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Work and Pensions Select Committee report on the Work Programme

25 June 2013

The Work and Pensions Select Committee has recently published its report into the experience of different user groups on the Work Programme.

The full report is available here. The key points from the report are as follows;

  • The Select Committee recognises that the performance of the Work Programme is likely to improve and that it has the potential to work well for mainstream jobseekers
  • However, it is concerned that it may not reach the most disadvantaged long-term unemployed people.
  • It believes that the differential pricing mechanism is not having its intended impact and a more individualised assessment of a person's obstacles to finding employment would help determine the upfront funding required to support them.
  • It recommends that the current underspend in the Work Programme should be used to extend alternative provision including the extension of Work Choice and Access to Work as well as more pre and post Work Programme support.
  • It believes that the DWP and providers should establish a single set of core minimum service standards.
  • DWP should publish referral data for subcontractors to allow visibility of the extent to which specialist support is being utilised.
  • It mentions that poor working relationships between JCP and providers can in some cases lead to the inappropriate use of benefit sanctions. It recommends that a review of Work Programme sanctioning activity should be conducted by the DWP and a report made in the autumn.
  • The Select Committee says the DWP must improve the way it calculates and sets providers' Minimum Performance Levels.
  • The Committee agrees with the principle of market shift but says highly performing subcontractors must be protected.
  • It recommends that providers should publish standardised participant satisfaction surveys and that these should be used as part of DWP's performance assessment.
  • It says that the DWP and ERSA produce a national action plan for engaging employers in the Work Programme before the end of 2013, including a more co-ordinated approach.
  • Finally, the Committee recommends that the Merlin assessment should be extended to assess the quality of primes' services from the perspectives of Work Programme participants, local authorities and employers. Merlin should be able to impose financial sanctions on prime contractors that treat subcontractors unfairly.

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