Sunday, 14 April 2013

Failing Work Programme and dodgy statistics

A report from the DWP itself makes fascinating reading, according to an article in the Guardian online.  The private companies given the contracts say that they can't afford to provide what they contracted to provide.  They can't give the one-to-one support except "where necessary".  They can't provide even things like basic skills "to the level that would really make a difference to the customer".  And it's all because of the "high level of demand" - too many people being referred.
The government response is limp and misleading.  It claims that 207,000 long-term unemployed have been put into work, and the scheme is providing value to tax-payers.  Nonsense.  These companies bid for the contracts with their eyes wide open.  In some cases their bids seemed unrealistic even to the DWP.  But the government can't pull the plug now.  To end the contracts prematurely would cost a great deal more money. And what do they do then?  It would be an admission that the whole model was deeply flawed from the start.  There's nothing to put in its place unless they're prepared to go back to the drawing board.  And so to save face they will probably renegotiate the contracts.  The people who will continue to lose out are the "customers" (who, we insist, are not actually the customers at all).

Iain Duncan Smith will cling to his pet projects as long as he can, and once again he's under fire for "manipulating" statistics to suit his case.  First there was the claim that vast numbers of people had rushed to sign on to sickness and disability benefits to forestall the new assessment regime.  Then we heard that even before the benefits cap came in, loads of people had decided to get work - a puzzling interpretation of the facts.  That annoyed Jonathan Portes, who used to be the chief economist at the DWP and is now director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.  He told the Radio 4 Today programme that it showed a consistent pattern of ministers manipulating statistics for their own political ends.  Maybe it's true, he said, but the analysis hadn't been done so you simply shouldn't say it.  (See an article in the Independent.)  It's probably the case that IDS doesn't see the point here.  He wants it to be true, so it is.  And, of course, the right-wing press is only too eager to snap up these highly dubious figures to bolster their own case.


  1. The private companies given the contracts say they "did not have the funding to provide the level of support they wanted".

    So let's get this straight. Is this a naked attempt by the W2W providers to bleed ever more more cash from the taxpayer? Sounds very much like it. Remember the banking bail outs the public are still so angry about? Remember those praising Margaret Thatcher right now saying how state owned industries had to be funded by the taxpayer? Fair enough.

    But if the above points are fair enough, then people should be, and indeed NEED to be very angry at the W2W sector getting a single pound extra! The providers involved in the WP knew the costs involved and bid accordingly. No other sector (banking aside) would receive special favours or treatment under such circumstances.

  2. They can't give the one-to-one support except "where necessary".

    Is this where a4E are breaching disability discrimination because they can't cope with my visual accuity problem? So because I'm one person it's not necessary for them to sort their computers out.
    Imagine if all companies took that line - "only where necessary"
    Damn, we can't cope with the disabled because we don't have the cash, let's say it's not necessary.

  3. The WP is starting to be "Cult" like,has it produced results? NO,as my Adviser has said "I do not understand"the big picture! To an extent they are right,I have not got a Bloody clue what they exist for.

    1. The big picture!? the work preogramme is one big expensive joke and its not funny.

    2. I agree that the Work Programme has a cult like feel to it.

      Last week an adviser who I had never met before bluntly stated to me that "there is no reason why you should be out of work." He then went on to state that between sixty to seventy percent of jobs are never advertised.

      I didn't think it was worth the effort of disputing either statement because I sensed that the conversation would turn nasty.

      It was bit like when I used to go to night clubs and some thug pushed me. The question arises as to whether there's a point in pushing back, or is it just wiser to walk away because there is no benefit in getting into a brawl?

      When I go for my Work Programme appointments I sit in the reception area and watch the interaction between the staff as they speak to hollow faced, shabbily dressed, round shouldered, middle aged men.

      The staff outline the details of jobs on zero hours contracts miles away from the city centre bus routes with the excitement of children on Christmas Eve.

      Do the staff believe these jobs are a solution for these men, rather than just another problem?

      The whole Work Programme has an Alice in Wonderland feel to it. You attend job clubs and are handed out booklets which are nothing more than print outs from the Universal Jobmatch. Why bother to print them out when you are expected to use the WEBSITE to apply for these jobs?

      Often if you then look on the employers own website the jobs page has a message that says "sorry no vacancies." Do these jobs really exist at all?

      People who are clearly unwell, are expected to pretend they have no barriers to employment and are fit to work. No employer is going to hire some of the people I see shuffling around the tables during the interview skills class.

      The last time I went into the Job Centre I was asked what I thought about the Work Programme. I replied that I do what I am required to do. The Employment Officer shifted in her seat and looked annoyed. She said I would get more out of the scheme if I "engaged" with it I said nothing - what is the point?

      I have often mused that attending the Work Programme is a lot like attending church in the Middle Ages. You are are required to attend and sanctioned if you don't. And while there you have to listen to the designated hypocrite preaching stories about the miracle of the hidden jobs market, and the heavenly paradise of the zero hours contract, all the while nodding and singing hallelujah.

    3. I don't agree with your last paragraph. In the Middle Ages almost everyone believed in what was being preached.

    4. Seems an odd statement. On the whole JCP staff hate the Work Programme and go out of their way to vilify it. JCP gets nothing out the the WP, it is the competition, if somebody reaches it then they have failed....and they know that 2 years later they get the toughest cases right back after they've been 'parked' for 24 month.

      I'm yet to meet a JCP representative who doesn't make jokes at the WP's expense!

  4. Errmm... Wasn't the whole point of this "payment by results" thing based on the providers funding training & interventions themselves and claiming the outcome payments on getting a customer in to long term work ?

    As I recall, Ms Harrison (and others) made a big thing about investment bonds and how profitable the returns would be - The providers knew the risks before bidding on these contracts. If they can not deliver within the framework they accepted, either shut up or be held in breach of contract.

    1. The One True Elg15 April 2013 at 00:00

      If this was a free market that would certainly be true, but it isn't. If the programme fails then it reflects poorly on the government as well as the providers, which means the DWP has conflict of interest. On one side, holding providers to task. On the other, Ian Duncan Smiths pride and the narrative the government fights the next election on.

      This means the providers are unaccountable to the contract because government would rather the contract was altered than the contract collapsed.

      This is one of the fundamental reasons privatisation can't work, because the Governments self interest means it can't run an accountable free market.

    2. Anonymous - yes, the idea was that through raising money through investment (bonds and suchlike) that operational funding for the Work Programme would come from 3rd party investors. Unfortunately (and this isn't just an A4e thing) it didn't work out like that; the contracts were widely thought to be uninvestable.

      As an aside, there's an inherent tension to designing a PbR initiative and then claiming it's a triumph because it's cheap. If the Work Programme was successful, the cost per participant would be quite high; the fact that it isn't is a consequence of lower than expected outcome and sustainment payments. As attachment payments drop away, there seems to be a risk that the whole thing could face a crunch - increasing flows onto the Programme and ever-diminishing money to do anything with them.

      DWP ministers have said repeatedly that they wouldn't renegotiate contracts, but this does look like the first public attempt to soften the subject up. Some of their complaints are legitimate - the economy is in a worse shape than optimists expected, and the job market has changed in ways that weren't predicted - more part time working, more zero hours contracts and more fixed (and short) term contracts. All of these will adversely impact the performance of the Programme and are, in a sense, things that Primes can feel aggrieved about.

      However, the modelling that Primes did (or are assumed to have done - I have doubts about the seriousness and sophistication of their efforts) should have ensured that their bids were robust enough to cope unexpected but not unforeseeable factors such as the above. Most of them didn't put in realistic bids, and the combination of this and a deeply flawed PbR model from DWP was always likely to be problematic.

  5. Am i the only person being "adviced" to put leaflets through peoples doors advertising my services as a gardner etc? "even £10 a week earned is better than nothing the "advisors" say!! mmmmmm then the hassle of "declaring" that money!

  6. If the WP providers do receive yet more taxpayers cash, it will provide a stark contrast between the benefit caps that are being piloted from today in London. A family will be limited to a maximum of £500 per week and a single person to £350 a week.

    So the message is clear. If on benefits, you'll have your these payments capped WHATEVER the circumstances. YET if you administer a failing scheme on behalf of the government, you can openly complain that you receive too little funding and the chances are you will be given yet more money! Bravo!

  7. It was announced today that back to work scheme ''Genesis Cymru'' is to close down. Since 2008 this scheme managed to find jobs for just 800 people at a cost of £36 million!

  8. off topic but relevant? (£36 million pound back-to-work scheme is being wound up early....)

    1. Wow - so (as the article says) that's an average cost per job of ££44,735!!!
      and these will be mostly part time lowly paid jobs which would probably have been filled anyway - at zero cost.
      A microcosm of the WP? or maybe this lot make even A4e look good?

    2. What is sad is the fact that these Programmes are failing,the people that run these Programmes still have their job's and the people (clients,customers) bear the burden of their failures. As a Client I am subject to sanctions,if I fail to meet my obligations,as I have a Contract,which I must meet on a weekly basis or face the music,should this not work both ways? For a long time I have felt that the main purpose of the WP was to support the WP the customer was merely a by-product(a reason to exist) cynical? Yes I think I am,depressed? Yes,after 2 years unemployed and after £7000.00 in JSA,it would of been cheaper to afford some Training.

  9. The target was insane to start with "the target when the programme began in 2008 was around £13,000-per job".

    We know that somebody moving from JSA to a year long sustained job is only worth £8,100 tops to the economy (see the Freud Report). So even if it had been on target they'd have been running at huge losses!

  10. What I find grossly offensive about the work programme is that the Conservatives knew it was doomed to failure before it started.The Government is advised by top economists and they will have told them that the basic problem was the lack of jobs.You dont have to be a genius to do the maths.
    You cant push people into non existent work, its impossible.The only things that will help the unemployed are economic growth and investment in training opportunities.
    Its a total scandal that this money has been squandered in this way.However most members of the general public cant think past the they should be working-dole scroungers mentality.
    I think there needs to be some type of inquiry into this.

    1. It is actually quite easy to push people into non existent jobs, as I found out at my last WP attendance. Simply declare yourself a self employed gardener / ebay seller / tarot card reader (this was an actual suggestion)... And hey presto, all the working tax credits you can eat will be lavished upon you!

    2. True.... up to a point. The point being when HMRC decide that your self employment is spurious and reclaim all those tax credits. But why should the "provider" care? They've had their outcome and the bounty on your head so it's no skin of their nose if you're left footing the bill.

  11. i have no contract with my provider so they cant sanction me.
    they did try but had it reversed and they lost.

    been on it from the start and just prove i look for work every 2 weeks at the jcp.

    wp is all smoke and daggers

  12. Out of interest when do the work programme contracts come up for renewal? and this may be a stupid question but are they likely to be renewed even though its performing so poorly?

  13. Surreal experience at last FJR (fortnightly job review) - First my "advisor" asked me if there was anything they could do to help me find work?!?!? He also warned me that as they had a limited amount of funding there was to be no help wth travel expenses.

    Net result of being attached to the Gravy Train Programme, Provider gets £400 attachment fee, I have to source my own jobs (no change there), fund any job interview myself (JCP was happy to pay travel expenses before) and on getting the job generate a Job Outcome payment of £1200 for the Provider who has done nothing!!

    (Consent to contact employers being withdrawn as we speak)


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