Work Programme year two result: FAIL


The government’s flagship Work Programme has failed to reach its own minimum standard of results – for the second year running.

The Department for Work and Pensions said 13 per cent of jobseekers had managed to find work lasting at least six months (three months for the hardest to help) – but targets for the second year were higher than the first and the DWP admitted that the Work Programme has failed to meet them.

Of the 1.02 million who have been on the programme long enough to count in today’s figures, 132,000 people found work lasting long enough to be counted a success according to its (low) standards. Six months in work is not a long-term job.

This totals 13.4 per cent. Broken down into particular payment groups, Work Programme providers got 31.9 per cent of JSA claimants aged 18-24 into sustained work against a contracted level of 33 per cent – so that is a fail. For JSA claimants aged 25 or over, they averaged 27.3 per cent against a contracted level of 27.5 per cent – so that is also a fail.

We should concede that this is a big improvement from the first year, when no provider reached their contracted level of 5.5 per cent for either group.

But 31.9 per cent and 27.3 per cent creates a combined average of 29.6 per cent, so you’re probably wondering why the Work Programme’s actual average is 13.4 per cent.

Part of this has to do with the total for people on Employment and Support Allowance. The achievement for ESA new customers was just 5.3 per cent, against a target of 16.5 per cent – and is therefore a bitter fail.

This still does not create a combined figure of 13.4 per cent but I am momentarily at a loss to find any other figures to account for it in the statistical release or the DWP’s press release.

This – the press release – is a piece of comedy rather than information, as we have come to expect from the Department of Wayward Pronoouncements.

It makes no mention of the abject failure to meet ESA targets but states: “Compared to many employment schemes under previous governments, the programme targets the hardest to help into work, such as those claiming Employment and Support Allowance.”

That’s a shot in the foot right there, because it immediately sent me looking for the relevant – and damning – figures.

The omission here, coupled with the recent BBC news report in which WP providers got their begging bowls out and demanded more cash to help ESA claimants into work, creates a bleak picture for sick and disabled people who are being forced to seek employment and reinforces the position set out in a previous Vox Political article that these are people who are too ill to work and should not be forced to seek it.

It’s a lose-lose scenario: The Work Programme providers will fail to hit their targets and the ESA recipients’ health will suffer.

And we all know that the DWP is hiding the figures showing how many ESA recipients are dying every week as a result of participation in its brutal assessment process and silly work placement schemes.

Employment minister Mark Hoban, commenting on the programme’s failure to meet its contracted targets, said: “The Work Programme is helping large numbers of people escape the misery of long-term unemployment and get back into real jobs. The improvement in performance over the past year has been profound and the scheme is getting better and better.”

So we know that he’s living in a fantasy world.

In fairness, it should be pointed out that 18 out of the 40 Work Programme providers have met or exceeded their targets. Unfortunately we don’t know how they managed this; considering some of the horror stories that have come from the schemes, it seems a miracle that anyone got a job at all.

Oh, and there’s a sideswipe at commenters like Vox Political. The statistical summary states: “Many commentators on the previous statistical release looked to compare total job outcome payments with total referrals in the period covered by that publication (June 2011 to July 2012) and assess this against a minimum benchmark.

“Incorrectly the media calculated 3.5 per cent (using data covered by full release period) and 2.3 per cent (using data from June 2011 to May 2012) as the relevant figure to compare against the 5.5 per cent benchmark. The contractual benchmark is measured each financial year for three specific groups of Participants only.”

The press release states that – for once – the DWP has an endorsement from the UK Statistics Authority: “The UK Statistics Authority has said that it does not regard the calculation by commentators that 3.5% of people got into work in the first year of the scheme is the most relevant figure on which to assess performance.

“It agrees with the DWP that performance is better measured by counting how many people referred to the Work Programme get into sustained employment within a year of being referred to the scheme.”

That’s very nice. It would have been even nicer to have been provided with the correct figure at the time. I remember wondering why vital information had been omitted from the releases provided to us, forcing us to make the best calculations we could with what was available.

If the DWP wants to play silly games with the figures, its people have no right to come crying to the rest of us, just because we have tried to fill the gap.

To summarise: The Work Programme has failed to hit targets in its second year, with the results being particularly disastrous for the sick and disabled.

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38 thoughts on “Work Programme year two result: FAIL

  1. alittleecon

    Just done my own post on this. If you look in the statistical release, on page 4 it talks about inaccurate reporting of the performance figures, and then goes on to give the actual figures. It was only 1% (0.6% for ESA), not 3.5% or 2.4% as reported! So much, much worse.

  2. J

    I find the press release grossly offensive. The Work Programme has done nothing for me, and if I got a job it would be in spite of the WP, not because of it.

    If you read further in the press release it states that 110,000 worked for at least 6 months (or at least 3 for ESA/Hard to help) and 80,000 for 3 months or more after. I suspect there’s quite a few people that have been dumped after 6 months, possibly because of the £2275 wage incentive.

    Is there any document which shows the providers that have been issued with a warning? I’m guessing mine will be on there but I’d like to double-check.

      1. J

        Hmm that’s a shame, I guess though that the 12 providers with the lowest outcome percentages will be the ones that are given the Performance Improvement Notice. I think mine is counted among them, so hopefully they will have been issued one.

  3. Mike Sivier

    Rob Spaced on Facebook has pointed out: “Of course these numbers are meaningless unless we know the underlying figure for a similar group of people getting into work without all this ‘help’.
    “I’m still not sure what the eligibility criteria are to be put on this scheme but one would assume that left to their own devices a reasonable number would have got jobs anyway.”

    1. bookmanwales

      According to the press release on the KEY Findings page the MPL was set at 10% above what would be normal for jobseekers getting their own jobs just signing fortnightly.
      Given the target of 33% for 18 – 24 yr old’s they actually only found work for 8.9% as the other 23% would have found work anyway.

      Correct me if I am mistaken but that is how I calculate it.

      1. J

        I might be wrong but isn’t it 10% above, rather than 10 percentage points? So 30% would be the amount expected to get a job without the WP, which is where 33% comes from.

        I think that’s how it’s calculated but I’d need confirmation too because I’m not 100% sure.

      2. bookmanwales

        Actually J looks like you were right. Having read it again it says 10% above what would normally be achieved without work programme. In which case the figure is even more dismal so 30% base = 33% target so only 1.9% 18-24 jobs were found by providers and 2.3% 25+. Well now we can see where all that money is going and why we are broke.
        Assuming 132,000 found permanent work only 2,772 (average 2.1%) were down to the work programme. Given the very minimum payment to the providers of £400 per referral and £1200 per job taken that equates to around £160,000 per claimant without the job even lasting more than 3 months (or 6 in some cases) Surely there must be a case for the Public accounts committee to investigate at the very least. Give me £160,000 per claimant and I will guarantee 5 years work for each of them plus a nice little earner myself. ( I know someone will check these figures but pretty sure that is what it works out)
        Of course the amount goes up with each 4 week period due to Providers getting a sustainment payment for each person who stays in work longer than 3 or 6 months depending on group.

      3. Mike Sivier

        I don’t think that’s right.

        Given the figures you use for referral and job outcome, and the figures in the DWP’s statistical sheet, that’s £353,800,000 divided among 132,000 people, before you even include the 604,200 sustainment fees.

        £2,680 per person, plus a little change?

        The headline figure is £354 million, though.

        Does anybody know what the average sustainment fee might be?

      4. bookmanwales

        OK.. not sure I am getting this right but here goes.
        According to Page 3 of the report the MPL (Minimum Performance Level) was set at normal Jobcentre turnover excluding exterior influences ,i.e work programme, plus 10%.

        In my opinion that means the MPL targets of 33% and 27.5% are normal jobcentre turnover of 30% plus 3% for 18-24 yr old’s and 25% plus 2.5% for 25 +

        In other words if there was absolutely no work programme an average of 27.5% of those referred to the work programme would find work anyway. By using the work programme an average of 30.25% will find work. This is a difference of only 2.75% even if they hit targets.

        Taking these figures to the 132,000 job placements then only 2.75% or 3630 will actually be as a direct result of the work programme at a cost of £400 million plus.

        Someone will surely correct me on this view ?

  4. Mike Sivier

    Robbi Ross on Facebook: “Are they counting those on the placements that are for 6 months as actual employment? Also providers sell claimants to each over to remove them from their books , So they I think count as in employment or training.
    “For example the main contractor ‘tier one’ will never even see the claimant but get a commision out of the DWP initial referral fee or so for basically nothing.
    “Tier 2 firms such as Serco & A4e will keep you on their books for a period then sell you to a third tier franchise for, say, the remainder of the two years an individual is contracted.
    “Therefore tier 2 will have figures distorted of those they simply would have moved on to tier 3.”

    1. bookmanwales

      The figures are based on “Job outcome payments” a provider is allowed one Job outcome payment for each claimant who finds a job and stays for more than the required period of 3 or 6 months. Just moving them to a different provider does not affect the DWP.

  5. Claire Frith

    So it fails again. companies have lost contacts for less. And as you pointed out 6 months is hardly a long term job and is it a job at any cost to meet the targets rather than targeting help for people to find decent jobs that fit their skills and circumstances.
    I wonder how many of last years ” intake” are still in work? And long term work as opposed to short term contracts?

  6. sparaszczukster

    I’m really grateful for this analysis because I’ve just this afternoon looked at the DWP’s pronouncement and not being very mathematically minded found it confusing to say the least. I felt very uneasy reading it because it didn’t ring true but I couldn’t work it out. So many, many thanks, Mike for providing a clear, rational explanation. One of the things that really stunned me was the fact that both the DWP and the UKSA seem to think that being employed for a mere six months can now be classed as ‘long term’ employment. I’m not sure if this is pure rhetoric or whether its an admission that we now live in an economy where job security has been eroded so much that having a job for six months is the very best we can hope for…unless you’re an MP that is. Sadly.

  7. bookmanwales

    There was one more thing I forgot to mention. These figures are for a period of 22 months from Jun 2011 to March 2013. In 2 years work providers have manged to place into work some 3,000 more than would have found work anyway at estimated cost of more than £464 million (1.16 million participants at £400 each and min £1,200 for each person finding work regardless of whether they would have got themselves a job or not)

  8. AM-FM

    No one seems to have mentioned that the ‘sustained work’ doesn’t have to be continuous, just in at least a 4 week block at a time to count as a job start.

    It’s possible that a ‘sustained job outcome’ and payment can be made up from a number of months work here and there, as long it eventually totals 6 months.

    1. Mike Sivier

      You’re absolutely right! It’s something that caught my eye last year, and I flagged it as suspicious then, but it escaped my attention this time around. Well caught!

  9. J

    Also, unless I’m wrong I think the figures have been misrepresented a bit because if you look at table 2.12a on page 30 of the stats you’ll see the figures broken down over the 2 years, and you see 1.0% outcomes for year 1 and 31.9% for year 2. They’ve got these figures by dividing the number of referrals by outcomes, and making a percentage out of that. The problem is this: on year 2 they’ve used the number of referrals for that year (92.40k) but they’ve divided it by the outcome figures from year 2 which inevitably will include outcomes from year 1, because as time goes on the year 1 ‘cohorts’ are more likely to get a job.

    If you carried this on it could result in a situation where say, you had 5k referrals in year 3 but 100k job outcomes because of the previous years being added up. This would result in a success rate of 2000% – an obviously impossible situation.

    Maybe somebody else could shed some light on this, maybe I’m wrong because looking at the figures has been a massive headache and I might have overlooked something obvious.

    1. bookmanwales

      The job outcome figures are “one off” payments for each person who finds a job and relate only to that specific period , month or year. So there is no rollover of outcomes.
      It does not matter whether a person has been on the work programme for a week or the full 2 years they can only ever be in one outcome total.
      Sustainment payment tables are more complex because they do roll over from period to period and can include people from up to 6 months previously.

      Hope this helps..

      1. J

        I’m still not sure. Basically my thoughts are this:

        From June 2011 to March 2012 there were 131.03k referrals and only 1.25k outcomes – that means that up to March 2012 there were 129.78k people that hadn’t yet received an outcome.

        It surely must follow that from April 2012 to March 2013 some of those 129.78k people generated an outcome, which means they count towards year 2’s figures and thus affect the percentage because the percentage is calculated using only year 2’s referrals.

        So for example a customer gets referred in November 2011 and gets a job straight away (hypothetically, of course) when they have worked until May 2012 they’ll generate an outcome, but it’ll apply to year 2’s figures while their referral is in year 1.

        I don’t know, I think the most reliable figure from the 18-24 JSA group is 13.8% as that’s the total for both years. That’s why I think it’s misleading for them to use 31.9%. But yeah, I still could be wrong, I just might not properly understand yet. Statistics aren’t really my forte!

      2. bookmanwales

        The time of referral is irrelevant. Once a person starts work and assuming the providers notify the DWP then that is their outcome date and is counted once only, So someone referred in June 2011 for example is only counted once when they actually achieve an outcome even if it was March 2013 when they got a job.

        The actual overall outcome was 23.78% for 2012-2013 I used the attachments figure to reach this percentage rather than referral which was a slightly higher figure..

        There is some discrepancy between referrals and actual sign ups (attachments) to the work programme, noticeably in Jun 2011 when 74k were referred but only 28k signed with a provider not sure why this was as I was under the impression it was compulsory when referred ?

        Having quickly checked the sustainment payments it seems almost every job is still ongoing which I find hard to believe.

        I also cannot work out where the 13.4% comes from so if anyone can help ?

      3. Mike Sivier

        There are eight groups into which claimants can go, but the press release and the statistical summary make free reference to just three. I was fretting about that last night but I think this is the reason for it.

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  11. AM-FM

    “The headline figure is £354 million, though.
    Does anybody know what the average sustainment fee might be?”

    The figure to March13 is 736m
    Don’t know what you mean exactly by average, £250 x 20-4wk intervals?

    Payments table is all here: wp-costs-to-31-march-2013.pdf

    1. Mike Sivier

      The impression I received from the documentation was that sustainment payments vary depending on which of the eight groups a claimant is in (and also, possibly, which Work Programme provider they are with – they had to compete for the contracts, you know).
      That seems to be borne out by the figures. If the amount for attachments and outome payments is correct, it leaves £382,200,000 for sustainment fees, of which 604,200 were paid, which averages at £632.57 per payment.
      I’ll have to have a look at the costs sheet later on; see if that provides any further help.

      1. bookmanwales

        You are right, sustainment payments vary by group from £2500 for a 18-24 yr old to £9000 for someone on support group. I assume these payments are split over each 4 week period. 20 payments for most groups so covering an 80 week span.
        this equates to £125 per 4 weeks for a 18-24 yr old and £140 per 4 weeks for a 25+ I think.

      2. bookmanwales

        Aha just found the financials page and I was wrong … 18-24 13 payments of £170 and 25 + 13 payments of £215 maximum. Ex Incapacity Benefit claimants 20 payments of £250.

        There seems to be a huge discrepancy, the number of jobs and the number of sustainment payments do not match.. Also the number of payment periods in the financials per group do not match those in the statistics per group ?

  12. guy fawkes

    This government is tying everyone up in facts and figures, probably in an effort to confirm whether what they have submitted is correct, but mostly to confound.

  13. J

    A job outcome is claimed after the customer has been in work for 6 months or more (for certain groups it’s 3 months). It can only be claimed once. The sustainment payments are paid every 4 weeks that the customer is in work. So if somebody gets a job and it lasts for 7 months they’ll have generated 1 job outcome for their provider, and 1 sustainment payment. If they then lose that job and find another one, the job outcome doesn’t get counted again, but they will start receiving sustainment payments if it lasts 4 weeks or more.

    If you look at table 2.11 on the previous page it shows you how many of each month’s cohort claimed a job outcome within 12 months. For PG1 (JSA 18-24) 10.2% claimed a job outcome. This means that their figures could be counted in the job outcome section of table 2.12a from anywhere between Dec 2011 and Jun 2012, because they need to be in a job for at least 6 months to generate an outcome.

    That’s why the figures only start showing job outcomes in Dec 2011, because that’s 6 months after the first cohorts started. They only get counted in the outcome figures once they’ve been in a job for 6 months and thus have generated an outcome for their provider.

    Unless I am being really dim I can’t see how I’m miscalculating or anything so I’ll go out on a limb and say that the 31.9% is wrong.

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