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Work Programme Date from ERSA

ERSA has released the latest Work Programme job start data from its members in advance of the official DWP release next week. The report shows:

  • 321,000 job starts (a third of those who have been on the Work Programme for at least a year)
  • 88,000 young people started work by the end of March 2013
  • 45% of young people on the programme over a year have started work, and 49% of those who have been on the programme the longest
  • Job starts are improving - months since May 2012 show a higher number of people entering work than at a comparable point in the previous year

There is a key message to the public and politicians about ESA performance.  Only 15% of ESA claimants who have been on the programme the longest have started work. 

Bearing in mind the economic downturn that coincided with the launch of the Work Programme, providers were always going to find meeting the anticipated targets a real challenge.  Real successes are being achieved within the 18-24 age group, which supports the high profile that the government have given to youth unemployment.  The range of additional schemes and employer incentives for this age group may be playing a role in this success but further analysis would be needed to measure the impact of these additional measures. If the incentives and training available are making a difference, maybe we should consider extending similar incentives for ESA claimants ... or is that just too radical?  

Press coverage has called for more money to be made available to help the more difficult groups.  The government reaction to this will be predictable - in a payment by results programme there is a much higher reward for moving ESA claimants into work.  Prime providers fundamentally signed up to bank roll the Work Programme in order to reap these higher rewards at a later date, knowing that they would have to invest more in this group to move them into work.  If they haven't invested enough then they aren't going to be rewarded.  Unfortunately that isn't any consolation to those requiring help and support through the Work Programme. 

This actually raises bigger questions about the payment by results model, or more specifically how payment by results contracts are awarded, the detail required in tenders about the investment that prime providers are committing, and how effectively the funder holds the primes to their investment plans.  Chris Grayling's view was that if providers don't perform they don't get paid, so the government weren't particularly concerned about the detail of how providers were going to attain the required performance levels - if you don't perform it won't cost the tax payer anything, so it's not a problem.  To now berate providers for not delivering on the harder to help customer groups seems rather unfair.  Should the spotlight be focused more around procurement processes and payment models than performance of the Work Programme?

DWP are not allowing publication of any data by Work Programme providers other than job starts, so we are in the hands of DWP as to what spin is put on the official figures in the coming weeks.  While we can paint a positive picture of the people that have been helped through the Work Programme, there is no getting away from the fact that performance is falling short of minimum performance levels.  

W2W Solutions would suggest that now is the time for real honesty and openess within the sector.  What service have providers actually been delivering?  What are the real reasons behind why people are not moving into work at the levels required?  The Work Programme has now been running long enough for lessons to be learned about delivery, what works, what doesn't work, what else is needed.  The employability sector should be working together to identify the lessons and share ideas for improving performance.  Time to stand up, work together, and make a change!

Click here for the official ERSA press release.

20 June 2013

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