The controversial Work Programme, dubbed ‘workfare’ by opponents to the scheme, is still failing to help large numbers of unemployed people into permanent work, figures show.

Figures released today by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that less than one in ten (9.5%) Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants, completing a year on the scheme, find work lasting at least three months. The DWP admits that outcomes are well below expected levels but standards appear to be improving from a low of 3.9% in June 2011.

However, the bar set for ESA claimants of achieving at least three months in work is half that for non-disabled participants (six months). Only those in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of ESA can be expected to take part in the scheme.

For Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) claimants on the programme the short to mid-term prognosis is little better. Around 20% of 18 to 24 year-olds find work lasting six months or more. The figure falls to one in six for those aged over 25 and other JSA groups. Minimum accepted levels set by the DWP are around 1 in 7 and 1 in 9 respectively.

In total 13.8% of Work Programme participants find work lasting six (JSA) or three (ESA) months upon completing the scheme.

The long-term prognosis for all those who take part on the Work Programme is extremely poor and shows that the scheme is failing to help unemployment people stay in work. Of those completing the programme (both ESA and JSA claimants) less than a quarter were still in work after two years. Around 70% returned to Jobcentres to rejoin the unemployment merry-go-round.

Only 29% of the most recent participants to complete two-years on the Work Programme had a minimum of three/six months in work.

Earlier this year a report from the IPPR said the Work Programme is ‘failing those most in need and should be broken up’.


It’s clear that the Work Programme is still failing to help the majority of unemployed people secure long-term permanent employment.

The low bar the DWP sets itself would appear to show that the government is prepared to accept a less than successful programme.


Download the figures here



  1. Not only does it fail to achieve its stated objectives, workfare is hugely expensive. But do not expect these schemes to be ended any time soon. The government believes in rewarding success and penalising failure. . They measure success not by whether objectives are achieved, but by whether a profit has been made. And those private companies operating schemes in which they are not even allowed to pay their unemployed "workforce" (giving financial incentives to work-experiencers is forbidden) are making a mint.
    That many who take the responsibility for running these schemes are Conservative supporters and funders is utterly and purely coincidental.

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