Government's £5bn Work Programme 'still failing and failing badly' as figures reveal only one in 20 sick and disabled people have been found lasting jobs

 

Only one in 20 sick and disabled people on the Government's £5bn Work Programme have been found lasting jobs, new figures have revealed.

Some 5.3 per cent of people on Employment Support Allowance (ESA) were placed in jobs which lasted for three months - well short of the 16.5 per cent minimum target when the flagship scheme was launched. Helping the sick and disabled was a key aim of the programme, in which private firms and charities are paid by results.

These providers warned the Government that the costs of helping the sick and disabled cannot be met under the scheme. Kirsty McHugh, chief executive of the Employment Related Services Association, said: “It will inevitably take longer to help those on ESA into sustained jobs as many are a long way from the labour market. Over 25 per cent of people on ESA have been out of work for at least 11 years and therefore we're going to need to pool skills and local health budgets with Work Programme cash to help more of this group into work.”

Dame Anne Begg, Labour chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, said: “We remain deeply concerned that the Work Programme, as currently designed, is insufficient to tackle the problems faced by more disadvantaged jobseekers. Doing nothing and hoping things improve is no longer an option.”

However, the scheme did much better in its second year in helping fit and able-bodied people into work. Some 31.9 per cent of under-25s were found work for at least six months, almost hitting the minimum target of 33 per cent. Among those 25 and over, 27.3 per cent took up jobs which lasted for the same period, against a minimum target of 27.5 per cent.

The Department for Work and Pensions said 132,000 jobseekers had escaped long-term unemployment and found lasting work by this March, up from 9,000 a year earlier. Some  488,000 people - 62 per cent - of those who joined the scheme in its first 12 months spent at least some time off benefits.

Mark Hoban, the Employment Minister, said: “The Work Programme is helping large numbers of people escape the misery of long-term unemployment and get back into real jobs. The improvement in performance over the past year has been profound and the scheme is getting better and better.”

Liam Byrne, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “The Work Programme is still failing and failing badly. It's failed over a million people - nearly nine out of ten people on this flagship programme.”

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