The Government’s flagship multi-billion-pound programme for helping the long-term unemployed into work has been branded “extremely poor” in a damning assessment by MPs.
The influential Public Accounts Committee said that during the first 14 months of the Work Programme, to last July, only 3.6 per cent of claimants on the scheme moved off benefits into sustained employment.
This was less than a third of the 11.9 per cent the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) expected to achieve, and well below the official estimate of what would have happened if the programme had not been launched, said the MPs.
Margaret Hodge, who chairs the committee, said the programme was particularly failing young people and the hardest to help.
She said: “It is shocking that of the 9,500 former incapacity benefit claimants referred to providers, only 20 people have been placed in a job that has lasted three months, while the poorest- performing provider did not manage to place a single person in the under-25 category into a job lasting six months.” She also criticised the DWP for publishing unvalidated data from a trade body representing Work Programme providers.
The programme was introduced in June 2011, at an estimated cost of between £3 billion and £5 billion over five years, but the PAC said the performance in the first year or so fell “well short” of expectations.
Not one of the 18 providers has met its contractual targets and their performance “varies wildly”, so the DWP should take action against those which are failing, said the report.
The MPs warned that, given the poor performance, there was a high risk that one or more providers will fail and go out of business or have their contracts cancelled.
The committee said it shared concerns that providers are concentrating on people more likely to generate a fee, and sidelining jobless clients who require more time and investment, a process known as “creaming and parking”.
The report said: “Despite assurances that it would do so, the Department has not provided the further analysis which would demonstrate whether creaming and parking was taking place.”