The Work Programme: delivering for Wales?


It was, we were told a year ago "delivering for Wales". Former Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan hailed the Work Programme as "vital for Wales".

Mrs Gillan said then: "It is about time we help Wales to tackle the blight of long term unemployment that has dogged parts of Wales for generations and this is something that this coalition government is committed to. "

The Work Programme, which pays private and voluntary sector organisations if they find people work, was so important, the Welsh Grand Committee held a special meeting in Wrexham to discuss it.

One year on, today's official figures say the Work Programme has missed its targets. Across Great Britain, only 3.53 per cent of people who went on it got work for six months or more.

In Wales, the situation is even worse. The Department for Work and Pensions says 1,380 people got jobs, leaving 41,000 of the 42,380 people on the programme without long-term work. I make that a success rate of 3.25 per cent.

DWP Minister Mark Hoban looked on the bright side:"The Work Programme is succeeding in getting people off benefits and into work. It's still early days but already thousands of lives are being transformed.

"One in four people have been in work, more than half of the early starters have been off benefit and performance is improving.

"Previous schemes paid out too much up front regardless of success, but by only paying providers for delivering results, the Work Programme is actually offering the taxpayer real value for money."

And the Wales Office? Do ministers there still believe it is delivering for Wales? Before his promotion, David Jones saw the programme in operation in Shotton. He found it was making "a real impact on employment for thousands of people across Wales."

I'll give you the Wales Office response to today's official figures when I get it. In the meantime, MPs on the select committee on Welsh affairs are now launching their own inquiry into the programme.

UPDATE: Wales Office Minister Stephen Crabb said: "Today's statistics show that over the first year, and despite a very tough economic backdrop, the Work Programme is still making progress.

"It is important not to judge it too early as the greatest gains will be seen over the long term. Today's figures are merely a snapshot of progress for a scheme that supports people for two years or more."

UPDATE TWO: An email arrives from Labour's shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith, who focuses on youth unemployment.

He said: "Today's figures show that the government's Work Programme has failed young people, especially when compared with the success of Labour's youth unemployment scheme in Wales.

"There are two comparisons that the government need to make when looking again at this scheme.

"The first is against what would've happened had they done nothing at all and the second is to look at the Welsh government's Jobs Growth Wales, which was modelled on Labour's Future Jobs Fund, and which is currently putting into work 7½ times as many young people in Wales as the Work Programme is.

"The UK government should look to this Welsh example as a way of driving down youth unemployment and, as Welsh Secretary, David Jones should be banging the drum for Jobs Growth Wales around the Cabinet table."

David Cornock Article written by David Cornock David Cornock Parliamentary correspondent, Wales

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