The Telegraph, ESA and WCA

I wrote this post for Hardest Hit, and have simply cross-posted here.

 

Hardest Hit was pleased to see Isabel Hardman’s piece in the Telegraph on ESA. Ms Hardman wrote to explain that, “Disability testing isn’t working as it should – and Conservatives must have the courage to admit it.” This is an encouraging stance from a right-leaning newspaper and could become the start of increased accuracy in the debate around welfare.

When one knows most of the facts around an issue, it is easy to pick out the misleading from the less misleading newspaper articles. Newspapers don’t routinely cite the sources of their data, which can make fact-checking difficult. If one already knows the facts, this stage is automatically much easier. Knowing ESA as I do, it is refreshing to read an article that is not misleading in either direction.

The Work Capability Assessment for ESA has come under a lot of criticism. As we know, and Ms Hardman points out, 42% of appeals against ESA are successful.[1] Other information exists supporting the claim that the ESA assessment process is inaccurate. The Citizen’s Advice Bureau has reported high levels of inaccuracy in reports made by Atos assessors.[2] Tribunals report that most appeals are overturned due to new oral evidence presented to the tribunal – that is, evidence that would have been available to the Atos assessor had he or she asked the right question(s).[3] The independent Review, headed by Professor Harrington, has said that Decision Makers’ decisions vary in quality and consistency.[4]

The National Audit Office said that there are “serious questions about the quality of the overall decision-making process.”[5] A court judgement on Wednesday ruled that the current system is unreasonable to people with mental health conditions.

There are many reasons to believe that the ESA assessment process does not work; these are just some of the outcome data that suggest flaws in the decision-making process. As Ms Hardman says, the method of assessment is also unreliable. “It fails to assess, beyond someone’s ability to move a cardboard box in the test room, whether they are capable of doing a real job. The activities in the test are removed from workplace realities. … There are some simple changes that could improve the test, although they are unlikely to remedy the inherent flaw: the fact that it doesn’t realistically assess a person’s ability to do a day-to-day job.” Unfortunately, a real-world test – realistically assessing a person’s ability to do a day-to-day job – was the one thing that then Minister for Employment Chris Grayling was “absolutely unreservedly and implacably opposed to.”[6] Incorporating a real-world test has since been rejected on the grounds that there is a lack of “clear, evidence based advice” for what such a test might look like.[7] This “inherent flaw,” which most disabled organisations agree to be a flaw, appears set to remain.

Despite this, there are possibilities for improvement to the ESA assessment process. There could be more time for both the claimant and Atos to request and receive medical evidence; the questions asked of the claimant could be more relevant to the ability to work; the claimant could be provided with more space and time to fully explain the impact their condition(s) has. Other small, or less small, improvements could be made without first radically over-hauling ESA to include a real-world test.

There doesn’t have to be a public collapse of faith in these tests. Although Hardest Hit amongst others may feel that the collapse of faith should already have occurred, the fact that it hasn’t means there is still time for the Coalition government to get ESA right. It is vitally important: it is not just that this “distresses people who deserve better,” but that it drives into poverty and worsened health people who deserve full support. A catastrophe in the welfare reform may well “be enough to prevent any government looking at welfare reform for another generation,” so the Coalition must get this right.

There is potential for great harm, but there is also potential for great good. It is for us to ensure that everyone knows both what is wrong and what can be done right, to ensure justice for all the sick and disabled of this country.


[2] Right First Time, 2012, Citizen’s Advice Bureau

[3] Social Security and Child Support Tribunal hearings: Early analysis of appeals allowed from pilot data, Nov 2012, DWP

[4] Professor Harrington, An Independent Review of the Work Capability Assessment – year two, Nov 2011

[5] 23rd Report; Contract management of contract services, Feb 2013, National Audit Office

[6] Work and Pensions Committee hears from Chris Grayling on migration to employment and support allowance, June 2011

[7] Professor Harrington, An Independent Review of the Work Capability Assessment – year two, Nov 2011

The Reality of Welfare Reform

When I first started on disability research, I just saw the numbers. I saw that 40% of ESA claimants told they are fit to work then appeal that decision, and most of them win. I saw that nurses under-award points for people with physical health conditions, and physiotherapists under-award points for people with mental health conditions. I saw that most assessments are carried out by either nurses or physiotherapists. I saw that decision makers are not consistent in the accuracy or quality of the decisions they make.

In all of this I saw the fear and the stress for ill people going through an assessment process that they knew to be inaccurate. I saw people calling for, and suggesting, improvements to the assessment process that could make it more accurate. I saw the government say that it accepts recommendations from the independent review, and then either not carry them out or carry them out so poorly that they brought little, if any, improvement.

With my head concentrating on figures I started to become numb to the reality. I forgot how shocking the statistics – the real ones – and the stories are. I told a friend that fraud in the disability benefits is less than half of a per cent, and was amazed at how surprised she was.

So then I started to read some stories. I read about people who cannot afford to put glass back into their broken windows and whose houses are falling into disrepair. I read about people being evicted from their homes. I read about people having cooked meals once every other day, eating bread in between. I read about people skipping medicine because it had to be taken with food and they didn’t any. I read about people having to fund-raise for equipment they need that their local authority won’t provide.

It made me think. I’m middle class so I haven’t seen much of the grinding effects of poverty before. I’ve spoken with people who think benefits are adequate and there isn’t a problem. But I’m seeing the problem now; I know people who are struggling; I’m seeing what happens when there isn’t enough money and there isn’t enough health. I’m seeing the despair.

I’m seeing the effects of the government deciding that people who may return to work from sickness benefits should receive benefit for only one year, even though the majority are still too ill to work at that point. I’m seeing the effects of the government deciding that people under 35 can live in shared accommodation, and thus reducing the housing benefit, without considering the health needs of these people. I’m seeing the effects of the government deciding that people should be charged for under-occupying, even though the under-occupation is this and past government’s fault for not building enough social housing.

And there are so many more cuts and changes. Benefits aren’t being uprated in line with inflation, wages, food or fuel. The Independent Living Fund has been closed. Council Tax Benefit is being reduced. Disability Living Allowance is being replaced with a benefit that ministers knew in advance would cut 20% off the money going to disabled people.

People have ended their lives. People are going without food and medicine. People are becoming homeless.

And this is because of the changes this government is making.

We need to realise what is going on. We need to get angry about what is being done, and let the government know this is not what we want. We need to start protecting those who are sick from extra poverty and stress, and stop listening to the unfounded scrounger rhetoric.

Don’t let the government get away with this. There is still time to make changes that will work, but the government needs to know that we want them. We can stop people dying of despair, losing their homes or becoming even more ill. But we need to let the government know.

Valuing everyone, or just the workers?

Disabled children should be euthanised, according to Cllr Colin Brewer. According to Baroness Warnock, disabled adults should be euthanised.

In both cases this is based on the cost to society.

Cllr Brewer suggested in an interview with the Disabled News Service that some disabled babies should be euthanised to save the costs of their high support needs.[1] Disabled babies were compared by Cllr Brewer to misshapen lambs. According to the DNS, Cllr Brewer said, ‘“If they have a misshapen lamb, they get rid of it. They get rid of it. Bang!” He added: “He’s certainly got a point. We are just animals. He’s obviously got a point… You can’t have lambs running around with five legs and two heads.”’

Cllr Brewer also spoke about the costs and the burden of disabled people. “When you are talking about having to close toilets, facilities for everyone, and perhaps the coastal footpath for everyone, then I have got to question individual budgets to individual people… If you are talking about giving services to the community or services to the individual, the balance has got to be struck. ” He voiced concerns about what happends to disabled people when their parents die, saying “Who shoulders the burden after they [the parents] have looked after them for so many years?”

Asked repeatedly about whether there “might be a good argument for killing a disabled child with high support needs, because it would free up more resources for the wider community,” Cllr Brewer said he would not make that judgement, but that there may be a case as “it is a dilemma and it is going to get increasingly a problem with budget cuts.” He then said agreed that there might be a good argument, saying, ““Yes. That is why I keep as far away from health in the council as I can.”

According to the Telegraph, back in 2008, Baroness Warnock said in an interview with Life and Work, “If you’re demented, you’re wasting people’s lives – your family’s lives – and you’re wasting the resources of the National Health Service. … I feel there’s a wider argument that if somebody absolutely, desperately wants to die because they’re a burden to their family, or the state, then I think they too should be allowed to die.”[2]

Both Baroness Warnock and Cllr Brewer suggest that disabled people or their parents should consider euthanasia to relieve the cost and burden on families and on the state. Both situations would create pressure on individuals. Both suggest that it is sensible to consider a person’s life almost solely in terms of the financial contribution they make.

Both are symptomatic of a wider view in society: that a person is valued by what they contribute economically. We’re valued not because of who we are but because of what we can produce. We’re valued only as long as we can produce; as soon as that ability is gone, we’re worthless. We’re not names or people, we’re numbers, and those numbers are what we cost or contribute – financially – to society.

This view is seen in other areas. The drive to get the sick and disabled off benefits and into work suggests the only contribution we can make is through work. Encouraging both parents, or lone parents, to work suggests that bringing up children is not a worthy contribution. Talking about workers versus shirkers implies anyone not in work is a shirker.

It means the concern is not just that there are advocates for euthanasia of the disabled. The concern is that we live in a society where only financial contributions are valued. In this society it becomes possible to label people as worthy or worthless; strivers or scroungers; to be supported or to be euthanised.

This is not a society I want to live in. I want to be a person, not a number.

If we lived in a society where people were valued simply because they’re people, and where contribution is not measured in pounds, then this sort of view wouldn’t be tolerated. There would be no question of terminating a life simply because a person is disabled. There would be no suggestion that individuals should terminate their own lives. There would be no suggestion that I and my grandparents and people like us should think of ourselves burdens, drains on our family and society, a negative value.

Thing is I know I’m a drain on my parents. I know I am a financial cost and an emotional cost and a time cost and an energy cost. I know that my grandparents bring the same costs, and whereas I make a possible if non-financial contribution through my welfare work, my grandparents do not. But, fundamentally, we are all people. That brings rights and value, just because we’re people. We have a right to live, and we have a value, and our value will always be greater than any cost we are deemed to bring.

Welfare Reform: It could have been good

It’s such a shame. There was a wonderful opportunity to make something that worked. To get rid of what was failing and bring in new things that improved on the original. To end the mess and confusion. To repair the holes.

Instead we have more holes. Bigger holes. Holes in places that used to work.

Like Housing Benefit. For those in social housing, Housing Benefit used to go straight to the landlord. The tenant never saw it. Now, Housing Benefit is going to go to the social tenants for them to pass on to the landlord. In a pilot study, arrears increased from 2% to 11%. Landlords faced increased costs as many tenants were reluctant to pay by direct debit due to the financial penalties incurred if a debit payment bounces.

Only 37% of social landlords think direct payment will still be in place in 2017.

Occupants of social housing now also have to contend with reduced housing benefit if they have spare bedrooms. Whilst in theory it sounds sensible to not pay for under-occupation, it depends on a vital assumption that is not met. The assumption is that there are smaller houses for these tenants to move in to. The reality is that there are not. In Falkirk, there are 2547 one-bedroom properties of which 2507 are occupied. That leaves 40 for the 2645 tenants with one spare bedroom, and nothing for those with two or more spare bedrooms. The DWP admits that there is a surplus of three-bed and lack of one-bed accommodation. The DWP suggests that tenants move to a different area – but when all areas lack one-beds, where exactly are these tenants supposed to move to?

Then there’s Disability Living Allowance. This benefit exists to assist with the extra costs brought about by disability. The government is changing this to Personal Independence Payments, a benefit that they predict – and indeed predicted even before it had been designed – to cut 20% off the DLA bill. That’s 20% taken from disabled people. At least 500 000 people are expected to lose disability benefit.

Housing Benefit wasn’t broken. So why break it? DLA could have been improved; instead it was made worse.

But the biggest shame is Universal Credit.

The idea is great. Different benefits shouldn’t be tapered at different rates, as that does cause confusion. So to combine them into one payment with one tapering rate is a good idea.

But the good idea stops there.

The benefit is made up of different components, depending on one’s situation. There is a child element and a disabled element and a carer’s element. But why are these needed when there is already Child Benefit and Disability Living Allowance (soon to become Personal Independence Payments) and Carer’s Allowance?

There are different levels of personal allowance – the amount kept before tapering starts – that will change as one’s situation changes.

There is a cap to the total that can be received, but not everyone is included. Nor is every benefit included.

Council Tax Benefit isn’t included and has been devolved to local councils. This will create a postcode lottery, meaning if you move your income could change. The lack-of-inclusion means that another taper is added to that of UC.

All these things aren’t necessary. Either have a separate Child Benefit, DLA and Carer’s Allowance, or fully include them in UC.  Either have a cap or don’t. Don’t keep changing things as people’s circumstances change – if you do this, you might as well not have bothered with the whole idea of UC.

And then the real problem: all this has been brought in so quickly, that the flaws in the system remain. Councils lack the information they need about how UC will work, so they can’t adapt to it. The IT needed to support it isn’t ready. There have been four directors of this project in 6 months. The pilot scheme is being carries out manually using spreadsheets.

But it isn’t behind schedule. Oh, no. That the pilot is being carried out only in Tameside, and not Wigan, Oldham or Warrington, is not because of delays and problems. That only 300 people – 0.5% of potential claimants – are expected to join in the first month is not because of delays or problems. That those in the trial must be single, have no children, have been recently employed, not be ill or on disability benefits, not be caring for another person, not be homeless, not be in temporary accommodation, have a valid bank account and have a national insurance number is not because of delays or problems. That families will not be included in the October national roll-out – with no fixed date for when they will join – is not because of delays or problems.

It’s such a shame. The benefits system could have been improved. The holes could have been sewn up. The net could have been raised so that people didn’t hit the ground anyway when they fell in. It could have been raised so that people could climb out again.

Instead we have a mess. A universal benefit that isn’t ready; a disability benefit that excludes too many people; a housing benefit that doesn’t meet the cost of housing.

The government could have done something good.

 

References:

Latest information to Universal Credit from The Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/apr/26/universal-credit-pilot-launch

Universal Credit is having teething troubles.

Posting here for those of you who haven’t noticed I now have my own website www.aidaaleksia.com

Universal Credit is having teething troubles.

Actually it may be a bit unfair to say that.  Strictly speaking Universal Credit refers to the new benefit that will replace income-based Employment and Support Allowance, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Child and Working Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.  Multiple problems have occurred over the past months but not all of them are related to Universal Credit.

The roll-out of PIP (Personal Independence Payment, the replacement for Disability Living Allowance) has been delayed, so that people currently receiving DLA will not be reassessed for PIP until October 2015.  This is a delay from the previous date of January 2014.[1]

Universal Jobmatch is facing trouble.  The government seems keen to get Jobseekers registered on the job-search site and there have been suggestions that this is so that the Jobcentre can track Jobseeker’s efforts in applying for jobs.  However as it is not legal to force a person to allow cookies on their computer, the Jobcentre cannot force anyone to reveal what job-seeking activities they have carried out on the Jobmatch site.

This may be a good thing.  There are many job-search sites and I would suggest anyone searching for a job should not restrict themselves to just one site.  Particularly one that is known to be open to abuse by scammers and hackers – including Channel 4, who deliberately hacked into the government’s Universal Jobmatch site to demonstrate how vulnerable the system is.  Or rather how vulnerable are the people who are using it.

The Benefits Cap is also having trouble.  Asides from being totally against Beveridge’s principles when he set up the first social security system,[2] it is also facing delays of up to 6 months.

The Work Programme is another area facing trouble.  Multiple organisations have withdrawn from it, after public disapproval of a scheme that effectively pays people less than minimum wage for their work.

Even areas that aren’t undergoing reform are having trouble – GPs and the General Medical Council earlier this year called for an end to the Work Capability Assessments for ESA.

 

But these troubles are not related to Universal Credit.  They’re separate troubles.  Universal Credit has troubles of its own…

 

Most recently, that the massive real-time information system on which Universal Credit partially relies is not working.  The Guardian reported today that the IT system supposed to match employer’s payments to employee’s ban accounts (i.e., track how much an individual is paid in a given month) fails on 25% of cases.[3]  This is based on figures given by the Treasury Secretary, David Gauke, in response to a question by Stephen Timms MP (deputy shadow Work and Pensions Secretary) on 17thn December.[4]

Month

Matched Hashes

Unmatched Hashes

Failure Rate

April

2,193

87,888

97.6

May

99,264

577,174

85.3

June

747,217

828,226

52.6

July

1,091,365

200,638

15.5

August

1,307,797

239,494

15.5

September

1,209,276

348,078

22.4

October

1,453,502

273,895

15.9

November

1,544,683

526,608

25.4

 

Interestingly, and perhaps also disturbingly, whilst it is to be expected that the initial failure rate was high, that failure rate has also risen recently.

This isn’t the only problem that Universal Credit is facing.  The above-mentioned real-time information system lost some of its “key personnel” in November, according to The Independent.[5]  These included the programme director, Malcolm Whitehouse, and the head of IT, Steve Dover.  The newspaper also reported that the programme has been placed on a Treasury list of projects in crisis, is running late and is over-budget.  A national roll-out has been delayed, such that the national roll-out scheduled for October 2013 will not involve instead a small number of regional projects.

 

So maybe it isn’t unfair after all to say that Universal Credit is having teething troubles.  Whilst many of the problems are due to wider welfare reform (or lack of it, in the case of ESA), a substantial number of issues remain with Universal Credit specifically.

We’ve had a Labour government for 15 years, so perhaps it’s to be expected that a young Conservative-LibDem government has teething trouble.


[1] Note this is a delay only for those people on DLA who are not due for reassessment before October 2015.  New claims, claims due for renewal and claims with a change in circumstances will be assessed for PIP starting at various months in 2013, depending on claim type and location

[2] all families should receive child benefit because a) it’s good for the country to have a new generation to support the old b) children should not live in poverty c) only giving benefit to those reliant on social security creates a perverse incentive against work

Fact-checking FactCheck

Fact-checking fact-check

 

Firms get up to £13 720 for getting a person into a job.  Currently there is a small attachment fee of £400, which is to be phased out over the next few years as companies build up their success and therefore can afford to take people on at their own cost.  The biggest single payment is for a job outcome, paid when a person on JSA has been in employment for 6 months or a person on ESA has been in employment for 3 months.  However the money really starts coming in when people have stayed in jobs beyond the outcome period, as the companies then get between £117 and £370 every four weeks up to one or two years.  Presumably these people are no longer getting support from the Work Provider, so the Provider can just wait for the money to come in every four weeks.

Poor performance of the Work Programme has been linked to the state of the economy, which is worse than was expected when the WP started.  However CESI said the target of 5.5% should be revised down by only 15%, to just under 5%.  The headline figure of 3.4% getting a job is still too small.

However, whilst headline figures look poor, they mask the fact that with each month more people join the programme, without an equal number leaving because their allotted time (2 years) is up.  The appropriate figure is not the percentage with a job outcome out of all who have been referred, but the percentage with an outcome within a set period – not including people who have not been on the programme for that length of time.

So to know how well the programme is doing, we first need to decide how quickly we think they should find jobs for people attached to it.  Assuming that taking up to 12 months is acceptable, then the success rate is around 8.4%.

Fact check does mention this, but not until near the end of the report.  By this time, there has been a lot of comparison of the 3.5% figure to the DWP target of 5.5% and suggestion that the WP is worse than nothing.  ESA figures were submitted to the same incorrect use of maths to get 1.5% finding work; the reality is that 4.1% of those who joined the programme in June-Aug 2011 had work a year later.

Fact check does not provide any data on whether the WP is worse than nothing.  To know this, we would need to know what percentage of jobseekers who had been out of work for 6 months prior to Jun-Jul 2011 and who were not placed on the WP got jobs within a year.

Keeping a job is not just about job outcomes, it is also about staying in work after that time.  For people from ESA, 2000 sustainment payments were paid out.  This works out as the average ESA referral not staying in work for more than six months (otherwise there would have been more sustainment payments).  I haven’t done the equivalent calculations for Jobseeker referrals, but the length of time people stay in work after reaching a job outcome is a crucial piece of information that the government has rather disappointingly not given us,

 

Cost wise, fact check has neglected sum important figures.

Until a person gets a job, Work Providers receive only £400 (attachment fee).  It is therefore not very expensive to have a lot of people on the programme, if being on the programme was all that mattered.  However the key thing is that for the Work Programme to be counted a success, people need to get into and stay in work.  This rapidly raises the costs.

At the lowest end, a Work Provider gets a £400 attachment fee, £1200 job outcome fee and 13 sets of sustainment payments at £170 each – a total of £3810.  At the highest end, the figures are £400, £3500 (all but ESA ex-IB claimants are £1200) and 26 sets of £370 – a total of £13720.

The first thing fact check has forgotten is that sustainment payments occur every four weeks for either 52, 80 or 104 weeks (1, 1 ½ and 2 years).  So most of the money that a Work Provider will get for getting a person into a job hasn’t been paid yet.

Secondly, so far only 8.4% of people got jobs within a year.  That’s approximately 9 people not getting a job to every 1 person that does.  The cost of that one person’s job includes the attachment fee for the other 9 who didn’t got jobs (although if people get jobs in their second year on the programme, the ratio of attachment fees to jobs will decrease; also this fee won’t continue to occur after the first few years of the WP).

All of this means that one job found this year costs between £7410 and £19120.

This means the WP is currently more expensive than the Flexible New Deal, Employment Zones, New Deal for Young People and New Deal for 25+.

 

So the key facts are:

WP success is 8.4%, not the 3.5% used by Fact-Check to compare to the 5.5% target

For ESA claimants, success is 4.1% not 1.2%

The WP is currently more expensive than the other programmes considered by Fact-Check

Does the Work Programme Work?

Back on wordpress because I can’t get my website to work…

Today (27th november) the government released data on the first year of its work programme.  This programme is open to people on ESA and JSA.  People are mandated to this programme when they have been on JSA or ESA for a set number of months; the number of months depends on the category into which a person falls.  For people moved on to JSA from Incapacity Benefit, this is three months.  People placed in WRAG can be referred to the work programme at any time, in general when they are considered to be within three months of recovering enough to return to work.  Jobseeker’s are given six months before referral if they are 18-24, and 12 if they are over 25.

The Work Programme was started in June 2011.  Since then, there have been 878 000 referrals to the Programme and 837 000 attachments.  Of these, 91% were from JSA and 9%, 79 000 people, were from ESA.  Most ESA referrals are from new ESA claims who are mandated to the programme from WRAG; these form 52 100 people or 66%.  The next biggest is voluntary referrals at 22% (17k), and the smallest is ESA claimants who were previously on IB, at 12% (9.4k).

Out of all referrals, 200 000 people started jobs.  However most left within six months: only 31 000 people have been in work long enough for the Work Programme Providers (WPPs) to get job outcome payments.  Of these 31 000, only 1 000 are people from ESA.

To get an idea of how well the WPP are performing, ideally we would need to know how long it took people to find a job and have data for 2 years, the amount of time WPP are given to find people a job.  Because the WP has only been going for 14 months, the best we can do is to use the first three months to work out what percentage of people are found a job in 12 months.  We also can’t easily compare it to Jobcentre data, as Jobcentre data will include people who are able to find jobs more quickly.  There is also little data on how will the WP performs compared with previous schems, although Alex Hurn does a good comparison here. (basically, WP is not very, if at all, effective, and the Future Job Fund was effective)

For ESA groups, this gives the data in Table 1 for how many and what percentage found work within one year of referral to the WP.  Note that the September 2011 cohort is just under one year, as figures for August 2012 are not available yet.  Over all ESA groups, 475 people found jobs within one year of joining the Work Programme out of 11 488 referred from June-Aug 2011.  That’s a success rate of 4.1%.  This is much lower than the figure for all people on the WP, which has an 8.3% success rate over the first two months of the programme.

Note that there is some incorrect use of statistics.  For all WP participants, 31 000 of 878 000 referrals got jobs: this is 3.5%, the figure that is being most quoted.  However, this includes people referred who weren’t attached (don’t ask, I don’t know what that means, unless it is that people voluntarily left the benefit) and therefore understates the percentage.  It also includes people who have joined the programme very recently and therefore can’t be expected to have yet found work.

This graph shows the percentage that have a job outcome (i.e. stay in work for 6 mths) for each month after joining, up to ten months.  It is not cumulative.  The big jump between 6 and 7 months suggests that most people are likely to take at least 6 mths to be found a job.  Therefore, to include people who joined the WP in the last 6 mths (i.e. Feb to Jul 2012) will inappropriately raise the caseload relative to job outcome rate.

This is why the government uses the figure of 8.1% and 8.6%.  These are the percentages who found work within one year of joining, for June and July 2011 cohorts respectively.  These graph use 10 months, to allow more cohorts to be included.

The use of the figure 3.5% is inappropriate.  To know whether the WP is successful, we need to have an agreement on how long we think it should take a WPP to find a job for a person.   If we think it should be 6 months, then the figure is 1.2%; at 9 months it is 4.6% and at 12 (not shown on these graphs) it is 8.35%.

It is worth bearing in mind that for people mandated from JSA, another 6 months has to be added to the time out of work, and for ESA it is another three.  So if the total amount of time acceptable for a person to be out of work, including time before joining the WP, is 12 months, only 1.2% get a job in this time.

ESA ex-IB ESA New IB/IS voluntary ESA voluntary JSA ex-IB
% referred no. jobs % referred no. jobs % referred no. jobs % referred no. jobs % referred no. jobs
Jun-11 0 90 0 3.9 1800 70 6 170 10 7 300 21 5.6 150 8
Jul-11 8.3 120 10 3.2 3400 109 7 290 20 6 500 30 8.1 370 30
Aug-11 0 130 0 3.3 3290 109 5 210 11 7 460 32 7.1 208 15
Sep-11 0 180 0 3.7 3550 131 4.3 230 10 6.3 480 30 8.3 240 20
Jun-Aug 2.9 340 10 3.4 8490 288 6.1 670 41 6.6 1260 83 7.3 728 53

Job outcome rate varies by group.  In particular, people who are on ESA and have been mandated to the Work Programme are unlikely to find work, at 3.4% across both groups.  However, people moved on to JSA from Incapacity Benefit or who volunteer for the programme from IB or ESA are twice as likely to find work, at 6.7% across all three groups.  It may be that this occurs because those who are mandated to the WP are less healthy than those found fit for work (although bear in mind these people are not necessarily either well or fit for work) or those who self-select for the WP.  People who self-select for the WP may feel that their health condition or disability need not be a barrier to work, if appropriate work and support can be found.

The key issue however is whether or not these people stay in work.  And the results say that they do not.   1000 people from ESA found work.  But only 2000 sustainment payments occurred for people on ESA.  Sustainment payments are lump sums given to WPP for every four weeks an ESA claimant spends in employment above the first three months.  Given how long the work programme has been running, and the number of people reaching a job outcome (3months in work) there was potential for 3000 payments to be made.  Such a small sum means very few people stayed in work for more than 3 months.  Because the number of job outcomes per month has been increasing, most of the potential sustainment payments occur for people who reached job outcomes in Feb-Jun 2012.  This skew also means that the average person who got a job kept it for only 6 months (3 months to job outcome, plus 3 months of sustainment payments).

The data suggest two things.

First is that small numbers of people are being helped into long-term employment.

Second is that a large percentage of people who reach 3 months employment don’t stay in that employment.  They may not leave right away, but the data suggests the average person does not get past 6 months.

The numbers can be cooked in different ways.  You can consider how many got a job out of all who have been referred to the WP, but this makes it look worse than it is – it includes people who only recently joined.  You can consider how many got a job within a year of being on the WP, but this makes it look better than it is – it forgets that people have already been unemployed for three or six months, and ignores that the majority do not stay in employment for six months.  You can also find inappropriate data to compare it with: bearing in mind that these are people who have been unemployed for six months (three for ESA), it is not correct to compare this with all jobseekers who find employment, because some will find employment within six months of signing on.

But however the numbers are cooked, one thing is clear: the Work Programme is not working well.

Key Figures:

All:

837 000 people joined the Work Programme

200 000 people started a job

8.3% of people got a job within a year of being on the WP.[1]

1.2% of people got a job within a year of being on JSA, or 9 mths of being on ESA

31 000 people kept a job for six months (three for ESA recipients)

20 000 people kept a job for more than six months (three for ESA recipients)

£58 000 was spent as sustainment payments for the 20 000 people in work for more than six months (three for ESA recipients)

ESA:

1 000 people had a job for three months

4.1% of people got a job within a year

Most of these people did not stay in employment for more than six months


[1] This data is only available for people who started the WP in June or July 2011