Emma Harrison, former head of poverty pimps A4e, was mauled on Channel 4 News this week after figures were released suggesting less than 4% of people have found work after being sentenced to the Work Programme with the company.
The Work Programme is Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship scheme aimed at bullying long term unemployed people into low paid work or workfare.
Claimants on the Work Programme can be forced to undertake any activity that private sector spivs like Emma Harrison decide will help them find work. Brutal benefit sanction, which can lead to extreme poverty and even homelessness, are inflicted on those who do not comply. Despite this unprecedented power over people’s lives being handed to the likes of A4e and G4S, all the evidence suggests that the Work Programme is a dismal failure.
Emma Harrison, who is still the largest share holder of the fraud ridden welfare to work firm – despite resigning last year after repeated fraud scandals – claimed that Channel 4’s figures were wrong. Despite this denial, she refused to offer any alternative numbers and complained she was being bullied – a mealy mouthed claim given that allegations of A4e bullying benefit claimants are rife.
The Government have steadfastly refused to provide any performance figures for the Work Programme, despite repeatedly hailing it a huge success. Figures promised last Spring were postponed to November and it now appears the DWP may be trying to push back the date even further. The DWP statistical release calendar suggests only the numbers of people who have started on the Work Programme will be released next month – not the number of those who have actually found work. Channel 4’s Factcheck blog states that the release date for performance figures is now ‘not confirmed’.
Long term unemployment has risen month on month throughout the alleged fall in overall unemployment. Despite this A4e’s figures, if true, represent a new low for the welfare to work sector which has already squandered almost billion pounds of tax payers cash on the Work Programme.
The DWP have previously published what they claimed were preliminary figures on the scheme which showed that 24% of early participants left benefits for at least 13 weeks during the programme. This derisory figure does not necessarily mean that people got jobs. Many participants will have retired, started full time education or training, or moved onto another benefit due to pregnancy or illness.
Curiously the Channel 4 factcheckers appear to have bought DWP spin that only around 5% of people would be expected to find work without any help from the Work Programme. The true figures, as this report from the National Audit Office shows (PDF), is 28% as Channel 4’s Factcheck has previously reported.
The Government made wild claims that 35% of people on the Work Programme would find work due to the wonders of the payment by results system. In truth all welfare to work contracts have had an element of payment by results ever since the introduction of Tony Blair’s New Deal in 1997.
With the performance figures for the Work Programme so bad that the Government is terrified to even tell us what they are, payment by results seems to mean that we pay whilst the DWP hushes up the results.
You can watch Emma squirm at: http://www.channel4.com/news/catch-up/display/playlistref/241012