Unreachable targets put the Work Programme at risk of collapse

Almost every organisation involved in delivering the Work Programme is at risk of having their contract terminated because of unachievable performance targets set by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The Social Market Foundation (SMF), a think tank which came up with the idea for the Work Programme, said that the entire scheme could fail unless there is an urgent rethink of the performance criteria.

An analysis by the SMF uses new data from the Labour’s back to work programme, the Flexible New Deal (FND), to forecast the probable performances of organisations involved in the scheme.

The analysis, which looked at the Government’s mininmum performance levels for putting adult jobseekers back into the work, found that over 90% of Work Programme providers will be at risk of having their contracts terminated by DWP after year three of the programme.

“The future of this vital employment scheme hangs in the balance,” said Ian Mulheirn, Director of the SMF. “The programme aims to get some of the hardest to reach people off benefits and into work, but past performance shows that providers will be unable to meet the criteria required of them by the DWP.

“The Government has warned that it will terminate the contracts of providers who cannot deliver these minimum levels, but has set these minimum levels almost impossibly high. This threatens to create huge instability in the programme.”

The Work Programme will put approximately one in four adult clients on Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) into work, a rate significantly lower than the DWP’s expectations for minimum performance.

This under-performance means that funding per jobseeker will be significantly less than anticipated, thereby threatening the financial viability of providers.

Other findings showed that providers will undershoot Government predictions for what would happen if there was no welfare to work scheme at all.

This would have potentially dire consequences for the back to work scheme, which aims to help 2.4 million people who are currently in long term unemployment.