Monday, 2 July 2012

Give them more money

You may remember that when Channel 4 News revealed A4e's current performance figures last Thursday, they rolled out Ian Mulheirn to say what he thought of them.  It didn't matter at the time who Ian Mulheirn is, but he pops up again today in the Guardian to give his take on what's wrong with the Work Programme.  It's a bizarre analysis, which concludes that providers should get more money and have less expected of them.  So who is this man who gets a newspaper article to air his views?

Mulheirn runs something called the Social Market Foundation - a think tank.  It proclaims itself to be "a leading cross-party think tank, developing innovative ideas across a broad range of economic and social policy.  We champion policy ideas which marry markets with social justice and take a pro-market rather than free-market approach. Our work is characterised by the belief that governments have an important role to play in correcting market failures and setting the framework within which markets can operate in a way that benefits individuals and society as a whole."  Which sounds nice and cuddly.  But with think tanks one should always follow the money.  Where does their funding come from?  They show it on their website.  The money comes from a variety of sources, but nearly half of it comes from private business, including Avanta and G4S.  

Mulheirn believes that the reason for the apparent failure of the WP is the state of the economy. The minimum performance targets are based on forecasts of growth done in 2010, but these have proved way too optimistic.  The providers can't control the labour market.  The solution, then, is to:
i) "tone down the proportion of payments made for achieving job outcomes. In the depths of recession, the priority must be to make sure jobseekers get the help they need. For that they need the money to provide it."
ii) "Second, it (the government) should reassess its expectations of what's achievable in a recession, and formally link minimum performance levels to the latest OBR forecast."  And
iii)  "the government should look at re-engineering the Work Programme so that a large proportion of the payment to providers is based on their performance compared with those of other providers, rather than judging them on inflexible targets and crucifying them when the economy falters."

 Mulheirn seems to want a return to something like the on-programme payments of privatised New Deal and FND.  That certainly created big profits for the companies but the outcomes were half what they forecast.  The money did not go into providing the support or skills training that clients needed.  There is no reason to suppose that it would be any different this time.  And how would revising down the performance targets help?  If the current 5.5% minimum was reduced to, say, 3.5% what is the point of the Work Programme at all?  You are just shovelling money into private companies which could be used to create real jobs.  As for comparing providers' performance with each other rather than with an objective standard; they have always performed similarly badly.  They would go on comfortably doing so.

The comments which follow the Guardian article are mostly very sensible.  What a pity that we can't engage Mulheirn in real debate.


  1. so if they change the 5.5% down to 2.5 % then they arent failing they are succeeding beyond the dreams of....

    How can anyone who earns money from a company, make a decision that isnt a conflict of interest. At best its a conflict of interest. At worst..

  2. So give the work programme primes more money? How about setting up a direct grant from the DWP to the client for proper training and make sure that the Prime cannot touch it (or run the training)The last results under FND were very poor,the reason for the New WP was that it was a better model,now they are back tracking yet again.Why not just use the JCP or at least a better model of it..On a side note A4E stated that Emma Harrison deserved her £8.6 Mil Dividend because they took personal financial risks,seems like now there money (actually taxpayers)could be on the line they want to change the rules that they helped set up.

  3. If A4e and other W2W firms cannot even hit 5.5%, then that is their problem. Okay, the WP as with the ND and FND was a badly designed and flawed program from the very start. Very much like a newly built frigate or destroyer leaving the shipyard for the very first time complete with a pre-torpedoed hold in the side!

    However, as they say a bad workman always blames his tools / instruments. Business is a risk. As such, the W2W sector has to accept that if they took on contracts under an unworkable system, that's a risk they decided to take.

    Of course, what is telling is the fact that a jobseeker who decides to apply for just a couple of jobs a fortnight will be told he is not hitting his or her minimum target of whatever their jobcentre or W2W advisor has set for them. Such a jobseeker could face being sanctioned leading to suspension of benefits.

    And yet the W2W sector has excuses made for them time and time again, as with the Guardian article highlighted by above. Where are THEIR sanctions?????

  4. When there is a change of government there needs to be a Royal Commission about all this. Those responsible for setting up this Work Programme and the companies involved need to be held to account.

  5. I quote:
    "a leading cross-party think tank, developing innovative ideas across a broad range of economic and social policy. We champion policy ideas which marry markets with social justice and take a pro-market rather than free-market approach."
    Can anyone translate this gibberish for me?

    Just spent an interesting hour reading the Grauniad comments (and making a few). This may be wishful thinking(or a glass of cheap red too many) but I think I begin to detect a change in the tide of public opinion. Time will tell.

  6. Have been having a Discussion with The author of that article.. He is saying where does it say they need more money for doing less..I quoted the 3 paragraphs. last line of paragraph 10, paragraph 11, and 12.

    Remember grayling and devereux both said no more money to these providers, I think we need to remind them when they said it. Throwing more money after schemes that do not work. Nothing is ever said about job creation which would cost less and do more..

  7. Ian Mulheirn has been criticising the Work Programme scheme for the thick end of a year now, as Googling his name reveals. He has also been predicting that the WP providers would find themselves unable to meet the minimum performance targets laid down by the DWP:

    Mulheirn seems to have a woolly idea that chucking more money at the WP providers will enable them to "help" jobseekers more (though he hasn't said how) and that this idea will somehow save the Work Programme scheme.

    Mulheirn's arguments are flawed. The only thing that will save the Work Programme scheme is massive job-creation. The Govt is the only organisation which would be able to create huge numbers of new jobs quickly but the present Govt seems to be determined not to do that any time soon, therefore the Work Programme scheme is certain to fail, in my view. Chucking more money at the contractors who provide the WP scheme will not solve the problem, nor will re-calculating the way they are paid.

    1. I agree with your comments, no more money should be chucked at the contractors who provide the WP programme. WP programme one big failure. All of these should be scrapped. Bring back the old original Job Centre.

    2. Scrap the work programme now. then lets an independent inquiry as to the outrageous waste of money put into it.

  8. Comment

    Just to say Historian that I received a letter in my absence from the Rent Officer saying my Landlord, a huge Housing Association, is requesting a gigantic increase in my rent ie £42 per week! The Landlord also lied in the form saying my rent wasn't already registered ..... It is.

    If I were to start a job, this would be a huge factor surely as to whether it would be financially viable to do so .....

    1. The HAs always ask for higher rents than are likely to be approved, so it may well not turn out as bad as you think. Do reply to the letter and point out their "mistake".
      But yes, it makes a difference to the viability of work.


Keep it clean, please. No abusive comments will be approved, so don't indulge in insults. If you wish to contact me, post a comment beginning with "not for publication".