This article was written by Kevin Rawlinson, for The Guardian on Friday 21st March 2014 19.29 UTC
Just 48,000 people have found long-term jobs under the government’s flagship work programme during its near three-year life, official figures have revealed.
The statistic calls into question the efficacy of a system the government has insisted would help millions back into work
The 48,000 figure – revealed in data published by the Department for Work and Pensions – refers to the number of people who have found jobs through the scheme and stayed in them long enough to merit the maximum bonus paid to contractors for their remaining in employment.
But figures released by the department in November last year showed that in the year to October 2013, unemployed people were sanctioned for “misconduct” 242,973 times.
The sanctions imposed in the 12 months after the DWP overhaul of the system in October 2012 were for “failure to participate in a scheme for assisting person to obtain employment without good reason”.
According to the Citizens Advice Bureau, sanctions usually involve jobseekers allowance payments being stopped for periods of between four weeks and three years. It added that, in some cases, the payments can be reduced instead.
Under the work programme, the DWP pays its contractors “job outcome payments” when claimants find work. It then pays greater bonuses – called “sustainment payments” – the longer the claimant stays in a job, up to a maximum figure.
The department’s data showed that the maximum available sustainment payment has been made nearly 48,000 times since the work programme was launched in June 2011. That represents only 3.2% of the 1.5 million people the DWP said have been referred to the work programme in total.
Its report said: “A proportion of these achieved this within 104 weeks of referral and left the scheme, with the others remaining in employment after the 104-week point.”
It added that, in all, 352,000 claimants have completed their 104 weeks on the programme, but remained on benefits at the end and went back to their jobcentres. The DWP pointed to figures showing that it paid nearly 252,000 job outcome payments to reward contractors who helped move claimants into jobs overall – albeit for shorter periods.
“Ministers have very serious questions to answer about this scheme, not least why there have been five times more sanctions applied than jobs found for people,” said the general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, Mark Serwotka.
> Perhaps he should be telling us why his members in Jobcentres are also dishing out sanctions like they were going out of fashion ?
He added: “The privatised work programme has been an unmitigated failure and has actually hampered the chances of people finding work, not helped.”
A DWP spokesman said: “More than a quarter of a million jobseekers have escaped long-term unemployment and found lasting work – normally at least six months – through the work programme. That’s a quarter of a million people whose lives have been transformed.”
> A job lasting 6 months will transform your life ? I’ve done them – they don’t.
Employment Minister Esther McVey added: “As the economy continues to grow, the work programme is successfully helping people to turn their lives around so they can look after themselves and their families.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 22 March 2014