The PAC criticises the Work Programme

The Public Accounts Committee has been reviewing the operation of the Work Programme.  The tone of report is muted – 9 of the 14 members are government supporters – but looking at what they say selectively, there are some strong criticisms nevertheless.  These are all quotations from the report:

Performance  for  people  who  have  completed  the  full  two  years  on  the  Work Programme  has  been  similar  to  previous  welfare-to-work  schemes. (para 1)

The  measurements chosen by the Department distort real performance.  (para 14)

There  is no clear  relationship  between  payment  groups  and  the  nature  of  the  support participants  receive. (para 7)

Data  prime contractors …  are,  on average,  spending  less  than  half  what  they  originally  intended  on  harder-to-help groups. (para 12)

Differential payments have not been effective in preventing contractors from focusing on easier-to-help claimants and parking the harder-to-help clients.(para 7)

Almost  90%  of  Employment  and  Support Allowance claimants on the Work programme have not moved into employment. (para 8)

The number of sanctions  was  increasing …  (para 13)

Previous attempts to develop ‘welfare into work’ programmes suffered from a range of problems. The most obvious was that once contractors commissioned sub-contractors, the government, as principal, lost control of what the programmes were doing. The same has happened again. This time, the DWP told us, no-one would get paid if they didn’t deliver results, but they haven’t, and they are being paid nevertheless.

There is another problem, however, which is more basic.  The reason why welfare to work, and Pathways, and the Work Programme have all failed is that they’ve been trying to do the wrong things in the wrong way. Look, for example, at the lamentable results for ESA claimants, less than half the initial target figures. The reason that ESA claimants don’t move to work is straightforward: they’re too sick. They get ESA because it’s “not reasonable” to expect them to work – that is what the statute says, and the reason they qualified for the benefit in the first place. So it’s not altogether surprising if some sub-contractors have found it’s more practical to get people off their hands by sanctioning them.

2 thoughts on “The PAC criticises the Work Programme”

  1. The system is flawed but they won’t give up, its much easier to target the vulnerable than the rich tax avoiders it seems.

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