It has been announced that one in ten people referred to the Work Programme, 73,260 up to last April, have been subject to sanctions for failing to avail themselves of the opportunities. Or it has not been announced, depending on your point of view, despite the very specific figures and the ministerial comment: the Telegraph explains that this is what “the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is expected to confirm next week when it publishes the first official statistics on the overall success of the programme.” If this is an official announcement, it would be another clear breach of the UK Statistics Authority’s Code of Practice.
We know what the Minister Mark Hoban thinks of the figures; he thinks it shows that people are scrounging. “Sadly some people are clearly very determined to avoid having to get job at all.” There are other possibile explanations. It might be, for example, that people think they are better able to find work if they’re not on the programme. It might be that the tens of thousands of people who have been forced to claim JSA instead of incapacity benefits are too sick to work, and now they are being cut off benefits altogether. It might be that people are being sanctioned for not replying to letters. It might be that some have found work – because, despite the propaganda, that’s what most unemployed people do. It might be that people who are being cut off from benefit are being forced into crime or prostitution instead – it’s happened before. We just don’t know, which is why we need the detailed evidence and statistics.