The Government's back-to-work scheme was branded an expensive failure yesterday after getting just 2.5 per cent of jobseekers in the West back to employment.
Only 790 people, from 31,230 referrals, found full-time jobs in the area under the Work Programme, which distributes £435 million to private companies according to how many jobseeker’s allowance claimants they manage to get off benefits and into work.
Launched in June 2011 and billed as the biggest of its kind to date, the programme has fallen far short of targets, the Government was forced to admit yesterday, though Downing Street denied the programme was worse than doing nothing at all and insisted it would prove its worth.
Performance in the West was far worse than the national picture, in which 31,000 people stayed in a job for six months from more than 800,000 who took part, 3.5 per cent when the target was 5.5 per cent.
The figure was five per cent in Purbeck, Dorset – although only 10 people in the affluent area found jobs – and 4.2 per cent in Stroud, 4.7 in West Somerset, 3.8 in North Dorset and 3.6 in both Sedgemoor and South Somerset.
But it was below the national average across much of the area, including just 1.3 per cent in Mendip, and in Bath & North East Somerset (1.4 per cent), Cheltenham (1.5), Bristol (1.6), North Devon (1.7) and Weymouth & Portland (1.8).
The success rate was only 1.9 per cent in Tewkesbury, just behind Gloucester (2.2 per cent), North Somerset (2.3), Taunton Deane (2.4) and Forest of Dean (2.5).
Employment minister Mark Hoban said: “It’s still early days, but already thousands of lives are being transformed.
“One in four people have been in work, more than half of the early starters have been off benefit and performance is improving.
“Previous schemes paid out too much upfront regardless of success but, by only paying providers for delivering results, the Work Programme is actually offering the taxpayer real value for money.
“Clearly these figures only give a snapshot picture as we’re one year in, and the Work Programme offers support to claimants for two years, but these results are encouraging and something providers can look to build on.”
He said improvement notices had been sent to some organisations involved in the programme, telling them to come up with plans to do better.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said the Work Programme was turning out to be a miserable failure, adding: “It is just not working. What we’ve seen from the Government is a failure to reform welfare.