The second sense of the title is looking to the end of the current contracts. Now, if you wanted some advice on a new model Work Programme, would you ask one of the current providers who has just been penalised for performing very badly? Not if you have any sense. But, undaunted by their own reputation, A4e has published their recommendations. So what do they suggest?
- existing contracts should be extended "for well-performing providers" but "the re-tendering of the contracts of poorly-performing providers". How odd. As things stand, this wouldn't exactly benefit A4e. Long term, though, it would be disastrous, concentrating the contracts and the money in fewer and fewer hands.
- "the most disadvantaged jobseekers" should be referred to the WP from "day one". These lucky people would, apparently, be selected by the Jobcentres following an initial assessment. While this is being implemented they want all young people and all over-50s to be referred as soon as they are unemployed. This is certainly attractive to companies like A4e. Those most likely to get work are those who have been out of a job for the shortest time. So A4e would be able to claim all those job outcomes without doing anything at all. The argument about "the most disadvantaged", however, can only make sense if the companies are offering anything the Jobcentre can't. Two years of the WP strongly suggests that they are not, and will not.
- the payments system should be changed to reflect the "scale of barriers" clients face.
- some groups should be allowed to stay on the WP longer.
- there should be partial outcome payments for steps such as part-time (under 16 hours) jobs.
- the DWP should lead a drive to get employers to take on the long-term unemployed. Well, that was supposed to be what the WP primes were doing, and have largely failed to do.
- WP clients (A4e always uses the word "customers, but I won't) should be able to access New Enterprise Allowance funding.
- personal budgets should be introduced. The paragraphs on this are so jargon-ridden as to be opaque, but it boils down to letting the provider have access to funds to address the perceived needs of the hardest-to-help.
All these recommendations are interesting, but wrong. The Work Programme is an expensive failure, and the solution is not to give the companies more money and power.