Friday, 28 June 2013

They've got away with it

It must be congratulations all round at the DWP.  The Work Programme results are terrible but hardly anyone has noticed, because the raw numbers are impressively big, and a week of spinning has convinced the largely gullible media that failure is actually success.  Well done, chaps.
But these are the figures (in percentages):

Why are there no headlines this time around about "its worse than doing nothing", as indeed it is for more than half the providers?  Leaving ESA aside for the moment, the minimum contracted figures - what the providers contracted to deliver - were only a tiny amount above the dead weight figure - what the DWP assumed would happen with no intervention at all, which means no money spent.  But half the companies couldn't even deliver that.  For JSA 18-24 the wooden spoon goes to A4e in South Yorkshire, which managed just 15.5%.  Yet Mark Hoban says, "The improvement in performance over the past year has been profound and the scheme is getting better and better."
The failure with ESA is inescapable, and some publications, like the Independent, choose to headline that.  But it's been spun for a week that this is down to lack of "resources", i.e. those on ESA need more money spent on them than the programme provides.  The excuses are somewhat tortured.  An outfit calling itself Inclusion (it describes itself as a "cutting-edge thought leader" but doesn't say where its funding comes from) wants to move the goalposts and take the economy into account.  It recognises that poor performance means less income so even poorer performance.  Another think-tank, the Social Market Foundation (equally cagey about where its funding comes from) says, confusingly, "Poor performance against the DWP's minimum levels cannot be taken as evidence that providers are doing a bad job or that the scheme offers poor value for money," because we don't know how a different approach would have fared.  The ERSA, the mouthpiece for the providers, declares that the government's way of measuring performance is wrong and that the targets should take the state of the economy into account.
The Financial Times tells us that "several providers have been put on watch for having their contract terminated."  12 contracts, they say, have been put under a "performance improvement notice".  But I would be very surprised if any providers do actually lose contracts.  In another piece the FT points out that the WP is "cheap and it isn't working".  The bidding process meant that companies said they could do it "at a lower cost than was probably wise", and so the profits aren't coming in which would enable them to spend enough to be successful.  It's that negative spiral which those actually experiencing the WP know only too well.  The article concludes with the opinion that Osborne is shifting money from the WP to the jobcentres.  Yet JCP has suffered big staff cuts recently.
In real business, as opposed to outsourcing, contracts have a legal reality.  They come with penalty clauses, punishing the contractor for failure to deliver.  In this business, the companies know that the minimum contractual requirements mean little or nothing.  The likes of A4e are used to missing their targets and still making loads of money.  The government has an interest in pretending that failure is, in fact, success.  When the model is payment by results (but not really) the contractors make less money; but the casualties are not the businesses but the people who have not received the service.
It is nonsense to blame the economic situation.  If the number of unemployed people who can get back into work depends on the state of the economy (and it probably does) then what is the point of a scheme like the Work Programme?  The companies are adding little or nothing to what would be happening anyway.
However, it appears that Iain Duncan Smith has got away with it.


  1. Totally agree,if as a Jobseeker,you fail to follow your Jobseekers agreement(contract),you are swiftly sanctioned with immediate results.Their seems to be a Big stick to get the unemployed in line over even the smallest breach of the "Rules",but regarding the WP(especially A4E,as they advised the DWP on the WP) they do not enforce the contract failures but ignore them,with what seems to be the DWP's approval.

  2. Sick of the Work Programme28 June 2013 at 02:21

    They might think they've got away with it, but it cheered me up no end this morning to see that the Mail, a paper which the tory party often relies on to help spread propaganda against benefit claimants, is actually slating the Work Programme!

  3. The FT is right in that additional money is going to JCP, but it's £30m (of which JCP will only see part of anyway) to provide enhanced support to the c.75% of people who leave the Work Programme without a job. It's a drop in the ocean.

    There may be more following Osborne's announcements, but the risk is that quantity of interventions will be prioritised over quality. If it's just a case of imposing more obligations rather than offering more support, then there's the risk that weekly signing may also be relatively cheap and ineffective.

    A little more energy spent on creating jobs, and particularly those that pay a living wage, rather than punishing people who are mostly doing the best they can already would be welcome.

    1. Badger,
      I do not disagree. But......
      "support" is DEEDUBYAPEE speak for "imposing more obligations".

      I am beginning to get the hang of the Orwellian Newspeak that pervades the W2W industry.

    2. Ah yes, sorry. I meant support in the old-fashioned sense of the word rather than the modern we have to make people destitute in order to save them one.

  4. I am getting to the end of the WP, and have been sent a letter saying I have to attend a mandatory 2 day course to ensure I am equipped to leave and that I have -

    CV (electronic and printed)
    UJM account
    email account
    ability to apply for jobs
    ability to send covering letters
    ability to send followup letters
    evidence that I have been applying for jobs

    Sounds reasonable perhaps, until you consider that I've been on this programme almost 2 years now and you'd expect them to have put most of this (excepting the UJM) in place within the first month, otherwise there's no hope of me getting a job.

    So for two days what am I going to be doing, since I have all of the above and have had for two years?

    1. I sat around for 2 days making a nuisance of myself. I read a book - until stopped from doing so. I then decided to write some stuff down - this made me look as if I was doing something (in case trainer's supervisor put in an unexpected appearance), it improved my calligraphy (does that count as a transferable skill?).
      All in all a waste of 2 days of my life - and a fitting microcosm of the whole 2 year WP experience.
      During the break I used their PC to peruse this and other sites, showing them to my fellow detainees and adding them to the favourites.
      Such fun!

    2. Coming upto two years on the scheme myself i leave in August. I can give evidence from my A4e advisor that I have been applying, apparently I am the highest applier on his entire caseload, hopefully I try to get 2 jobs a day. If they send me to that new scheme it will be a waste of time.

      My advisor at the Job centre didnt like it when I said I want to remove my email address from their system, She said "but how are we to track your UJM account" I have created a NEW email account just for UJM/government gateway and I am not telling anyone this exists I hate the implied government spying.

  5. The One True Elg28 June 2013 at 08:01

    I don't think the spin was how they got away with it, I believe it's the fact they delayed it's release until the day after the 2015/16 spending review, an event designed to set the parameters of the debate during the next election. Naturally much of the media attention has been focused on this and Labours response to that situation.

    If this was released last week I suspect it would've been a completely different matter. It seems the collective media is only able to scrutinise one issue at a time properly.

  6. Looking at the total WP attachments (1,160,800) against the number of Job Outcome payments that were made (131,920), we see a "success rate” of just 11.36% overall (around 1 in every 10 people).

    An average of 3.5% of work programme entrants between “1 June 2011 to 31 March 2012” achieved employment.

    An average of 12.7% of work programme entrants to have most recently complete 12months on the programme (those starting between January & March 2012) achieved employment.

    We can assume that the aforementioned “Work Programme entrants to most recently complete 12months on the programme”, are not long-term unemployed, but are instead much more likely to be 6-9months unemployed (depending on their age group).

    This is because claimants that are long-term unemployed (2years+) would have entered the Work Programme almost immediately and as such are far more likely to have been amongst the original 2 year cohort achieving the 3.5% “success rate”.

    We know that those claimants that were part of this original cohort are now in the process of completing their time with the Work Programme and will once again come under the remit of Job Centre Plus.

    This in turn suggests that the more recent 12.7% success rate is in fact generated only from claimants that are “shorter-term” unemployed and potentially easier to support to return to employment.

    With this in mind it’s possible to draw several conclusions:
    • The Work Programme is still only support 1 in 10 people to find work.
    • The improvement from 3.5% to around 13% is, at least in part, due to the programme currently working with less long-term unemployed clients, whom are often referred to as “low hanging fruit” for Work Programme Providers.
    • The Work Programme has failed the long-term unemployed; the majority of whom would have started the Work Programme almost immediately and as such are not contributing to the near 13% success rate. The claimants are due to return to the JCP over the next few months.

    "Three years into the parliament and nearly 9 out of 10 people on this flagship programme have been failed. Worst of all, the Government missed every single one of its minimum targets and in nearly half the country, the Work Programme is literally worse than doing nothing".
    Liam Byrne
    Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary

    "Ministers should know better than to try and spin the Work Programme as a huge success. Nearly two years on only 1 in 10 people has found proper work through the scheme - a number that drops to just three in every hundred for disabled people".
    Frances O’Grady
    TUC General Secretary

    1. I think it's got to the point that there are so many competing interpretations of WP stats knocking around that it's getting a little confusing to pick out what is, and isn't, meaningful. This is partly due to DWP's own ineptitude - their MPLs were faulty in a number of immediately obvious ways, and partly down to having no sort of control group to compare good or bad performance to - a product, I assume, of their belief that the private sector will innovate and succeed, or potentially, merely a consequence of putting large and costly interventions in the hands of people who have nothing in their professional CVs that could make one think they'd be any good at it.

      These may be helpful:


  7. At best they are hoping to keep this scam going until (A) The figures improve by themselves (B) Grab as much as you can while you can,similar to a Ponzi Scheme (C)The longer it runs the lower amount of success,percentage wise is required (D)All of the above

    1. I don't see the WP figures improving, even if the ESA figures are taken out. Up here in South Yorkshire there is an underlying problem of unemployment. I think the WP money could be put to better use - give it directly to local charities and councils to provide proper paid Training and/or work.

  8. Obi Wan Kenobi29 June 2013 at 06:03

    Full Detailed Information on what happens when you go back to the JCP after The Work Programme.

    Exit Reports, Hit Squads and the Work Programme.

    1. You may note from the second FT article Historian mentions that "Ministers like to point out that it" (the WP) "is much cheaper than the Future Jobs Fund, costing about £40 per person per month, compared with more like £100 on the FJF."

    2. In a contract that's almost entirely PbR though, and particularly one which (at least notionally) relies on the DEL:AME funding model, being cheap is the last thing one should brag about.

      Interesting and bold comparison to make re. FJF - it wasn't perfect (what is?) but by most measures it was the most effective active labour market intervention there's ever been in the UK.

    3. Thanks for that link OBI. It is a mine of really useful information.
      Thanks to whoever J Roberts is too.
      Everyone returning to the JCP after the WP should spend a bit of time with the documents - particularly the PWPS (Post Work Programme Support) Guidance.
      Forewarned is forearmed.
      Knowledge is power.

      Thanks again.

    4. According to a pdf published at 61 per cent of the cost of the Work Programme was attachment fees, which were 447 million pounds.

  9. Well here's a surprise, not. and I wonder what spin they can possible put on this. - Impact of housing benefit changes 'worse than feared'

  10. So far 132 thousand customers have achieved some sort of work and the DWP has paid 736 million pounds to the contractors. Cost per outcome..? Customers were/are still in receipt of various benefits too..? Couldn't organise a ..?

  11. Had an E-mail from my Provider on a Saturday,rescheduled appointment for Tuesday 2 July(moved it up) slightly panicky undertones,checked with a few others and they also have the same appointment,Group session? They were one of the worst performers.Will post what happens.

    1. Just got back,over 25 JSA group sessions,quick in and out(you may request individual one on one with the Adviser on a case by case basis) I talked with a member of staff and their main focus will be on the under 25s because of WIS (Wage Incentive Scheme) which equates to costing the Employer .10p per hour for an apprenticeship,this has appealed to a lot of small businesses and charities...Think I have been parked!

  12. Have you seen this.. Could be interesting.. aka scary for the providers French jobless sue job centre for failing them

    A group of angry jobseekers in France are aiming to make history as they prepare to sue the country's employment agency. Their grievance? The job centre failed to do enough to find them work and they are demanding €1.8 million in damages.

    1. I can't see that working too well here. You remember the trouble people went through when they tried to have money they lost because of sanctions? It would be more or less the exact same thing. The government and the DWP would fight tooth and nail and in the end it would just cost the public more money in legal fees.

  13. Sick of the Work Programme2 July 2013 at 04:49

    Chris_2812- the battle against money lost through sanctions is not over. Cait Reilly is back in court on 29th July to challenge the DWP's retroactive JSA legislation:

    1. I didn't realise it was still on going, forgive my ignorance. Then again, it hasn't been in the news much lately, on TV I mean. Question is, how many others are going through the same battle? Cait Reilly's case was the only one in the news a while ago, if I remember correctly.

    2. Obi Wan Kenobi2 July 2013 at 10:34

      Already marked this in on my calender, this Supreme Court case will be very important and if Cait wins it will basically blow the DWP out of the water, and all their MWA's will go bye bye.

      I hope the court also charges the DWP (IDS and Hoban) with contempt of the High Court ruling and makes futher ruling that their decision this time can't be retroactivly changed.

  14. I hope many followed the Work & Pensions questions on Mon 1st. WP was mentioned a few times.

    There's also a Hansard version.

    Does anyone know if workfare/MWA is/has been counted towards the WP in-work results.

    1. MWA, work experience and so on aren't counted.

    2. People on workfare placements ARE counted as "employed"


    3. We knew that they were counted as being in work for the unemployment statistics but the question is whether they are so counted for the WP stats. I think not, but don't have a definitive answer.

    4. The One True Elg3 July 2013 at 11:52

      My suspicion is they are counted for job starts but not job outcomes, but I don't have evidence to back that up. I just think the job starts figure is a bit high.

    5. Today at PMQs in response to a Q about none of the providers reaching their MPLs, the PM said 312,000 had been helped into work.

      I agree with TOTE that this number must include everything, especially considering ~50% are parked. Where are all these people - on social media for example, that have been helped into 'paid' work. And where are the advisors claiming much improved results.
      It doesn't add up.

      I get the option to Delete my own, and others posts here!

    6. I don't understand most of what you say. Please make sure your comments are coherent.

  15. We know that only 10% are getting job outcomes (many of which have been lowered to only 3 months), but the WP are claiming around 30% job starts....if 2/3rds of job starts are disappearing I think it's safe to assume they are including work trials in that figure.

  16. Statistics eh!
    Lies, Damn lies, and statistics.
    The key figure is sustained job outcomes because this is the measure by which the providers get paid.
    Of course in order for there to be an outcome there has to be at least one job start. But the ratio of job starts to job outcomes is most definitely not 1:1. This is because many job starts are short term. temporary type jobs which see the customer back unemployed and on the WP within weeks or even days of the job start. To try to use job starts as a measure of success (as in the statement that x thousand have been helped into work)is completely disingenuous. Using the "reduction ad absurdum" test it could be that if one person had a thousand "job starts" - it would be clearly stupid to trumpet the "success" of 1000 job starts.
    Bottom line is we know the WP has failed (yes, past tense now!). We know that the clever people at ERSA, in league with the DWP, are muddying the waters. Sooner or later this failure will be seen as such by all the media and even the BBC might have to report it as such.

    1. I hate to be pedantic (well, no I don't, and I do have a Latin O Level) it's "reductio ad absurdum".

    2. Couple of comments - job outcomes haven't been reduced to 3 months - they were always 3 months in the case of JSA Early Access, and have always been 6 months for the other groups. No change there.

      With regard to job starts vs. job outcomes, the only data published as official statistics relate to job outcomes. ERSA's figures are, whilst reasonably robust as far as they go, informal. In terms of the relationship between job starts and hitting the outcome trigger point, the current assumption is that around 65% of starts will convert to outcomes, although there are variations between payment groups.

    3. Historian,
      You are right it is "reductio"
      I too was a Latin scholar.

      Unfortunately my spoolchucker wasn't!


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