It seems a scheme launched by Boris Johnson to force people into work by cutting their benefits after four weeks actually saw fewer people into jobs than the average.
The target set for the Way to Work scheme was to get 500,000 people into jobs, and the Department for Work and Pensions made a huge “We did it!” announcement five months after the scheme was launched in January.
But this seems to be untrue:
Figures from the Office for National Statistics released last week show that the number of unemployed people finding work actually fell by 148,000 compared with the six months before Way to Work began, despite record numbers of job vacancies.
The government is also facing questions about why it set a target of 500,000 when, on average, nearly 1 million unemployed people have found work during similar periods each year since 2001.
At the end of January, Johnson announced that a “Way to Work drive” would help 500,000 into employment from Universal Credit intensive work search or jobseeker’s allowance, at a time when there were a record 1.2 million vacancies.
Analysis by the Observer of seasonally adjusted figures from the ONS Labour Force Survey shows that 867,310 people moved from unemployment to employment from January to June, with the majority of them finding work before March. In the previous six months, 1,015,954 people moved into work. The average figure for January to June since records began in 2001 is 948,000.
The DWP has doubled down, claiming that Way to Work did successfully support half a million people into work.
A spokesperson said there had been fewer unemployed people overall in the labour market, so the amount of people moving from unemployed to employed was understandably lower.
But the Office for Statistics Regulation has warned that there is no clear explanation of how the Way to Work target was defined, how it would be measured, and the methods used to support claims that the target had been reached.
It said measuring government programmes in a robust and transparent way is important, and the statistics and data underpinning any measurement should uphold principles of being trustworthy, of high quality and offer public value – but the way the Department has communicated information in this case does not uphold these principles.
Stephen Timms, Labour chair of the work and pensions select committee, was quoted by The Guardian, saying the committee would be looking at the figures as part of an inquiry when MPs return in the autumn.
“The refusal to set out the evidence behind the claim, unfortunately, is par for the course at the moment… To claim that their policy has been a success seems like business as usual. There might be something more that we’re missing. If there is, they need to tell us what it is.”
It seems that, even though he is quitting as prime minister, Boris Johnson’s falsehoods will continue to plague us for some time to come.
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