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Introduction of the Work Programme - Latest PAC Report

Today sees the publication of the latest House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts reports into the Work Programme. The report, DWP: the introduction of the Work Programme, contains conclusions and recommendations from the Committee as well as a transcript of evidence sessions from 8 February with Geraldine Blake (CE, Community Links); Professor Dan Finn (University of Portsmouth), Baroness Stedman-Scott (CE, Tomorrow’s People), Andrew Dutton (CE, A4e) and Robert Devereux and Alan Cave of DWP. Additional written evidence has also been provided following the oral sessions.

W2W Solutions is encouraged to see issues raised regarding quality of service delivery. With quality at the heart of our business, we have been quite disappointed in the lack of focus on quality in the Work Programme. Since the outset there has been an attitude that with the focus solely on payment by results as a measure of success, DWP had little concern about how a provider achieves those results. The PAC report highlights the need to consider:

  • whether harder-to-help participants are overlooked,
  • the service levels that providers deliver, and
  • the experiences of participants.

W2W Solutions supports the Committee’s assertion that current DWP systems are not fit for purpose in making such measurements, with their systems to ‘collate customer insight’ lacking robustness. We feel that the introduction of a Welfare to Work Inspectorate within Ofsted would be one of the most effective means of independently verifying the quality of service delivery; although such a body must have at its heart experts who understand the industry if we are to avoid past mistakes. 

W2W Solutions welcomes the Committees concerns regarding the wide variations in minimum service standards and the fact that they are often vague and unquantifiable. We support the introduction of truly measurable standards for all providers and agree with Margaret Hodge MP who said, "..... achieving value for money will depend on more than whether the contractors meet their contractual targets."

There has been much discussion on the airwaves recently regarding whether the Work Programme creates jobs. The PAC continues to voice a concern about risks of job substitution eg a participant securing a job that someone else would have taken. In our view this is a red herring and is possibly a Committee members’ pet subject, as there was never a remit for providers to create jobs - the Work Programme isn’t the Future Jobs Fund. Someone outside of the Work Programme could technically fill every job that exists. If providers were only to be paid when they supported people into totally new jobs created through their direct intervention, then the Work Programme would be an abject failure. What the programme should do is help people who would previously not have been competitive and potentially need long-term financial support from the state, to successfully compete in the jobs market, thereby reducing the support required by the state.

The recent furore surrounding A4e has obviously had undue influence on the PAC report, so we watch with interest to see the findings this week from the investigations into A4e and the impact this will have on the wider sector.

You can download the Public Accounts Committee Report by clicking here.

15 May 2012

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