A tragic statistic hidden in the quarterly report on the performance of the Work Programme proves beyond doubt that both this and the last government’s welfare reforms have been an abject failure.
Buried in the Supplemental Tables at the end of the report are the Work Programme performance figures for ESA Ex-Incapacity Benefit claimants. These are claimants who were previously on Incapacity Benefit and have been re-assessed by Atos as able to do some kind of work and placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of Employment Support Allowance (ESA).
These are the people that the right wing press have all too often smeared as frauds, who were faking or over-exaggerating their conditions. People with cancer in some cases, or serious mental health conditions, Multiple Sclerosis or HIV. They are the people who in some desperate incidents have been driven to suicide by the stressful and demeaning Atos assessments. The same group who the Daily Mirror revealed were dying at a rate of 32 people a week after being placed in the Work Related Activity Group.
31,600 people from the ESA Ex-Incapacity Benefit group have started on the Work Programme so far. Just 310 of them have achieved a sustained job outcome, which in many cases means just three months work. Of those who had been on the Work Programme for one year in July 2013, just 0.9% had found a job lasting three months or longer.
This group of claimants is important because they have been impacted by almost every area of welfare reform, from the Labour introduced Work Capability Assessment, to the Work Programme and even workfare. Those in the WRAG part of ESA can now be sent on full time workfare on the Work Programme or face benefits being stopped.
In many ways this group of claimants are what Welfare Reform has been all about. Attempting to harass the not quite sick and disabled enough into work was intended to show how anyone, with a bit of a push from welfare-to-work companies, can get a job if they just try hard enough.
Work Programme providers who are able to find people in this group a job are paid thousands of pounds. Companies like A4e and G4S have been given free rein to mandate these claimants to do whatever they deem necessary, including workfare, in a bid to try and force them back to work. Claimants have little choice over how they look for work anymore and must do what their Work Programme provider tells them or face benefits being stopped.
And yet despite all this so-called help from ‘experts’ in the welfare to work sector, just over 300 people have found jobs.
The figures for those assessed as ‘fit for work’ make equally grim reading. Despite almost 18,000 people starting the Work Programme who have had Incapacity Benefits stopped after a decision by Atos and the DWP, little over a thousand (1,200) of them have found a job.
The shocking fact is that if all of those new to ESA, all of those thrown off ESA due to being ‘fit for work’ and those still on Incapacity Benefits are added together a mere 7,760 people have found a job through the Work Programme, despite 206,870 sick and disabled claimants starting on the scheme.
Astonishingly this is less than the 5.5% of Incapacity Benefit claimants it was estimated found work every year under their own steam – before all this began.
Only 4.5% of those on sickness or disability benefits who have been participating in the Work Programme for at least one year have started work. The DWP’s minimum performance figure for this group was 16.5%. And many of those who did get a job will be out of work again by now. According to the DWP themselves around a third of people who found work on the Work Programme were unemployed again by the time of the latest release of statistics.
Hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent trying to bully and humiliate sick and disabled people back into work. And yet after all the so-called expertise of the welfare-to-work sector and the ‘toughest ever’ benefit conditionality regime almost none of them have found a job. All of that all too real suffering has been for nothing at all. It hasn’t even saved any money.
Iain Duncan Smith boasts that Universal Credit will magically create 300,000 jobs by applying Work Programme style ‘conditionality’ to lone parents, part time workers and the precariously self-employed. Last week’s Work Programme statistics reveal that claim to be a sham. This conditionality has not helped sick and disabled claimants find work and it will not help anyone else.
Often Iain Duncan Smith has appeared to believe his own bullshit in his messianic zeal to blame the victims of cut-throat capitalism for their plight. But the market has well and truly spoken and these figures prove it. Bosses are not lining up to hire hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people – in fact the opposite is true with prejudice towards disabled people rampant amongst employers. All these welfare reforms have really achieved is the quiet demolition of the lives of sick and disabled people who were already poor to begin with.
The latest Work Programme statistics are at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/work-programme-statistical-summary-september-2013
Above pic found at: http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/
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