Three out of four of the long-term unemployed taking part in the Government’s £5bn Work Programme have not yet started a job, according to figures published today.
They show that only six per cent of those on sickness benefits who joined the scheme were found and started a job. The statistics were compiled by 18 private firms and voluntary groups who are paid by results to get claimants back into work. Next week the Government will publish figures showing how many entrants stay in jobs for three or six months, which determines how much the providers are paid.
Labour claimed the industry’s figures show the programme is failing, but the Government insisted the success rate among the jobless is “encouraging”.
Of the 1.2 million long-term unemployed referred to the programme by the end of March, 321,000 (27 per cent) started a job after being found one. There was a higher success rate among young people (40 per cent) and among over-25s (29 per cent).
Liam Byrne, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “These alarming figures now show something is very seriously wrong with the Work Programme. Two years since it was launched and nearly 900,000 people on the programme haven’t even started a job. It’s now crystal clear the system is failing – and the Government isn’t fixing it. Three-quarters of unemployed on the scheme haven’t even started a job, and half of young people still haven’t found their way into a single day’s employment.”
But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said: “The Work Programme is working – it is helping large numbers of people escape long-term unemployment and find a job. The scheme gives jobseekers two years of support and most people haven’t even been on it that long, so these are encouraging figures.”
The DWP said there were “particular barriers” facing many of the hardest to help on sickness benefits which mean it will take them longer to get into work. “The Work Programme is helping these claimants take the steps they need so they can return to work in the future,” said a DWP spokesman.
The Employment Related Services Association said a third of people on the programme for at least a year had found a job and that it was particularly effective in tackling youth unemployment. The rate at which people were being found jobs is increasing.
Kirsty McHugh, its chief executive, said: “These figures are a clear illustration that the Work Programme is performing for the long-term unemployed. Put simply, the longer jobseekers are on the programme, the more likely they are to find a job. Results for young people are particularly encouraging, with nearly half of those on the Work Programme for at least a year entering work.
“Despite the success in helping 321,000 long-term unemployed into work, it is taking longer to help those on ESA into employment. This is inevitable given that many have been out of work for many years and have complex health and skills needs.”