Welfare changes could harm work programme
The Department for Work and Pensions has failed to consider the impact welfare reform will have on its flagship employment programme, according to a group of MPs.
In a report on the work programme, the Public Accounts Committee warns that the DWP ‘must be vigilant’ over the effect of the introduction of universal credit, adding that it could lead to major changes to the definition of claimant groups.
The committee praises the department’s ‘significant administrative achievement’ in getting the payment by results programme off the ground quickly but said that it must show that it is making sure contractors deliver the promised results.
It further warned that the programme should be judged not just on value for money but on whether it ‘produces the expected wider benefits to society of getting more people off benefit and into work’.
The work programme, which combines previous welfare to work schemes under one banner, pays private companies to get unemployed people into work.
The committee, led by Labour MP Margaret Hodge, says that the system resulted in varying standards between private contractors and urged the DWP to set in place measures to ensure minimum standards are maintained.
Data on the performance of individual contractors won’t be available until autumn 2012 – 15 months after the programme began. The committee says this is ‘less than ideal’ and calls for the department to publish data for all prime and sub-contractors showing how they are performing against the minimum standard required.
Charities have raised concerns the programme is not providing support to homeless people. Last week St Mungo’s confirmed it was withdrawing from the scheme after receiving no referrals from prime contractors.