Monday, 26 November 2012

Don't expect much

The release of the Work Programme performance figures tomorrow will probably be something of an anticlimax.  We know what they amount to - performance targets, which were very low anyway, have been missed.  But there won't be any fuss.  The media are obsessed with Leveson, whose report is due out on Thursday, and this is just not interesting.  We can expect something in the Guardian, and probably in the Independent and on Channel 4 News.  But the excuses are already in, and who cares anyway?
Just in case, Mark Hoban has already written to coalition MPs telling them how to respond.  The New Statesman has the letter, and it's pathetic.  It's too early for the results to mean much, he says.  And in case anyone is looking too closely at the figures he's going to do a "data dump", throwing out there figures for previous programmes and various "ad hoc statistics".  This might serve to confuse the issue.  The letter concludes: “The Work Programme is designed to be a major improvement to welfare to work support, my goal is to drive forward its effective implementation. I hope you will join me in supporting the programme on the day.”
The Express, with its usual inability to join the dots, has a story today about a report from the Joseph Rowntree Trust describing the millions of workers living in poverty.  Job insecurity, short-term work, part-time working, all contribute to this.  The Independent goes for a report by three homelessness charities about what damage the Work Programme has done to the homeless.  One in five homeless people on the WP have been sanctioned, i.e. made even more destitute than they already are.  Yet 60% of the homeless had not even been asked about the problems they faced.  Charities continue to do for nothing what the WP providers are supposed to be doing for payment.
Yet we're being told that the failure of the WP is due to the double-dip recession.  The Indus Delta site covers a report by Inclusion on the effects of the government getting its forecasts wrong.  They expected growth of 2% but ended up with minus 0.4%.  That would reduce job outcomes by 15% in the first year of the WP.  So it's not the fault of the providers.  That's all right, then.
The main reason for disinterest tomorrow, however, will be that there is a narrative about unemployment, encouraged by the media and the government and accepted by the majority of the public, and the WP is a mere detail.  The welfare system is bloated and has to be cut back drastically.  Benefit-dependency has people living comfortable life-styles with no incentive to work.  There is plenty of work out there if people were willing to do it.  The failure of the government's flagship programme to address long-term unemployment is a minor matter.

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