ERSA welcomes today’s recognition by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the Work Programme is performing at least as well as previous comparable programmes despite the more challenging economic climate at its outset.

This recognition, contained within the PAC report on the Work Programme released today (6 November), is also accompanied by a prediction that Work Programme performance will continue to rise for all payment groups.   This is borne out by ERSA’s Job Start figures which show that, as of the end of September 2014, nearly 600,000 jobseekers had started work whilst on the programme.  Government figure show that, of these, 330,000 had already gone into long term employment and that all performance targets had been met. 

ERSA also welcomes the report’s recommendation to review the programme’s payment model to ensure that there is sufficient money in the system to support all jobseekers into work.  As previously highlighted by the Work and Pensions Select Committee, the current pricing system is based on benefit type rather than intensity of jobseeker needs.  ERSA is therefore calling on government to ensure that, in future, health and skills funding is made available to support the jobseeker journey back to work.

We also support the Public Accounts Committee’s call for the DWP to undertake an ‘assessment of additionality’ of the Work Programme.  A report by Europe Economics for ERSA estimates the Work Programme is likely to bring £18 billion economic benefit spread between employers, employees and the exchequer.

ERSA totally rejects however any claim that investment in jobseekers on Employment Support Allowance (ESA) has fallen.   Contractors have not reduced their spending on jobseekers on ESA – in fact spending has gone up. Work Programme providers are investing, on average, 60% more on ESA jobseekers than is claimed.  In response to the point re sustainment payments, ERSA knows this to be a technical issue, primarily related to employees moving between employers, which is being resolved with the department. 

Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive, ERSA:

“The sector will be delighted that the Public Accounts Committee has recognised its efforts in supporting the long term unemployment into work.  The fact the programme is performing as well as predecessor programmes is a huge achievement given the challenging backdrop of the economy and austerity. More can be done though and our collective efforts are now on trailing new approaches to support those in most need”.

Notes to Editors

1. The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) is the sector body for those delivering or with an interest in welfare to work services.  ERSA’s membership spans the private, voluntary and public sectors and ranges from large multi-nationals through to small specialist charities.  It has nearly 180 members including all prime contractors of the Work Programme.
2. The Work Programme is the government’s largest back to work scheme and caters for the most disadvantaged jobseekers in the labour market. Further information about how the programme operates, including the financial model, is available in this Policy Briefing on ERSA’s website.
3. ERSA’s Work Programme Performance Report is designed to provide statistical information on the performance of the Work Programme. It provides information on ‘Job Starts’, the number of participants starting a job on the programme.  The report can be found here.
4. The Government’s official statistics on sustained Job Outcomes, jobseekers who have been in work for (in most cases) six months are available here.
5. ERSA is able to set up interviews with jobseekers who have found work, Work Programme providers and employers who are recruiting form the scheme. Case studies are available on ERSA’s website and on YouTube. Interviews with ERSA’s Chief Executive Kirsty McHugh are available on request.