News last week that the government’s Work Programme only managed to get 3.5% of participants into long-term work (six months or longer) caused a lot of shock and outrage that, surprise surprise, the government wasn’t succeeding in getting anything like necessary numbers back into work. There have also, since, been a number of “I called it” articles.
Well, I didn’t call it. But I could have done.
See, I recently found a job. But prior to that I had been searching for work for some fourteen bleak, despondent months. And during that time I was put on the Work Programme. The Department for Work and Pensions describes the Work Programme as such:
“The Work Programme provides tailored support for claimants who need more help to undertake active and effective jobseeking. Participants receive support to overcome barriers that prevent them from finding and staying in work. It is delivered by DWP contracted service providers who have been given complete autonomy to decide how best to support participants while meeting their minimum service delivery standards.“
Now, there are a few interesting elements to that. The “active and effective jobseeking” part for example. Granted, for some people such help is invaluable. Many entering the job market won’t have much idea how to go about finding a job. But really, that is a very minor part of the problem. The main “barrier” to be “overcome” in “finding and staying in work” is a sheer shortage of jobs available.
I won’t say the name of the company I was assigned to, but there really wasn’t much they did for me. Aside from being dragged into Reading once a fortnight for both I and them to shrug at each other about what to do going forward, very little was achieved. By the end I was applying for 40 to 50 jobs a month. The fact I wasn’t getting them was almost exclusively down to the number of others applying, and the fact that I slipped into an infuriating gap where I was either too qualified or lacking sufficient experience for most jobs on offer.
And as for the “minimum service delivery standards“, well apparently the target set by the government was 5.5%. Which doesn’t seem groundbreaking to me, so how was it missed so badly?
Honestly, because whilst throwing money at private companies might be Conservative ideology, it’s neither an adequate or effective response to high long-term unemployment. Participant companies have taken thousands of pounds for the easy cases, the low-hanging fruit — the people like me who are desperate to get into work, qualified, and who will find employment given enough time. Those who have genuine barriers to finding employment are left exactly where they were.
Ed Miliband suggested on Wednesday:
“…someone is more likely to get a job if they are not on that programme…“
And from my experiences, it certainly seems like a possibility. I definitely don’t think my getting a job had anything to do with the Work Programme. And I wonder if the the 3.5% who also found employment feel the same?