The PM programme on Radio 4 tonight included an item on the Work Programme which managed to pack most of the issues into a few minutes. The headline is that the ERSA (the trade body for welfare-to-work companies) has been allowed by the DWP to publish some rough and ready figures about how the WP is doing. Among the first batch on the scheme, who started 6 months ago, 20% have found work. But that figure disguises the fact that in two areas of the country, the South West and part of Scotland, the proportion is actually only 10%. And in Liverpool A4e has managed only 10%. No one mentioned the "dead weight" figure, the number which would be expected to get work without any intervention - but it's more than 10%. One man interviewed (one of our correspondents, I believe) said that he had been on the New Deal programme, Flexible New Deal and now the Work Programme, all with A4e. He felt he had received no help, and had had only one interview, which he got by his own efforts.
Barnsley Council is a WP contractor, and their spokesman was less reticent than other providers to talk about the problems. There are simply not enough jobs. Employers will not take the long-term unemployed, preferring immigrant workers if they can't get recently employed British workers. Providers, he said, are picking the low-hanging fruit i.e. concentrating on those with the most recent work record.
A voluntary organisation which has a proven track record in getting the hardest to help, like ex-offenders, into jobs said they were being asked by prime contractors to deliver programmes for them - for no payment.
Chris Grayling was briefly interviewed, and reminded me of someone who sticks his fingers in his ears and says, "La la la, can't hear you!". It's in line with expectations, he said. It's on track. No, that's not over-optimistic. You're just misusing figures. The NAO report was wrong. There will be no changes.