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The Work Programme: still worse than useless

The Work Programme is useless. Don’t take my word for it, this was the opinion of the Daily Telegraph back in November. Their piece observed that according to the government’s own calculation, around five per cent of long-term unemployed people (i.e. those out of work for over a year) would be able to find work if left to their own devices. The government’s flagship Work Programme managed a less than stellar rate of 2.3%.

The Work Programme, for readers fortunate enough not to have sustained engagement with the social security system, is supposed to help people who’ve been out of work for long periods back into the labour market. It replaced Labour’s ‘New Deal’ programme, which introduced an element of compulsion into Jobseekers’ Allowance (i.e. either get with the programme, take a job, or get your payments cut). The New Deal wasn’t without its problems, but its youth component – New Deal for Young People – managed to find jobs for around 42% of participants between 2001 and 2005. What the pay and prospects of the majority of those jobs were I’ll leave for others to determine.

The Work Programme is similar, but “tougher” and is delivered by a number of “providers”. These include the usual big beasts who gather around the public sector watering hole, like Serco, G4S, and notorious troughers, A4E. But to make things look good arms-length public sector bodies, like networks of FE colleges, and the 3rd sector can also provide training. These providers are paid by results. They receive payments from monies saved for every period of employment lasting between 13 and 26 weeks, and additional cash on top for every four weeks served.

But that is not all it does. Participation in the Work Programme requires people to basically work for their JSA payments. Readers will recall there was something of an outcry last year when it was revealed large retailers were profiting from taxpayer-provided workers.

I am sure no one has any objection to the availability of retraining for anyone who find themselves out of work. It is also sensible that a guaranteed job is provided after a period of time on the dole. Though it remains to be fully thought through, the principle of Labour’s job guarantee is a step in the right direction.

However, the figures for the Work Programme continue to show it is a dismal failure. While Dave was happy to trumpet today’s in-work figures (though, of course, studiously avoiding the precarious and part-time nature of many of the new jobs), the performance of their flagship welfare-to-work scheme remains woeful. According to the statscompiled by the Office of National Statistics, between June 2011 and May 2012 (the latest period of time for which a dataset is available), in my constituency of Stoke-on-Trent Central some 1,510 long-term unemployed people were referred to the Work Programme. Of that number, just 30 – two per cent – got a job as a result! It’s not that Stokies are no-hopers. Down in more affluent Stone constituency, 10 out of 290 people who went through the scheme got a job. In Dave’s Witney constituency, it was 10 out of 330. In wealthy Kensington only 40 out of 1,660 were successful.

If the job market is as buoyant as official figures suggest, then why does the Work Programme’s results tail the ‘do-nothing’ figure – an estimate drawn up to take continued economic turbulence into account? There is only one possible answer: that it is broken, irrevocably. By the Tories’ own questionable standards of competence, to produce a programme that is worse than doing nothing is really something.

6 Comments

  1. John Ray says:

    Starting my second year on the WP,completed 30 hours a week MWA for a private builder,drilling and climbing on roofs…so many health and safety violations(nobody except myself had a CSCS card) after day 2, I was informed that the only reason I was here was they needed to complete the contract and there was no chance of employment. Turned out the Builder was a friend of someone at the WP,draw your own conclusions.

  2. Doteater5 says:

    I am now force onto a WP training course that was never asked whether I needed it or not. The advisor who gave it to me was so unsympathetic she said that “I had no say in the matter” and “our activities took more priority then a doctor’s appointment”, which is there way of saying to me that I didn’t have rights as long as I was on the WP. It was just another way for them to ring-out more money from the government out of the tax-payers expense. And this was from an mandatory appointment that they never knew what it was when I arrived.

  3. Joseph Ridgwell says:

    ive been checking out english artist michael fitzgerald at saatchi online a real eye opener in to the shambles that is the work programme

  4. Albert Wakeling says:

    I was forced into the ‘Work Programme’ last year; it was a total waste of time, and more importantly government money. the people at A4E and Lifeline were below any reasonable comment.

    Eat your heart out IDS!

  5. Grant Swietonowski says:

    I have just recently been put onto this work programme just a week ago. The place is so far from my little village that there only two buses goes there and no matter which bus I take. I have to wait 6 hours in the freezing cold in a unknown town full of people I don’t know and what worse as it spikes up my nerves as I have APD. Now I managed to get to my first appointment, fully ready to take on the task and guess what, they didn’t even turn up. 6 hours waiting and if i didn’t make the appointment I would lose my money. I think it is wrong that if we’re late or unable to get to the appointment we lose our money and they go unpunished for not even turning up..

  6. Chris says:

    Been on the WP for several months and I have to agree with most here that they are pretty useless and a total waste of government resources. My JS advisor (who was superb and got on with eachother very well) was very reluctent to put me on the program. I asked what’s wrong with it, and was told basically that he hadn’t heard a single good word about them. I was hoping that my JS advisor would still oversee my applications but turns out I might not see him ever again.
    Now I get a ‘straght from college’ 20-something Papworth Trust advisor who was handed her job on a plate telling me that im not doing it right (despite doing 10+ applications a week). Yet she offers NO help as to what i’m doing wrong, even when I virtually beg for support. I was told I was applying for too little one time, than onceother time too many, that’s right APPLYING FOR TOO MANY. When I heard this I was infuriated, the only reason I didn’t argue it is because there were others jobsearching. Now she threatens the little benefits I get by telling JSA that i’m “not pulling my weight”, the irony… Not to mention every time I see this lass, she is always atleast 30 mins late. We all know what happens when we are 5-10 mins late even when we have a legitimate reason.
    To top it off, they are more than happy to gossip amungst themselves when they are not in an appointment with someone. Often discussing their clients and talking trash about them in clear speech for us all to hear. I often get chatting quietly with fellow jobsearchers and we are just in dis-belief of their utter cheek of their shocking attitude. I would LOVE to have the tables turned and see them try and get a job and how they feel when they get no support and abusive behaviour.

    I just hope for anyone who is won JSA and not yet emplyed, get’s a job very soon before the “Work Program” f**** it up for them.

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