Last night's BBC news item on the Work Programme figures was a response to the officially-sanctioned spin on the latest performance data, not to be released for another week. This morning a few of the papers have picked up the ERSA's figures. No one seems bothered that this is all authorised by the DWP, as with the first year's figures, to extract the best publicity and deflect attention from next week's reality.
It appears that the best that can be said is that around 27% of those who have started the WP have found work. And it's better for the under-25s, at 40%. But what does that mean? These are not "sustained" jobs, the outcomes for which the providers get paid. They could be very temporary jobs, even single shifts. So the official figures are going to be much worse.
The scope for spin is immense. The Independent, which has a thoughtful piece, still manages to say silly things like "321,000 (27 per cent) started a job after being found one." They are unaware, apparently, that many of those jobs will owe nothing whatever to the WP provider; no one found them the job, they found it for themselves. But the paper still goes for the downside of the figures - three quarters of people on the WP haven't started a job.
The Mirror, naturally, emphasises the negative, that 900,000 sent on the WP haven't started any work. They end with a quote from A4e. "A spokeswoman for A4e, one of the biggest welfare-to-work providers, insisted that the figures showed 'a marked improvement'. 'It is gaining momentum,' the spokeswoman added."
The Financial Times tries to be even-handed, suggesting that "the scheme may be starting to deliver results". They quote Kirsty McHugh of the ERSA maintaining that "the improving economy and the fact that providers had simply got better at helping clients had contributed to the stronger performance".
So all we really know is that around 27% of WP clients have had some sort of job start; and that the figure is higher for the under-25s but much lower for those on ESA. (Can someone remind me of the projected dead-weight figure for Year 2, please.) It all sounds rather feeble. Yet Iain Duncan Smith and his team are happy for this preliminary spinning to take place. Perhaps we will now all ignore the true figures when they are released without fanfare next week.