The latest Work Programme statistics (PDF) show a shocking fall in the number of people gaining work and suggest that being sent on the scheme is now actively harming people’s chance of getting a job.
The figures show that even after spending a year on the Work Programme, only 10.7% of people had gained a job which lasted at least six months. This is a fall of almost a quarter since last year’s high in April when 14% of people on the programme for a year had found a long term job – figures which were regarded as a disaster at the time. The Work Programme has been in steady decline ever since, with the percentage of people finding work overall – including those who have completed the full two years of the scheme – at a new low of just under 19%. This is down from 22.5% just six months ago, and this figure was expected to rise as more people had been on the programme longer.
Astonishingly there is no mention of this dismal performance in the gushing DWP press release which accompanied this week’s statistics. No longer are the DWP even reporting the job outcome rate, which is the only figure that matters when assessing whether the Work Programme is working. Instead the Minister for Unemployment Esther McVey claims:
“Over a quarter of a million long-term unemployed people have been helped into a sustained job thanks to the Work Programme – that’s a quarter of a million people who previously might have been written off now with the security of regular wage.”
The DWP would like us to believe that no-one ever got a job without the help of welfare-to-work profiteers like G4S and A4e. This is of course bollocks, and around 28% of people condemned to the Work Programme would have been expected to find a job under their own steam. With unemployment allegedly falling, the companies running the Work Programme should be beating this figure by a long way.
Yet consistently the Work Programme has performed worse than doing nothing at all and these figures suggest that the scheme is now hampering people’s ability to find work.
The secretive nature of the Work Programme means it is difficult to pin point exactly why it is failing so many people. The so-called ‘black box’ approach means that the private sector providers are given free reign to mandate unemployed people to any activity they choose. No-one really knows what’s going on except claimants themselves, some of who report endless harassment whilst others claim they barely hear from their Work Programme provider.
There is one feature however that is universal across the Work Programme and that is benefit sanctions. These latest figures show five times more people had benefits stopped whilst on the scheme than those who found jobs. Benefits can be sanctioned for missing or being late to a meeting with a Work Programme provider, failing to attend workfare, or not meeting the draconian, pointless and confusing conditions unemployed people now face to maintain a benefit claim.
Benefit sanctions demolish people, leaving many with nothing at all to live on. A Citizens Advice report released last year warned that benefit sanctions were causing people to attempt suicide, making health conditions worse, or having to beg or go through bins to find food. Unsurprisingly being driven to absolute destitution does not motivate people to find work. People who are hungry, desperate and can’t afford to wash their clothes do not generally impress employers at job interviews.
Of course no politician, from any major party, is aware of this because none of them has ever been poor. To the likes of Cameron, Clegg and Miliband alike, money falls from the sky and the idea of not being able to run the washing machine, or even have a washing machine, is inconceivable. Let them use the dry cleaners instead they would likely think, or just send out the au pair to do that kind of thing. This is why almost the entire political class, along with many highly paid charity bosses, support the system of sanctioning benefits as punishment and honestly seem to believe they are doing people a favour.
Approaching a million benefit sanctions are now being inflicted on some of the poorest people every year. Many of them will be on the Work Programme and this leaves one very big question for the DWP. How many of these claimants might have actually found a job if they hadn’t been forced to spend time queuing up in foodbanks just to get their next meal?
Join the week of action against workfare beginning on March 29th, full details at: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=3353
Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid