Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Getting people to work just isn't working

Are you still labouring under the misapprehension that the UK government is at all serious about getting people off welfare and back to work? How do you feel about the pitiful results of the multi-million pound welfare-to-work programme? Just one in 28 unemployed people referred to this programme have found a job lasting at least six months.

There are 18 work programme contractors receiving taxpayer pounds to try and get people off welfare and into employment. Of these, 15 are private companies. One of these private companies, Ingeus, is a multinational founded by Therese Rein, wife of former Australian Labor Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd and that particular contract is worth £727 million over five years. It's the biggest of the 18 contracts. Still, it's nice to see the British government is helping make people in the colonies rich, I suppose...

So are we getting value for money from Ingeus? You'd hope so at a cost to the taxpayer of £145.4 million per year. In the year ending in July 2012, Ingeus was referred almost 28,000 unemployed people in the north-east of England. Of those, 920 obtained sustained employment. A dismal 3.3% success rate. It has cost £157,826.09 per employed person or 6.47 times the average UK salary. Whichever way you crunch the numbers, it is a pathetic result.

A4e, costing us £438 million, is working in the south of England, an area that is generally more prosperous than the north-east. So you'd think they'd have better results than Ingeus. Nope. A4e managed to find 490 jobs for more than 17,650 unemployed people - an even more dismal success rate of 2.8%. They are the kind of performance figures that pretty much any private company would find unacceptable.

Meanwhile, the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), representing the providers, unsurprisingly disputes these figures, claiming that the government should take into account figures up to September 2012 - ERSA claims 20% of the unemployed people referred have obtained long-term employment. I have had a dig around the ERSA website and I'm not sure how this figure was arrived at. Do they mean that across the nation, 20% of unemployed people have found work, without allowing for regional variations? Was there really some sort of massive improvement in the two months between July 2012 and September 2012?

There are further rubbery figures from the Department for Work and Pensions. The department seems keen to shift focus away from the epic cost to the taxpayer for very little result and instead claims that at least 56% of the scheme's earliest participants have come off benefits. Except that "coming off benefits" doesn't necessarily mean the same thing as "now gainfully employed". But don't hold your breath for any analysis of the 56% by the DWP. How many have lost their benefits but haven't found long-term work?

British taxpayers deserve to know why has the government shown such such flagrant disregard for public money by spending so much of it on programmes, mostly privately run, that are simply not working. The bigger issue is that there just aren't the job vacancies available in order to solve the unemployment crisis and this debacle has exposed the lack of vacancies and the lack of ideas this government has for creating new jobs.

All this absurd privatisation has achieved is job creation for private companies who are meant to help people find jobs that don't necessarily exist. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent and no new jobs have been created. Indeed, the money spent could have funded government jobs that have been cut. Or maintaining regional development agencies, such as One North East, another victim of this government's short-sighted cuts despite creating jobs and supporting business and industry.

It'd be Yes, Prime Minister hilarious if it wasn't so tragic and obscenely wasteful.

Image courtesy of www.kozzi.com

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