The latest batch of Work Programme statistics is due for release on Thursday, 26 September. I don't expect anything startling. And I don't expect the media to take an interest. The significant numbers will be the outcomes for the long-term jobless, and the "sustainment" payments. The latter will give an indication of whether providers can cope financially with the contracts. Comparisons between providers also matter. We can expect the headline, from both the DWP and the ERSA, to be raw numbers, which tell us nothing.
There's another important set of figures which the government has obviously decided to bury - the data on sanctions. They were due out last May but the DWP waffled about quality issues with the data. Then there were indications that the delay might be down to the hiatus caused by the high court ruling and the need to legalise what had been declared illegal. Then there was a hint that an announcement would be made in August. Still nothing. But we do have an announcement that there will be "an independent review of benefit sanctions". Don't get your hopes up. This is only to look at the "clarity of information" given to JSA claimants about the process. It's to be carried out by a think-tanker, a theorist called Matthew Oakley. I wonder if he will talk to anyone who has been punished. A comment by Mark Hoban is insulting: "It is important that Jobseekers know exactly what is expected of them when they apply for Jobseeker's Allowance, and that they risk having their benefits sanctioned if they fail to play by the rules." [My italics] Perhaps it's a game to you, Mr Hoban, but not to those who suddenly find themselves penniless. There is so much about this regime that should be examined by a qualified independent person. He might, for instance, consider a story in Sunday's Observer which shows that one in three homeless people on JSA have been penalised, compared to about 3% of jobseekers overall. But this review is simply a cosmetic exercise.
That last story, the Observer article, ends in the now familiar way, with a quote from that shadowy figure, the DWP spokesman. This person always makes political statements of dubious accuracy, but is never named. Is this a civil servant doing his master's bidding? Or a political aide to whom IDS has passed the buck? Either way, if the journalists can't get a comment directly from those responsible, i.e. the politicians, they should refuse to publish this anonymous nonsense.