Welfare-to-Work Scheme Misses Its Target
The Government has defended its flagship employment scheme after new figures showed the programme has missed its target.
Only 3.5% of the long-term unemployed helped by the scheme were still employed six months later, according to data published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Figures showed that 800,000 people had started the Work Programme since it was launched last year, but that only 31,000 stayed in a job for six months.
A target of 5.5% was set for finding sustainable jobs.
But employment minister Mark Hoban defended the scheme, saying the programme is succeeding in getting people off benefits and into work.
He said that 56% of people who joined the scheme were no longer receiving benefits, with one in five of the earliest participants spending at least six months without them.
Mr Hoban also revealed that notices had been sent to a number of organisations involved in the programme, asking them to come up with plans to improve their performance
But Labour leader Ed Miliband criticised the programme and said it was on course to be a "miserable failure".
During a visit to Stevenage, he said: "It is just not working. What we've seen from the Government is a failure to reform welfare."
The initiative, which was launched in June 2011 to help the long-term unemployed find work, divides the country into regions, with each comprising a range of private, public and voluntary sector organisations.
It is a two-year scheme which supports some of the hardest-to-help claimants, including the long-term unemployed, disabled and ex-offenders.
Employers are paid by results to get people into work, and providers can earn between £3,700 and £13,700 per person, depending how hard it is to help an individual.
The DWP says the scheme so far has cost just over £2,097 for every participant.
The statistics were expected to be poor after various leaks showed the programme slowly "descending into chaos" as one source put it.
Unemployment is now slowly falling despite a stagnation in GDP, a phenomenon that has become known as the "productivity puzzle".
The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), the trade body for the welfare-to-work industry, said criticism of the scheme was unfair, predicting that an increasing number of people will be helped into a sustained job.