Work programme - not working

Standby for data which will show that the government's work programme is, well, not working. One senior Whitehall figure described it to me as a "failure"

The work programme was part of what ministers called a revolution in welfare. It paid private companies by results in order to get the long term unemployed back to work.

A minimum target was set for those firms. They should get sustainable jobs for 5 in 100 job seekers. For months there has been speculation that they will miss that figure as stories have emerged of charities and firms involved with the scheme hitting financial problems, with some going bust.

I am told that the figure - which will come out at 9.30 this morning - will, in fact, be around 3%. The 5% target was what the Treasury calls the deadweight cost. In other words, the stats will suggest, as many unemployed are getting sustainable jobs as if the Work Programme had never existed.

The government will, nevertheless, not accept that their scheme is a failure. One well placed source has claimed that it is still "on track" and here's why:

- they claim that the Work Programme is taking longer than expected to succeed but argue that the next set of figures will be better. It is, they say, taking contractors longer and, sometimes, several placements to find sustainable work for the unemployed. They point to figures released last night by ESRA - the trade body which represents the 18 prime contractors - which works with the government on the Work Programme which suggest that, since the scheme was launched in June last year, more than 200,000 people have been found a job after 800,000 attachments

Updated: Apologies for saying in the original post - now corrected - that people do not get benefit when on the Work Programme.

Ministers claim that they are meeting their "off benefit targets" and that they are saving money too. The cost of every job secured under their Work Programme is, they say, just over £2,000 compared with a cost of almost £7,500 under Labour's Future New Deal because the contractors are only paid 60% of their fee once someone is in a sustainable job: ie for six months.

Labour says that today's figures show that the government is failing the long term unemployed at a time when the numbers without work long term have risen by 200,000 over the past year.

You pays yer money and you....