The Commons Work and Pensions Committee has just published their report about the Work Programme, and I”ve been talking about it on Good Morning Wales. There are problems in trying to get information about the way the system works, but those problems were entirely predictable. The government was warned in previous reports, from the Office for Government Commerce and the National Audit Office, that sub-contracting arrangements made by the DWP lead to a basic loss of control and accountability; their response was to encourage a ‘black box’ where they asked for even less information about the process.
The report raises particular concerns about vulnerable groups who are not receiving support, but the evidence they describe is mainly focused on the mainstream groups, and the position is not good. The prime contractors have failed to meet their targets, and the Committee argues for the bar to be lowered. The strategy followed by the contractors is not, however, one to be encouraged. There is little indication of effective systems for individual support; caseworkers have 120-180 cases apiece, and the general approach seems to be that they throw anyone to hand at available jobs in the hope that someone will stick. There is little involvement of sub-contractors – out of 348 organisations, 74 thought they were not part of the Work Programme and 45 had not yet had any referral.
The system is however saving money. Part of that is money that the Government had made available for the contracts, which will not be paid; part is the effect of penal sanctions on unemployed people.