Work scheme 'wastes taxpayer money'

Taxpayers' money may be put at risk by the Government's Work Programme because it has been launched in the space of a year without being trialled, a committee of MPs said yesterday.

The Public Accounts Committee said the project – in which private companies are paid to get the unemployed back to work – had not been piloted and that an IT system designed to detect fraud was not ready at its launch. It also warned that people who are most difficult to help could be "parked" by companies, who will be paid by performance, without proper monitoring by the Government.

Margaret Hodge, who chairs the committee, said: "Fees will be paid by the [Department for Work and Pensions] to contractors based on outcomes and regardless of the service individuals receive. Such an arrangement might tempt contractors to pass over those who are hardest to help into employment."

A DWP spokesman said: "We are pleased that the report recognises the extent of the department's achievement in introducing the Work Programme so quickly ... We're convinced the scheme offers jobseekers the best chance of getting into work at far better value for money to taxpayers than previous schemes."