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Mandatory Programme for 18-24 year olds in Derbyshire

DWP have today announced a trailblazer being run in Derbyshire which will see18-24 year olds who have claimed Jobseekers Allowance for more than six months, but who have little or no recent work experience, referred for a mandatory 8 week work experience programme. Participants will be required to complete 30 hours of work "for the benefit of their communities" and six hours of intensive job seeking support per week. Anyone refusing to take part without good reason will face losing their benefits.

DWP anticipate that the programme will help young people develop good working habits, such as turning up to work on time, as well as giving them "the right training and experience". They envisage jobseekers will be in a better position to come off benefits and get into work. Those jobseekers who don't complete the eight week programme will have to go back on the programme If they return to Jobseekers Allowance within 26 weeks.

The trailblazer is being delivered by TGB Learning.

This announcement comes on the back of the recent contract awarded to Careers Development Group and Maximus in London which offers "day one support" for 18-24 year olds who haven't worked since leaving school or have less than 6 months work experience.  The London trailblazer is a 13 week programme and is set to run until Autumn 2012.

This latest addition to the vast suite of programmes now available, is unlikely to be welcomed by action groups who already object to "work for your benefits" programmes and actively protested throughout 2012 against the Mandatory Work Activity programme and voluntary work placement programmes already on offer. Work Programme providers will also be looking very closely at the results of the above trailblazer programmes, both of which have been introduced since the Work Programme contracts were awarded. With concerns already raised about the number of Employment Support Allowance customers being well below anticipated levels, it will be interesting to see the impact that these programmes have on the number of 18-24 year olds being referred to the Work Programme in the coming months.

It is unclear whether DWP are correct in labelling these new programmes 'trailblazers'.  Are these programmes the first to try something new, with the next logical step being for others to follow in their footsteps?   Alternatively are they really pilot programmes where DWP are trying to learn what is most successful to inform future programme development?  Or are they just one-off provisions with no long-term future?

13 November 2012

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