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Damning Work Programme Report by PAC

The Public Accounts Committee has published its latest report into the Work Programme. In what is quite a damning overview, Margaret Hodge MP says:

"The Department has not succeeded in incentivising Work Programme providers to support harder-to-help claimants into work. Almost 90% of Employment and Support Allowance claimants on the Work Programme have not moved into jobs. Evidence shows that differential payments have not stopped contractors from focusing on easier-to-help individuals and parking harder-to-help claimants, often those with a range of disabilities including mental health challenges. Data from Work Programme providers shows that they are, on average, spending less than half what they originally promised on these harder to help groups."

She adds:

"We are also concerned about how the Department’s sanctions regime is operating. Sanctions can cause significant financial hardship to individuals, and it is not clear whether the sanctions regime actually works in encouraging people on the Work Programme to engage with the support offered by providers. Feedback from some constituents suggests that the number of sanctions has been increasing and that some providers have been recommending sanctions more than others. The Department confirmed that Seetec has referred more claimants for sanction than other providers. The Department should monitor whether providers are making the right sanction referrals to the Department and that they are not causing unfair hardship. It should publish the number of sanctions by provider."

"After a slow start, performance of the Work Programme is improving, but there is still a long way to go before it is working effectively for all."
Like for like performance appears to be similar to previous programmes, which has to call into question the whole structure, content and payment mechanism for programmes that help people into work.  More needs to be done to identify the best practice and share what works - unfortunately, this is a commercial world where trade secrets abound.  Those performing well have a competitive advantage, so why share their success with the competition.  There are a multitude of factors influencing performance so it's unfair to compare one region of the country with another, so what's the answer?  Answers on a postcard please!
6 November 2014


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