UnemployedNet comments on today's Work Programme figures, which show that only 3.53% of those attending have gained jobs that lasted for at least six months against a target of 5.5%:
Today's figures show that the Work Programme is not working for unemployed people. The vast majority of unemployed people only want to get back in to work, and a well-functioning Work Programme is vital to support this.
We believe it is failing because it is not meeting the needs of unemployed people. As important as its poor performance in finding sustainable jobs is the fact that more than half of those attending it spent a portion of time off benefits when they were supposed to be attending.
Given the hardship this is likely to cause we dispute the employment minister, Mark Hoban, characterising this as a measure of its success. There are many reasons why claimants drop out of the Programme, but a likely reason for disengagement is that its was designed in from the beginning when the Programme was made mandatory.
Although we recognise the benefits of engaging with high-quality support services for unemployed people, making this support non-optional sends jobseekers the message that they can't be trusted to decide what is best for them, and we want the government to make the Work Programme voluntary to help revitalise it.
If providers have to compete for claimants who are provided with a range of support options, this is likely to drive overall quality up, further improving attendance and job outcomes.
We also call on the government to prioritise job creation over deficit reduction. Over a number of years responsibility for unemployment and overcoming it has been passed to unemployed people, when the economy, encouraged and nurtured by the government, is the only true provider of jobs.
Particularly while the economy is still in trouble, government must be more understanding of the hardships of unemployment, recognising that it is not a moral failing and that the majority want to work, and tailoring its response to providing both jobs and the genuine nurturing support that will help jobseekers access those jobs and cope with unemployment.