Comment: Work plan’s not working

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Government still committed to giving support, says Sheila Gilmore

This week we’ve had figures published on the performance of the Work Programme. Launched by David Cameron last year, it aims to tackle long-term unemployment by paying firms to give people specialist support to get a job.

While in principle I support schemes like this – Labour’s New Deal was first – the sad fact is that the Work Programme isn’t working.

In Edinburgh 6500 people went on the scheme in its first year but just 170 got permanent jobs. That’s a success (or failure) rate of less than 3 per cent. Across the UK it is just 2 per cent.

The government said if there was no Work Programme then at least 5 in every 100 people would find jobs anyway. So the Coalition’s flagship work scheme is so bad they would have been as well doing nothing.

So why is it not working?

For a start it’s the set up. I met a mother whose son had a nervous breakdown some years ago and had been jobless since. The Work Programme contractor got him to look for jobs on the internet. There was none of the tailored support ministers promised.

The blame for this doesn’t only lie with contractors, it’s the government’s too. They set it up so payments arrive only once people have a job and contractors struggle to pay for resources they need.

But more fundamentally, it isn’t working because the economy isn’t working. David Cameron’s cuts choked off the recovery and sent the UK back into recession. So jobs are not there for those on the scheme.

The Chancellor is due to give his autumn statement next week and Labour are calling for a boost to the economy by house building and a VAT cut, paid for by a tax on bankers’ bonuses. Only then will jobs be created and only then will the Work Programme work.

• Sheila Gilmore is MP for Edinburgh East and a ­member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee