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.