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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Work Programme: Why it's worse than you think

Being a strange and lonely soul, I've spent the morning pouring over the DWP's reluctantly released figures revealing the catastrophic failure of its work programme. The headline numbers are that, of the 878,000 people referred to the Work Programme so far, around 31,000 have found gainful employment for at least 3 or (in around two thirds of cases) 6 months. This works out at a success rate of about 3.5%, missing even the government's startlingly low minimum target of 5.5%. Even this eye-bogglingly shit accomplishment isn't all it seems, however, as I'll attempt to demonstrate using the system of arithmetic developed by the Greeks around 300 BC.

The first thing to note is that though 31,000 worked for at least 3 months, only 23,000 of them still had those jobs by July of this year (see page 5). Secondly, just because a person has worked for 3 or 6 months does not mean they've done so continuously - the Work Programme providers (such as notorious shitcunts A4E) get paid even if the work is made up of patchy week long temp jobs and zero-hour contracts. Speaking of those payments, buried in the data is a fact the DWP clearly don't want to make a song and dance about - the work programme has so far cost around £400 million. That's £12,883 per job. Assuming, generously, that those placements lasted six months on average, the government could have just spent the money we used finding 31,000 people jobs in Tescos and Poundland to employ 37,000 nurses.

How have we joylessly spunked such an unberable sum up the wall, you may ask, particularly in times of such bleak austerity? The answer comes largely in the £400-£600 payment the cavalcade of limited liability bastards get for taking on new "clients". These payments, made before the corporate fuckpots have actually done anything, exemplify the something for nothing culture Iain Duncan Smith regularly works himself up into a cross-eyed lather about, and account for about £335m of the money we've so far rammed round the fiscal u-bend. The sliver of cash which doesn't go directly into shareholders' pockets goes on mandatory courses which (according to one friend) teach you that it's better to look in the local paper for a job than ask a psychic, amongst other vital life lessons. This may explain why people seem to do a better job of finding an, er, job, if they aren't on the programme at all.

There are further incentives for these cocktoed wankmuffins, however, and every time an employment "outcome" is achieved (i.e. someone has stayed in a job for a set amount of time) another fat cheque is written. The amount offered differs between different groups, and bizarrely the government have decided to give companies less cash for finding work for young people (amongst whom the unemployment rate is 18.9%) and much less for people trying to find work while receiving incapacity benefit.

I can only assume this latter provision is part of the Tories' well established, multi-pronged strategy to fuck the ill, a strategy which today's data sadly shows to be working. Of the 15,210 people forced off incapacity benefit and referred to the work programme, just 160 of them have found jobs. That's a "success" rate of 1.05%. If you'd like to check this for yourself the numbers are on pages 4 and 13 here - the relevant columns are JSA ex-IB and ESA ex-IB.

The government will try to dress up this colossally expensive, inconceivably mismanaged cocktastrophe with reference to one final (fudged) figure: 56% of those referred to the work programme have come off benefits. Thankfully, this is not the case. While 56% of those referred to the work programme have had a break in benefits (maybe for just one or two weeks), we have thankfully not seen nearly 500,000 people hurled, starving, into the streets quite yet. If we had, we'd have seen a huge spike in violent crime, even bigger surges in suicides and homelessness than we've experienced already, and a huge strain put on charity and health resources. It is illustrative, though, that the government clearly sees making people destitute as a good thing. So when the government bandies about their fake 56% figure today, remember the Dickensian nightmare they're actually aspiring to.

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