The Public Accounts Committee has published its interim report on the Work Programme. There’s some approval, mainly for the speed with which it was implemented, the “greater flexibility” it allows and the way it transfers risk away from the taxpayer. (See the BBC’s report.) But there are also major criticisms, as the Telegraph highlights. “One of the major worries is that companies are getting paid at least £400 just to assess each candidate, when many would be in the same situation ‘without the programme’. Some of those unemployed people would already have found jobs of their own accord, while others will remain on benefits that continue to be funded by the taxpayer. The report will say payments for people who did not need the programme amount to nearly £1bn and could ‘potentially’ be even higher – the equivalent of £40 for every household in Britain. MPs will also say they were ‘sceptical’ that it was value for money to pay around £50 in “management fees” for every jobless person processed.”
The BBC version of the story also reports the Committee’s concern about A4e. “They expected the Department for Work and Pensions to ‘urgently’ publish the results of its investigation into allegations against the firm regarding the Mandatory Work Activity work experience scheme, adding that Parliament had ‘significant interest’ in the firm’s financial affairs.” And that’s a bit confusing, because of course the DWP’s “investigation” is supposed to be into all A4e’s contracts, not just MWA.
But publishing any sort of results doesn’t seem to be a matter of urgency for the government. Figures for the WP are not set to be disclosed until August. Meanwhile, “Unofficial figures seen by the BBC in February suggested about 20% of unemployed people who have been signed up for at least six months have been found a job.” (There’s an extraneous word in there – “been”. People have found a job, often without any help.) Now, the dead weight figure, according to Grayling – the numbers who would have found work anyway – is 28%. What does that tell us?