- The government spent about £248m less than it anticipated on the WP in 2012 / 13 because the results were poorer than they expected.
- They support the "black box" approach (they shouldn't) but they want it balanced by minimum service standards. They point out that the providers are allowed to set their own standards which are currently "so vague as to allow providers to virtually ignore some jobseekers if they so choose".
- There are no figures for the numbers being referred to specialist sub-contractors.
- They want "a review of Work Programme sanctioning activity as a matter of urgency".
The media have picked up on various aspects of the report. The Mirror quotes the committee's chair, Dame Anne Begg, who said, "Too often, the reality seems to be Work Programme advisers swamped by caseloads of 120 to 180 jobseekers, and employers deluged with poorly matched CVs and under-prepared candidates." This is significant. We know that people are being made to apply for jobs they know they can't possibly get, and suspect that WP advisers are sending out CVs off their own bats.
The Telegraph picks out the fact that the WP is "failing single parents". The Independent talks about the problem of people who are "parked" because they're too difficult to help. The BBC news website picks up the "poorly matched CVs" point.
The BBC's Today Programme on Radio 4 this morning ran an item on the report - but bodged it as usual. They had a homeless man, Billy, whose experience of the WP was horrible. He'd been sanctioned for missing an appointment which had actually been cancelled. The interviewer, Sarah Montague, didn't know enough to bring this out, and Kirsty McHugh for the ERSA (the industry's trade body) was able to get away with blaming Jobcentre Plus for the "mistake". McHugh has copied the politicians' technique of talking fast and throwing out misleading "facts". She talked about 300,000 people being "helped into jobs" so far. When Montague questioned whether these were long-term jobs the answer was a fudge. And McHugh even stated that if a number of short-term jobs added up to 6 months, this was an outcome. Is it? Does anyone know whether the providers get paid for this?
I really hope that journalists (and I know that there are some who read this blog) will get the facts straight when the figures are finally published.
There have been some critical reactions to the Centre for Social Justice's report on "welfare ghettos". Chris Goulden of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation picks the CSJ's figures to bits in an excellent article on the Foundation's website, and insists that it's not people's attitudes which drive worklessness, but what he calls "decayed job markets". There's an angry response to the report by the leader of Birmingham City Council, in the Birmingham Mail. He talks about "character assassination" and emphasises the lack of jobs. The Guardian went to Hull, to the offices of the WP subcontractor Pertemps, and concluded that the jobs simply weren't there. But, of course, that's not the message which the government wants put out. Blame the victims, it's so much easier than doing something positive.