On 1 December the Financial Times said that the WP was "hanging by a thread". The numbers of people out of work is forecast to rise, and Ian Mulheirn, director of the Social Market Foundation think-tank, said, "The combination of rising caseloads, falling labour demand, and the shift to 100 per cent outcome-based funding for providers is dire news for Work Programme viability." Mulheirn has warned before that WP providers could ask for a tax-payer bail-out if they can't make money. The director of another think-tank, Inclusion, says that "providers will be able to place an average of 7 per cent fewer people in work over the next five years than previously estimated." A spokesman for the DWP was determinedly upbeat: "even in these tough times there are jobs out there, with Jobcentre Plus taking 10,000 vacancies every working day."
Mark Lovell takes issue with this pessimism in a piece on A4e's website the next day. He is hampered by the fact that he is not supposed to publish outcome figures, but says that more than 7,000 people have got jobs via A4e since the launch of the WP. He says that, "Sustainment is higher than we forecast so far". We don't know, of course, what proportion of starts this represents. But he says that the money is coming in.