has dropped dramatically, with total monthly referrals in July fewer than 49,000 – less than half of the 100,000 who were put on the controversial scheme in July 2011.

The number of long-term Jobseekers’ Allowance claimants had risen by 188,000 during the same period.

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20 thoughts on “The work programme – a £527 million failure

  1. Trevor Warner

    I expect we will still be hearing ‘it is early’ days’ by the time of the next election. This is yet another scheme where private providers have conned the taxpayer out of money that could have been invested in better resources at local Job Centres. How long before we hear IDS blame it all on the unemployed?

  2. forcemajeure007

    Typical Tory shenanigans, take from the most vulnerable and disabled by cutting benefits and give it to the fat cat private big wig companies, you know, the type that pay for the Tory party…..

  3. Keith Povall (@soxer99)

    I recently signed up to Work Programme. The guy who did the presentation did a slick job, but once you are in (up to 2 yrs), you are locked in. I have discovered the course operators are idiots. When you attend your 1 to 1’s the person you see hasn’t reviewed your file since the last time you were there so there is no chance of “tailored” help as I was promised. I now look forward to my fortnightly visit like a visit to the dentists.

  4. Daniel

    1. “According to Vox readers”
    2. “Again, Vox readers have helped with the details”
    3. “And if the rumours are correct”

    How about some cold hard facts instead of “I heard Mrs Jones down at the local chippy telling Margaret from Kwicks that her son’s best mate’s girlfriend overheard this……..”

    Absolutely pointless blog post.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Of course, these Vox readers are people who have been on the work programme and know exactly what they are writing about – unlike you, Daniel, who seem to have taken finger to keyboard only to insult people about whom you have no knowledge at all. The facts are as cold and hard as they get, and the rumours are worth reporting because they have not been cleared up and there has been plenty of time for that to happen.

    2. Penelope Twining

      Daniel, I am sorry you feel the blog is a complete waste of bytes. The majority of the people contracted to run these Programmes do not have adequate training or soft skill set required and based on the below I have to question if they understand what work is.

      My daughter attended an A4E course, as a concerned parent I regularly asked her what activities she undertook. A) I wanted her to get qualified help in looking for work, and B) I am a taxpayer and contribute towards this ‘service’ for those out of work.

      My daughter advised me that her A4E advisor assured her that she was skilled in Marketing, in fact told her she was really good at it. I had two concerns with this. a) being good at marketing does not necessarily qualify you to assist anyone in looking for work. Writing CV’s as marketing tool is not part an accredited Marketing qualification. b) If one were as good at marketing as the advisor indicated how come they were working as an advisor in A4E and not a Marketing Department/Company – honestly what do they know about HR and the employment process – it really isn’t covered under CIMA qualifications.

      My daughter did, however, learn one lesson about working…. On attendance at A4E her advisor, the one good at marketing, spent the entire time designing birthday invitations in powerpoint for her daughters birthday party. She even asked my daughter design/technical advice, as the advisor wasn’t really au fait with powerpoint. My daughter, who you may appreciate felt a little annoyed, this was her interview session, but not to upset the advisor complied and assisted her. To add insult to injury the advisor then declared to my 19 year daughter that she was going to photocopy the invites on the office photocopier, but thought as she needed over 100 it might be a bit much! She then proceeded to call a local copying company. All this took place during my daughters allocated time.

      After updating me on her A4E interview I asked her what did the Advisor do that you should never do in work time….. She correctly pointed out that you shouldn’t do your own personal work in work time and that it looked really bad to do it in front of a ‘client’. However, she overlooked the fact that advisor was prepared to copy 100 invites on a works photocopier. I had to advised my daughter that both actions could be deemed as theft from the organisation she was currently employed with – a) theft of company time (what they paid her per hour) for doing personal work. and b) theft of company resources the paper and unit cost racked up on the photocopier counter.

      My daughter had absolutely no respect for her advisor and as such found any advice such as ‘ you should smile -it shows a good attitude’ difficult swallow when such a cavalier towards work was displayed the advisor herself.

      In closing my daughter now attends a college course, applied for off her own back and paid for by her parents (not the state) in order to assist her in finding suitable employment. A4E were not happy at our collective decision to take some positive action, In fact they wanted my daughter to sign documents to say they had assisted her – I guess so they could collect £££££’s from the government. I am still and always will struggle to work out exactly what assistance they provided, it certainly wasn’t c.v’s, career advice and definitely not getting vocational/skills training.

      I lost count of the times I wanted to attend her sessions to confront her advisor and challenge her ability to do the job I and every other taxpayer (including you Daniel) was forking out for. My daughter didn’t want to be sanctioned for having a concerned and potential vocal parent and tax payer.

      In the words of Alex Harvey ‘Next’……

    3. catalyzer (@catalyzer00)

      I suppose the only way to alleviate your concerns is to do a little digging yourself. If there are positive stories regarding the program, surely they’ve been documented also, right? Maybe you yourself know of some?

  5. Daniel

    Yes, I’m quite sure anyone who’s been on a programme like this is going to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, I’m sure they won’t sensationalise anything just to get attention or to rubbish such an initiative because it’s making them have to do something for their benefits rather than just sit at home and bitch about how “Them bloody immigrants stealing all the jobs from us Brits”…..

    Unless you can provide accurate facts (From verifiable sources) your blog is nothing short of gossip and should be regarded as just that.

    By the way, a rumour is NOT a fact, you seem to have missed that memo…..

    1. gisellecody

      Daniel, I’m the one who wrote about drawing a pig. Sadly it’s true. The courses are truly rubbish. Nothing to do with work. Not even accredited, so useless to show an employer. For example all agencies dealing with care work demand at least an NVQ. A4e ‘s health & social care course started with an aptitude test that would not have challenged my cat, and went on for 10 days in which some statistics were mentioned and some theory about different ethnic groups (more statistics) but nothing practical, nothing useful. It was all on PowerPoint and we copied it all. Two days were spent being told about filling in application forms for London Care (‘ our sister company ‘). This would have meant working for nothing but everyone applied under threat of sanction. The course had nothing to do with care work and the’ teacher ‘ admitted he knew nothing about the subject. Worse, it was not accredited & so useless for any agency or employer who would have demanded at least an NVQ. So what did this cost the taxpayer and why is all useful training refused? I think we should all ask.

      1. Mike Sivier

        I think everyone here knows my opinion of the training on offer, the reason it is provided in place of anything useful, and the reason it is given by those particular providers (the firms rather than their employees).
        I’m sure you’re aware of this, Giselle, but to clarify for other readers, I don’t name people who provide the information I’ve used because they might not want me to. That should not stop readers from trawling back to find out for themselves (a quick keyword search on a search engine would cut out irrelevant articles) – there’s a lot of information in the archive by now.

  6. forcemajeure007

    Daniel, you are a prime example of the result of the governments media propaganda war against sick and disabled and vulnerable benefit claimants. Their goal; to create an even bigger rift between people. Divide and conquer! The government have always used the press to dictate their views to the populace.

    It sounds to me that the figures used in the blog have angered you because you know that although the ‘facts’ may not be able to be backed up academically, there ‘may’ be some truth in them. It’s an unknown and it makes your blood boil to think that your hard earned money and taxes that you’ve paid have just been pi**ed up the wall again by our wonderful Tory party, trying to ‘fix what ain’t broken’. As quoted from above;

    The government’s flagship work programme stood revealed as an abject failure today, when the Department for Work and Pensions admitted only around three per cent of jobseekers have found “sustainable” work.

    I am also a tax payer, as carers allowance is a taxable benefit which goes towards my pension, I care for my husband 24/7. I sincerely hope that you never suffer an accident and need 24 hour care, 7 days a week.


    1. Penelope

      Well said forcemajeur007, To be frank I am surprised, in view of my experience (please see above) of the programmes and their content or lack of it that as many as 3% found “sustainable” work…… I must admit that I am becoming increasingly concerned at the “newspeak” deployed by this government and the apparent unwillingness of the tabloids and broadsheets to apply any critical thinking prior to inking paper. But I guess that’s what happens when you learn by rote – “don’t think – just do” approach applied many mainstream journalists.

    2. Mike Sivier

      If you’re still here, Daniel, you should be aware that I do indeed know the difference between fact and rumour – and clearly indicated which was which. You seem to be confused.

  7. Larry

    Soon the sick and disable on Employment Support Allowance could be forced to undertake UNLIMITED workfare in order to retain their benefits. Surely a new low water mark for IDS, Freud and the Coalition.

  8. Iain Gillingham

    These schemes are not new. In the mid ninetees I had the misfortune of being forced into one of these schemes run by a company called Management introductions here on the west of Scotland. This company was well established and had all the backing and vindictiveness of the New Labour government.

    The courses were full of old, done guys who having spent a lifetime in heavy industry were seeing through their last year or two untill they colected their pentions, junkies and hard core alcoholics as well as your every day guy who had the misfortune to be unemployed for 18mnths.

    We were “taught” life scills, basic arithmetic and how to fill out forms all the while being continuiosly assessed by our attitude and reactions by as staff who could have been no older than 26yrs old.

    The lesson I took from these experiencies was that the purpose of these incarserations was that you were there to be broken down and conditioned into factory fodder allowing for the unemployement figures to be massaged and if they were unable to do that then you would be discarded and all benefits cut. And that is just a tiny part of what I saw while long termed unemployed at the time.

  9. fuckthetories

    Exactly Iain. I’ve just completed one of these schemes and they edited my CV completely dumbing down. Not that it was that brilliant, but they told me that if I put all my qualifications down I’d never get a job. Basically, when it came to the maths, I was better than them and they didn’t like it, I know I got 2 maths ‘A’ levels from way back, but as tutors – I’d expect them to have far more and they felt threatened

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