Work Programme not doing enough for sick and disabled, providers say


Providers of the government's flagship Work Programme have told ministers the costs of helping sick and disabled jobseekers into employment cannot be met under the scheme.

Of those who have been on the scheme for at least a year, a third have begun a job, figures seen by the BBC show.

But in the most challenging group - who claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) - only 10% have found work.

Work Programme providers say the needs of these jobseekers are too great.

The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), representing the providers, says those receiving ESA have complex health and skills requirements and the Work Programme can not "fix all these problems alone".

"The costs of helping jobseekers on ESA back into work are significant and cannot all be met by the Work Programme," says the Association's chief executive, Kirsty McHugh.

What is the Work Programme?

The Work Programme was launched in June 2011. Its aim was to get long-term unemployed people in jobs and consolidate previous welfare-to-work schemes.

It uses approved providers, mostly private companies, to find work for claimants. The providers are paid by results.

The government aimed to get 5.5% of those in the programme into jobs lasting six months or more. In its first year, this figure was only 3.5%.

Last month, MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee said the programme's record was "poor" but improving and accused providers of "parking" the most disadvantaged jobseekers.

"In order for there to be a significant step change in performance in helping these jobseekers into employment, we need greater use of skills and health budgets."

The call for spending from other parts of the public sector to be channelled in to support the Work Programme is an embarrassment for this flagship government scheme.

The Department for Work and Pensions says the payment-by-results contracts agreed with Work Programme providers already give them "a clear financial incentive to support the hardest to help into work".

ERSA figures suggest around a quarter of ESA jobseekers have been unemployed for at least 11 years. The DWP says it recognises the "particular barriers facing many of the hardest to help".

The Labour Party has seized on the request for extra resources as evidence that "there is something seriously wrong with the Work Programme".

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne said: "It's now crystal clear the system is failing - and the government isn't fixing it.

"Three quarters of unemployed on the scheme haven't even started a job, and half of young people still haven't found their way into a single day's employment."

Total wreck
Julia Page Julia Page has not had a job for more than 30 years

One Work Programme provider, Bromford Group, tries to help some of the most challenging people referred to the scheme in the West Midlands.

Julia Page, 58, suffers from clinical depression and anxiety and has not had a job in over 30 years.

Getting her even to the point where she can attend an interview has already taken over 12 months.

"I was a total wreck. I would cry all day everyday, literally" Julia says.

Start Quote

It is a tough job. You don't cure long-term unemployment in two years”

End Quote James Walsh Bromford Group

"It takes a heck of a lot of time to get through it but unless the government is willing to help, people like me and others aren't going to have that support and I will end up back on the dole."

Bromford Group is a not-for-profit housing association often working with people facing multiple challenges.

Its enterprise and employment manager James Walsh says the organisation cannot make the numbers add up when trying to help ESA claimants into work.

"We need more money to make it stick, to make it sustainable," he argues.

"I think everyone would probably say that the forecasts that they made have not proven to be accurate and the issues have proved somewhat more engrained.

"It is a tough job. You don't cure long-term unemployment in two years."

There are success stories.

Annie Hunter-Wem has been on ESA for a number of years but, after intensive help from Bromford Group, has now got a job working in a supermarket warehouse.

"I just couldn't believe I'd done it!" she says. "I broke down when I got in. I just sat at home after I had calmed down and I thought I could have done this a long time ago."

Work programme success rates
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  • Comment number 587.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 586.

    I run a social firm which creates paid positions for people with mild learning difficulties some of whom have been on the Work Programme with a few agencies. I have had up to 3 agencies each claiming the 'reward' for the same individual, strange as I contact the applicants directly. Are there any checks in place?

  • rate this

    Comment number 585.

    Oh my another pooly thought coalition initiative - how many more before the next election. I do truly hope the electorate does unto the lib-dems what they have done to us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 584.

    Re 583--no,although ordered to, I have not changed my mind. Nor can anyone with the slightest modicum of sense suggest for one moment that min wages harm anyone---it turns reasoned thought upside down.
    I , like others on this forum----the majority----have made up their own minds in a cool and rational and comprehensible way. But TY for trying to make the rivers flow upstream:)

  • rate this

    Comment number 583.

    poor substitute for reasoned argumentation.
    If you had of looked at the 1 min discussion from Milton Friedman on this very topic perhaps, you'd change your mind.

    There is not the slightest evidence min wages harm anyone.
    The correlation is so well known that newspapers usually give estimates of the number of jobs that will be lost

  • rate this

    Comment number 582.

    Re 581--Looks like you're outnumbered :))))
    Your argumentation is seriously flawed and I find You Tube links to be a poor substitute for reasoned argumentation. The tide is flowing in a different direction to the misguided direction you drift with, I'm afraid. There is not the slightest evidence that min wages force anyone "out of the game" ( and it is NOT a game--it is people's lives !) !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 581.

    578.Elsie says Xx to all
    No, minimum wage laws protect no one. In fact, 90% of UK businesses pay above the minimum wage law, despite no law requiring the do. Without a min wage law, there no reason that would change. Min wage laws only force disadvantaged groups out of the game.

  • rate this

    Comment number 580.

    Disgraceful piece of 'outsourcing'. If this was going to work as planned then if a company failed to deliver they would be 'sacked'. Does this happen? No, the government says ''Oh dear never mind, here's a nice bonus to carry on.''. What a waste!

  • rate this

    Comment number 579.

    Re 577--agreed. A callous Tory Govt is treating ESA as a tool of austerity measures instead of as a help to sick and disabled people. And they are going about it in an arrogant and blatant way as if to rub in their contempt for the people who are suffering. It's difficult enough for disabled to find work as it is; but ESA just adds another obstacle+allows them to be dumped in WRAG and ignored !

  • rate this

    Comment number 578.

    Re 563-just wanting to agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments, laughingman. Of course minimum wage legislation was passed to provide a "net" in a civilised society.May not be perfect but it's something a lot of countries would sell their souls for. As for the disabled and work...of course they are going to find it more difficult to get employment. But they are entitled to fair wages,as are all

  • rate this

    Comment number 577.

    ESA is only about cutting costs.The Work Programme is nothing more than a sticking plaster designed to give the impression the govt believe vast numbers of the disabled can return to work.The real trick with ESA is to disallow contribution based recipients in the WRAG sector from receiving benefit after a year.Most WRAG recipients are ignored by their local JC+,left to rot & will never work again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 576.

    Yes BBC this is the hot news topic.

    I was speaking to a mugger of grannies yesterday. He is reassessing his criminal career. He has decided to join the medical reporting profession.

    Simple maths

    Beat a granny to near death for £20 and got 7 years

    Killed 20 people in a hospital, defrauded the public of millions received a fantastic pension

  • rate this

    Comment number 575.

    I have just seen ,on the news, that the company ATOL, in Leicester, is in a building that is unsuitable for disabled people owing to its offices are on the second floor and in the case of a fire the lift would be unusable. This is from the company that decides if a person is fit for work. Their method must be, if you attend the appointment then you are fit for work. Nice work if you can get it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 574.

    I welfare visit those on benefits. Recently a client, who has care workers paid for by the Local Authority, has been found fit to work!! Another, retired by a previous company on mental health grounds advised similar. Another, offered two weeks unpaid work experience, lost his benefits. This Government are failing, badly, and don’t care!! Not to mention our unemployed youngsters !! Shameful !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 573.

    When I went through A4E, I was told by someone "in the know" just how much they were paid for helping me to get a (temporary) job - which I got through an agency completely independent of A4E.

    They were paid a lot more than I got paid working for six months!

    ... and politicians have the nerve to claim the Public Sector is expensive!

  • rate this

    Comment number 572.

    The problem is the lack of jobs available in some geographical regions and the housing crisis.

    People who live in areas where there are fewer jobs ( e.g. Doncaster,Hull, Welsh valleys) are unable to move to areas with a shortage of workers (e.g. Guildford, Reading).

  • rate this

    Comment number 571.

    Shut them down , waste of money , badly trained staff , useless
    give the money to clients in form of loans to either relocate , re train or set up the own business and take it out of the wages or national insurance.
    The apprenticeships are just as bad as it's open to abuse , low wages for cheap labour , All the parties support this ,disguising

  • rate this

    Comment number 570.

    You know the country is in trouble when the largest industry is recruitment agencies.

    Instead of paying fees to these agencies, maybe UK business should invest in themselves and maybe we will have some actual growth in the economy

  • rate this

    Comment number 569.

    Went to the WP Job hunt today, which i dont need as have computer and printer at home, but that does not sway them,.. i took 10 specs with me done before hand applied for 5 jobs of the internet was out within 45 minutes, what is the point. i could have done this at home.. its stupid.
    No one helped me its all computers now and the internet so someone explain to me what if the flipping point of WP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 568.

    sally says you are free
    Disability and wages are completely separate issues,as you well know.
    Paper boys are not covered by minimum wage regulation as they are too young
    The £6.31, you mention, is for employees over 21yrs of age.
    Minimum Wage Regulation was brought in to stop unscrupulous employers from paying workers in a manner that meant they didnt get a proper wage.


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