The DWP just quietly revealed one of its most controversial schemes has failed miserably

Department for Work and Pensions Logo DWP
Steve Topple

On Tuesday 27 March, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) released details of the ‘success rates’ of one of its most controversial schemes. But the figures show it was nothing short of an abject failure.

Helping who to work?

Help to Work‘ was launched in 2014. The Coalition government said at the time:

New intensive measures to help the long-term unemployed into work will begin… as the government continues its push toward full employment…

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Help to Work… will give Jobcentre staff a new range of options to support the hardest to help get off benefits and into work.

Jobcentre advisers will tailor back-to-work plans for individuals according to the particular barriers to work they may have. The new measures include intensive coaching, a requirement to meet with the Jobcentre Plus adviser every day, or taking part in a community work placement for up to six months so claimants build the skills needed to secure a full-time job.

The scheme, parts of which were mandatory [pdf, p1] for people who’d been on the DWP’s two-year ‘Work Programme’, officially ended in March 2017. But now, the DWP has released the details of how many people actually got back into employment after being under Help to Work. The statistics raise serious questions about the scheme’s effectiveness.

An abject failure?

The DWP said [pdf, p1] that, of the 220,000 people who went through the Help to Work scheme up to March 2017:

  • 28% spent at least 13 weeks in work in the year following referral to the scheme.
  • 39% spent “some time” in work; the DWP does not specify [pdf] the time criteria for this measurement.

The detail of the figures [xls] shows that only 20.1% of people spent [xls, table four, row 44, column D] at least 26 weeks in work after being on the scheme. But perhaps most concerning are the figures surrounding the controversial Community Work Placements.

Boycott workfare

Campaigners criticised the placements because claimants had to do 30 hours a week unpaid work and could be sanctioned for up to three months if they didn’t comply. As Joanna Long from campaign group Boycott Workfare told the Mirror in 2015:

It was finger-twiddling work that should have been done by real employees or real volunteers. People I know who were forced onto it were left with no time to actually do the work of finding a job.

But the main reason we opposed it was that it didn’t work.

Now, the DWP has shown that Community Work Placements absolutely ‘did not work’. Figures show that, of the 92,000 people [xls, table one, row nine, column E] who were forced onto the placements [xls, table four, row 44, columns K, L, M] up to March 2016:

  • 33.3% spent “any time in work” during the year following the referral.
  • 23.4% spent at least 13 weeks in work.
  • 16.3% spent at least 26 weeks in work.

The DWP says…

The DWP told The Canary:

The Help to Work programme was designed to support the long term unemployed who already had three years of intensive support but still not moved into work.

It successfully helped many long term unemployed find a job, with 39% spending some time in work in the year after they were referred. We are introducing a new Work and Health programme to continue giving tailored support to help the long term unemployed and people with health conditions.

Another DWP white elephant

Help to Work is another example of questionable ‘money-saving’ government initiatives. The scheme cost £420m in its first two years [pdf, p5] alone. But with no details of how many people actually remained in permanent employment after being ‘helped to work’ by the DWP, Help to Work’s legacy will be that of another controversial white elephant, meted out on claimants with little tangible success.

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