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LONDON: Prime Minister David Cameron’s 5-billion-pound flagship scheme to get the long-term unemployed into work found jobs for fewer than three in every 100 Britons referred to it in its first year, statistics published yesterday showed.
The Work Programme, which is completely outsourced to a range of private, public and voluntary sector organisations, was introduced by the cash-strapped coalition government in a bid to move the unemployed into work and off benefits.
In the first 12 months of the scheme, 18,270 people held down jobs for six months, or three months in more difficult cases, out of more than 785,000 people referred, an average success rate of 2.3 percent.
Opposition leader Ed Miliband called the programme a “miserable failure”, adding that a better way to tackle unemployment would be if the government paid the wages to employers in exchange for training.
“What we’ve seen from this government today is a failure to reform welfare,” Miliband said. “Welfare bills are going up not down, not because of generosity in relation to welfare from this government, but because their plans aren’t working.”
The Work Programme was a central part of the coalition government’s 2010 agreement, designed to encourage the private sector to take up the slack as the government cut back public sector jobs in a bid to slash the deficit.
However, the approach has been seized on by critics who accuse Cameron’s Conservative-led government of having an ideological preference for private outsourcing work by companies whose main priority revolves around making a profit.
The Work Programme is based on a system of payments-by-results, which the government is intending to roll out to other parts of the public sector, such as prisons. Data for the 14 months of the programme provided by the Department for Work and Pensions showed that not a single provider had reached the minimum 5.5 percent target set by civil servants when the programme launched in June 2011.
The minimum performance target rises sharply to 27.5 percent in year two and to 33 percent in year three, targets that providers believe they can reach. One provider in the west of England, JHP Group, found sustainable jobs for just 2.4 percent of those referred. Larger companies such as G4S and Serco performed marginally better but still missed the targets by some way. REUTERS