A view on the Work Programme

I have spent a lot of time in the last two weeks looking at aspects of the Work Programme with people from the voluntary and community sector (VCS), social enterprises, prime contractors and even been part of meetings with the minister and shadow minister responsible. The question is, what have I learned?

I think the Work Programme and how it is portrayed by the government and the opposition is consistent with what is happening across the policy arena at present and shows a consistency in the government’s approach and attitude which I will attempt to illustrate below:

1. The aims of the policy cannot be faulted: you will have to go a long way to find people who truly believe getting people back into work is a bad idea. The challenge is agreeing the best way to do it.

2. A lack of accountability: within government there is a willingness, even enthusiasm, to say ‘it’s nothing to do with us’. At the NCVO Special Interest Group (SIG), Chris Grayling said: ‘Not wishing to rubbish what you are doing here, but you shouldn’t be bringing these issues to me, you should be discussing them with the primes.’ The trouble is, he is probably right given the nature of the contracts they have created, but I do find it strange that government doesn’t see it as its role to hear issues about one of the biggest ever government contracts in this arena? As the delayed National Audit Office report asks, has DWP ‘…introduced mechanisms to manage the Work Programme and the ongoing risks to its effective delivery?’

3. A lack of willingness to learn from the past: it is interesting that in the VCS we are constantly told to evidence what we do and prove what we do works yet the government seems willing to embark on huge schemes with little supportive evidence – and when there is some they ignore it on clearly political grounds – take the Future Jobs Fund, for just one small example.

Richard Caulfield

Richard Caulfield is chief executive of Voluntary Sector North West

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