Remember the Work Programme? Of course you do. But, like so much of what this government has done, the WP has been forgotten by most of the media; and its successor, "Help to Work", is just being ignored.
But the businesses contracted to deliver the WP have to plough on until 2016. And A4e has resumed its practice of inviting MPs into their local offices to admire what they're doing. Rob Wilson, Tory MP for Reading East, said, “I was very pleased to hear that A4e has seen a reduction in client numbers because of the success of the Work Programme getting people back into work and off benefits. Clients are supported by A4e staff after starting work to help ensure they are able to manage in their job. This extra support is essential to keep people in the new job.” John Bercow, Tory MP for Buckingham (and Speaker of the Commons) was equally impressed by A4e's work in Milton Keynes. Another cheer-leader is Dan Finn, Professor of Social Inclusion at Portsmouth University. He's written a piece on Serco's own website asking, "Is it working?" and concluding that it is, with a few caveats. And yet .... Huge amounts of money have been spent on this, with very low targets which are not being met. It was meant to solve unemployment and certainly hasn't.
So IDS came up with "Help to Work". It was supposed, after a delay, to start yesterday, but there's another delay. Could that be because of the difficulties in finding placements for all those sentenced to workfare? There's a good piece on the Ekklesia website, and another on ThirdSector's site. A growing number of voluntary organisations and local councils have signed up to a boycott of the scheme. If they can't find placements with charities and councils the firms with the contracts will have to offer this free labour to private companies. But, ostrich-like, "A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: 'Referrals to the placements have begun and the placements will begin shortly. There has been no delay. Charities are under no obligation to be in the scheme, but those who are recognise the benefits of it.'"
Despite the fact that everything he has touched has turned to dross, Iain Duncan Smith believes it's all wonderful. If you can stomach it, read his speech on welfare reform in Berlin. And if we needed confirmation that IDS has a headlock on the BBC, it comes in the Express. Talking about the Tories' promise of an EU referendum, "Iain Duncan Smith lashed out at the BBC for failing to give enough prominence to Mr Cameron’s promise of an in-out vote in 2017. The Work and Pensions Secretary said 'most people' do not even know about the pledge. A BBC spokeswoman said: 'We are satisfied that we have covered the EU referendum promise.'"