NAO rejects Grayling attack on DWP report

The National Audit Office (NAO) has defended its report on the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Work Programme, after welfare minister Chris Grayling said that the NAO analysis was “partially based on guesswork.”

By Joshua.Chambers

25 Jan 2012

The lead author of the report, David Clarke, told CSW that “there’s no guesswork involved at all.”

The report, published on Friday, said that the assumptions on which DWP has based the Work Programme are over-optimistic. The DWP estimates that 40 per cent of the largest group of jobseekers in the programme will get jobs, while the NAO puts the figure at 26 per cent.

Grayling responded that “payment by results is a totally new approach for government and its success simply cannot be assessed in the same old ways. I’m really disappointed that the NAO is producing a report which is partially based on guesswork, when it’s private companies and not taxpayers who are carrying the risks.”

However, Clarke told CSW that the NAO used DWP data from its previous employment programme, the Flexible New Deal, which “tried to achieve almost the same aims with the same people and the same contractors.” There are differences in the programmes’ length and speed, Clarke added, so the NAO used the DWP’s own methodology for calculating their effect.

The NAO report warns that the overestimation of success rates may leave the contracted providers struggling to meet their targets, potentially causing them financial difficulties or creating perverse incentives to cut corners.

It also raises concerns that the department implemented the programme without piloting it, and before IT support systems were in place.

Despite the minister’s response, said Clarke, “in my experience the officials in the department will take what we’re saying seriously.”

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