Work Programme providers failing to help most disadvantaged groups

Organisations providing employment support through the Work Programme are failing to support people from the hardest-to-help groups, despite financial incentives set up to encourage contractors to focus on these claimants, according to a Public Account Committee (PAC) report published today.

By Suzannah.Brecknell

20 Feb 2013

The report said that the Programme, introduced by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in 2010 to help long-term unemployed people into work, has moved just 3.6 per cent of benefit claimants into jobs deemed sustainable by the DWP in its first 14 months, less than the departments expected performance of 11.9 per cent.

The difference between actual and expected performance was worst among groups considered hardest to help such as disabled and young people, said the report, and the evaluation from the Department for Work and Pensions suggests that “the hardest to help are receiving a poor quality service, with providers focusing on the easiest to help”.

Margaret Hodge, PAC chair, said: “It is shocking that of the 9,500 former incapacity benefit claimants referred to providers, only 20 people have been placed in a job that has lasted three months, while the poorest performing provider did not manage to place a single person in the under 25 category into a job lasting six months.

“Under the payment by results system, the department has incentives in place which in theory are supposed to prevent providers concentrating on the easiest cases and ignoring those who are hardest to help,” she continued. “But these incentives are not working and there is increasing evidence of ‘creaming and parking’.”

The Work Programme is provided by 18 contractors across the country, all of whom have been placed on performance improvement plans by DWP.

Since all providers have performed below expectations their revenues will also fall short and there is a “high risk that one or more provider will fail”, said the report, and the department should monitor contracts most at risk of failure and produce “specific plans for the steps it will take should failure occur.”

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