Figures prove Help to Work doesn’t help and doesn’t work

  • Compulsory government welfare-to-work scheme has no effect for most people
  • Huge levels of failure to meet targets by companies delivering the programme
  • Help to Work was launched despite a pilot scheme failing

By Chaminda Jayanetti

Newly released government figures show that Help to Work, its flagship welfare-to-work programme for the long-term unemployed, has only seen one in five of the people referred to it progress into even remotely secure jobs.

Help to Work, which includes three intensive schemes, was launched in April 2014 as a compulsory programme for those who had been unemployed for more than two years.

At the time, David Cameron said: “This scheme will provide more help than ever before, getting people into work and on the road to a more secure future.”

But figures published yesterday by the Department for Work and Pensions reveal that of the people referred to Help to Work between April and December 2014, less than half – just 44 percent – went on to spend any time in work at all during the year following their referral.

Thirty percent went on to complete at least 13 weeks in work, and barely 20 percent made it to 26 weeks of work – half a year – in the year after their referral.

In other words, four in every five people referred onto the scheme did not progress to even medium-term work.

It is the first time the DWP has published data on the amount of time spent in work by those on the Help to Work programme. The statistics exclude those who became self-employed, but the figures are nevertheless dire.

Three schemes, all failing

Help to Work comprises three separate schemes, with each long-term Jobseekers Allowance claimant forced on to one of them. If they refuse, their benefits can be docked. The schemes are:

  • Community Work Placements – six-month compulsory unpaid work experience placements of up 30 hours a week, plus up to ten hours of “supported job search activity” every week
  • Mandatory Intervention Regime – claimants receive “intensive support” from Jobcentre staff, who can refer them to other local services and training
  • Daily Work Search Review – claimants have to attend the Jobcentre every single day for up to three months to discuss the job applications they have made

The three schemes saw tens of thousands of people forced onto them between April 2014 and December 2015 – 80,000 on Community Work Placements, 47,000 on Daily Work Searches, and nearly 100,000 on the Mandatory Intervention Regime (which can include people who completed one of the two other schemes).

But nearly two years on from their launch, all three schemes are failing to have a meaningful impact. Under both the Mandatory Intervention Regime and the Daily Work Search Review, around 45 percent of the referred claimants found any paid work (excluding self-employment) in the year after their referral. About 30 percent found 13 weeks of work, and one in five found six months of work.

CWP at the DWP

The worst performance, however, was in the Community Work Programme. Given that this includes six-month placements, it is perhaps unsurprising that only 18 percent of claimants had time to fit in an additional six months of paid work in the year following their referral.

But barely a quarter completed 13 weeks in paid work, and less than two in five of all claimants undertook any paid work at all, excluding self-employment.

The Community Work Programme is the only one of the Help to Work schemes that is delivered by private companies – and their performance has been terrible. Just one of the 18 regional contracts met its target for “short completions” in 2015 – that is where a claimant completes between 12 and 21 weeks of employment after being on the programme.

Just three of 18 contracts met the target for “long completions” – between 22 and 26 weeks of employment – with ten contracts falling well short of expectations. Six of the 18 contracts met the target for job outcomes, where claimants found more than 26 weeks of work.

Seven companies hold the 18 contracts between them – led by G4S with six and Seetec with five. Ten of the contracts – more than half – missed every single target.

A bad idea from birth

The DWP conducted a fully-fledged pilot scheme in 2013, which was widely seen as a failure – almost as many people who undertook the pilot help to work schemes were still on benefit two years later as those who’d had no support at all. Despite this, the government decided to bring forward implementation of the full Help to Work scheme.

Interestingly, the programme was expected to cost £300m a year, but has in fact come in at £190m in 2014/15 and £230m in 2015/16. This may be because the private companies on the Community Work Programme were paid by results – an initial payment for claimants starting a community work placement, but further payments only if employment outcomes were met. The failure of so many providers to meet their targets may have reduced the scheme’s cost – although the annual burden on the taxpayer remains in the hundreds of millions.

The government announced last year that the Community Work Programme would be abolished from 2017 along with the controversial Mandatory Work Activity programme, which is outside the Help to Work scheme. These will be replaced by a new scheme, the Work and Health Programme, targeted at both disabled people and the long-term unemployed. The conflation of health and work is likely to be the source of ongoing controversy.

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