Help to Work (Workfare): A Failure Before it’s Begun.
Coming in a couple of weeks,
Community Work Placements
The Work Programme is supporting claimants to move off benefit and into work – increasing numbers are finding a job – but it was recognised that there would be claimants returning.
Claimants who do not find sustained employment during their time on the Work Programme will be among the hardest to help, and many will face significant and multiple barriers to work.
Community Work Placements will be one of the three intensive options available through Help to Work support for Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants returning from the Work Programme. This will be available alongside the Mandatory Intervention Regime which is currently operating in Jobcentre Plus, and daily signing. In England, Community Work Placements will be part-funded by the European Social Fund, under the Department for Work and Pensions’ co-financing agreements.
Community Work Placements is a mandatory scheme designed for those JSA claimants returning from the Work Programme whose key barrier to work is a lack of work experience, motivation or both, and offers them a significant period of full-time activity.
The scheme involves claimants undertaking a full-time work placement for 30 hours a week for up to 26 weeks alongside provider-led supported jobsearch.
This a failure before it’s even started:
Help to Work is a costly way of punishing the jobless
Guardian Tuesday 15th April.
Those out of work for a year go through the Work Programme for two years, but now if they emerge with no job – as many do – Help to Work awaits them. Will workfare work? “The DWP’s own analysis of existing evidence, both internationally and in the UK, suggests such schemes are generally ineffective”, finds Portes. For once, instead of rushing in, the DWP has done a good control trial on this with 15,000 unemployed. The pilot’s results, however, were sneaked out just before Christmas with no press release. That’s no surprise when you uncover the findings.
First the unemployed were given a 13-week warning period to act as a deterrent, and then 26 weeks of either “intensive Jobcentre Plus support”, or the workfare “community action programme”. Or they went into the control group with nothing special. Here’s what happened: exactly the same number in the control group – 18% – found themselves jobs as those doing the forced community work. Just 1% more found jobs from the group with jobcentre support. In other words, workfare didn’t work. Although 68% of the control group were still on unemployment benefits at the end, so were 66% of those who did the community work and 64% of those given jobcentre support.
Good for the DWP for doing a proper pilot study – but why is it plunging ahead with Osborne’s scheme at a cost of £300m a year when it knows it doesn’t work? The DWP has failed to provide a cost-benefit analysis. As with the mandatory work activity scheme, the main effect of forcing this group to pick up litter is to prompt more to claim employment and support allowance for disability: many are sick in one way or another, but haven’t admitted it until pushed. No savings are made from that benefit switch.
I asked the DWP for more information on Help to Work, now only two weeks from its launch. How many people will go on it? What kind of community work is being found? Which brave charities or local authorities are risking their reputation by taking on free forced labourers for six months, without displacing genuine jobs? As yet, there is no answer: the names of suppliers of Community Work haven’t been announced, not even the private firms paid to find the community work.
I asked for the pilot’s results but the DWP always obfuscates with irrelevant information: “The vast majority of people move off jobseeker’s allowance quickly – over 75% of people end their JSA claim within six months.” Well, yes, it’s always been the case that most people are only out of work briefly. But what about the pilot results with these long-term unemployed? No figures for the success rate were forthcoming – only these, about attitudes: a majority of those on workfare and at jobcentres “reported an increased motivation to find work”. Some 84% of both groups reported “a positive shift in their attitude to work”. Of those on workfare 76% reported “a sense of satisfaction from being in a work routine”. Fair enough, though the surprise is they didn’t give the full North Korean 100% reply.
It’s just as well I already had the actual outcome figures. But why is the DWP rolling out a programme it knows is a near worthless expense? One advantage is that those on Help to Work will be counted off official unemployment figures for six months. Incidentally, these sad long-term cases will do more than twice the maximum any court can sentence a thief to on Community Payback. To be out of work is now officially morally worse than committing a crime.