Providers of the government’s flagship Work Programme have told ministers the costs of helping sick and disabled jobseekers into employment cannot be met under the scheme. Of those who have been on the scheme for at least a year, a third have begun a job. But in the most challenging group – who claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – only 10% have found work.

Work Programme providers say the needs of these jobseekers are too great. The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), representing the providers, says those receiving ESA have complex health and skills requirements and the Work Programme can not “fix all these problems alone”. “The costs of helping jobseekers on ESA back into work are significant and cannot all be met by the Work Programme,” says the Association’s chief executive, Kirsty McHugh.

 What is the Work Programme?


  • The Work Programme was launched in June 2011. Its aim was to get long-term unemployed people in jobs and consolidate previous welfare-to-work schemes.

  • It uses approved providers, mostly private companies, to find work for claimants. The providers are paid by results.

  • The government aimed to get 5.5% of those in the programme into jobs lasting six months or more. In its first year, this figure was only 3.5%.

  • Last month, MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee said the programme’s record was “poor” but improving and accused providers of “parking” the most disadvantaged jobseekers.

“In order for there to be a significant step change in performance in helping these jobseekers into employment, we need greater use of skills and health budgets.” The call for spending from other parts of the public sector to be channelled in to support the Work Programme is an embarrassment for this flagship government scheme.

The Department for Work and Pensions says the payment-by-results contracts agreed with Work Programme providers already give them “a clear financial incentive to support the hardest to help into work”. ERSA figures suggest around a quarter of ESA jobseekers have been unemployed for at least 11 years. The DWP says it recognises the “particular barriers facing many of the hardest to help”.

The Labour Party has seized on the request for extra resources as evidence that “there is something seriously wrong with the Work Programme”. Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne said: “It’s now crystal clear the system is failing – and the government isn’t fixing it. Three quarters of unemployed on the scheme haven’t even started a job, and half of young people still haven’t found their way into a single day’s employment.”

 One Work Programme provider, Bromford Group, tries to help some of the most challenging people referred to the scheme in the West Midlands. “It takes a heck of a lot of time to get through it but unless the government is willing to help, people like me and others aren’t going to have that support and I will end up back on the dole.” Bromford Group is a not-for-profit housing association often working with people facing multiple challenges. Its enterprise and employment manager James Walsh says the organisation cannot make the numbers add up when trying to help ESA claimants into work.

 Source: BBC NEWS


 19th June 2013




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