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A commentary for the Committee of Public Accounts on the Work Programme outcome statistics

The National Audit Office has today provided the Committee of Public Accounts with a commentary on the first set of data published by the Department for Work and Pensions on the number of people who have moved off benefits and into sustained employment as a result of the Work Programme. The data covers the period June 2011 to July 2012.

The key points in the NAO commentary are as follows.

At the start of the period, the number of people moving off benefit and into sustained employment was less than a third of the level expected at the outset by the Department. Over the year, the number has built up more slowly than the Department’s assumptions had indicated. As at July 2012, 3.6 per cent had moved into sustained employment compared with the expected 11.9 per cent.

No external providers met the minimum performance levels set in their contracts and there is a considerable variation in performance. For Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants aged under-25, the best performing provider achieved 2.2 per cent into work in the period to the end of March 2012, compared with a target of 5.5 per cent. The lowest performing provider achieved 0 per cent.

There are a number of reasons for the lower than expected number of people moving from benefits to sustained employment. Early expectations were probably set too high, reported performance is understated and some providers need to improve performance. Providers have pointed to harsher than expected economic conditions but the Department does not consider that economic conditions alone are sufficient to merit a change in the underlying assumptions about the Programme over its whole life.

The Department has issued warnings to providers that their performance must improve and is considering further actions it might take to improve the outcome of the Programme, including for example, improving skills support for the Programme’s participants.

Notes for Editors

  • In order to provide the Committee of Public Accounts with a timely note on performance, the NAO has not validated the outcome data published by the Department. The spending watchdog will review the adequacy of the Department’s systems for collecting data as a separate exercise.
  • When the Department released the first set of outcome data on 27 November 2012, it announced that outcome statistics would be released on a six monthly cycle. The next will be released on 28 May 2013.
  • Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website, which is at https://www.nao.org.uk/. Hard copies can be obtained from The Stationery Office on 0845 702 3474.
  • The National Audit Office scrutinizes public spending for Parliament and is independent of government. The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), Amyas Morse, is an Officer of the House of Commons and leads the NAO, which employs some 860 staff. The C&AG certifies the accounts of all government departments and many other public sector bodies. He has statutory authority to examine and report to Parliament on whether departments and the bodies they fund have used their resources efficiently, effectively, and with economy. Our studies evaluate the value for money of public spending, nationally and locally. Our recommendations and reports on good practice help government improve public services, and our work led to audited savings of more than £1 billion in 2011.

PN: 76/12