Scrap Work Programme calls as Westminster accused of breaching Smith deal

Smith main

Work Programme must be abolished says SCVO

Graham Martin's photo

4th December 2014 by Graham Martin 2 Comments

The UK government has announced plans to extend Work Programme contracts – a move which critics say flies in the face of the Smith Commission agreements.

Cross party talks on further devolution for Scotland agreed that the scheme would come under Holyrood's control.

There have been calls for the Scottish Parliament to use new powers recommended by the Smith Commission to abolish the controversial Work Programme – which critics, including many in the third sector, claim doesn’t work.

It has been equated with exploitation of the unemployed and has been compared to “workfare” schemes where people are forced to toil for benefits.

We’re completely dismayed by this delay in ridding Scotland of this exploitative, punitive and under-performing programme

The Scottish Government said Westminster’s announcement that contracts will be extended is a “flagrant and wilful breach” of the Smith agreement, less than a week after the commission’s findings were published.

However, Scottish secretary Alistair Carmichael said the decision was made before the commission was set up.

The Scottish Government thought Work Programme devolution would happen as soon as current contracts with employers expire – in March 2016. However, there was fury when it was decided to extend contracts by a year.

While Holyrood and Westminster slug it out over the Work Programme, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) condemned not just the breach of the Smith deal, but the very fact that the Work Programme has been extended.

Lucy McTernan, deputy chief executive of SCVO, said: “We are utterly appalled by the UK government’s move to extend its Work Programme contracts when it was agreed by the Smith Commission that it would transfer to the Scottish Parliament as soon as current contracts expired.

“But our disappointment doesn’t lie so much in the almost immediate failure to keep to the agreement as in the fact that it’s impossible to justify why such a broken and failing system would ever be continued.

“All the evidence tells us that the Work Programme simply does not work. In fact, only getting 18% of people in the scheme actually get a job.

“We’re completely dismayed by this delay in ridding Scotland of this exploitative, punitive and under-performing programme.

“We already have the highly successful Community Jobs Scotland (CJS) which has changed the lives of 5,000 young unemployed people by creating paid jobs for them in charities and third sector organisations right across Scotland.

“This includes young people facing the biggest barriers to work, including low skills and qualifications. Overall, more than 60% of people taking part in CJS go on to either full time employment or take up further training.

“We need to invest more in approaches like this which are proven to create real jobs for people instead of punishing and exploiting them. This is the time to invest in what works not what doesn't.”

4th December 2014 by David Hardie

Really poor journalism which does not reflect well on the sector.1. The Work Programme is not workfare, it does not make people work for their benefits, you're thinking of the Community Work Programme.2. Independent analysis (CESI, NAO etc) shows the Work Programme is meeting and exceeding it's contractual targets comfortably everywhere in the UK (and I presume in Scotland), and is also performing at a better rate than previous employment schemes (including the New Deal which SCVO was happy to run for a good number of years).3. You are not comparing apples with apples - your programme - CJS - is essentially a paid placement for recently unemployed people (8 out of 10 of whom would have moved into work by the time they are sent to Work Programme), and not a programme for long term unemployed people. Anyone who works in employability should know the difference between each group and the performance levels that can be achieved. Also on reading the 'independent analysis' of CJS - which I presume SCVO paid for - it shows a success rate into work which is well south of 50%, 39% I seem to recall, and not the 60% you quote.4. There is zero chance of the Scottish Govt being able to design, procure and implement a new national employment programme in time for March 2016 given two general elections and the time it takes to do this things, so it's not surprising it has been extended.You do yourself and those of us who work in the sector a disservice by putting out this kind of stuff.

8th April 2015 by Matthew Jeavons

@ David HardieWork Programme (WP) and Workfare are indeed two different things. Workfare also has another name where I'm from - Community Work Placements, which are basically a way to provide free labour for business by exploitation of the unemployed.The Official DWP Work Programme Statistics show that the WP is failing to reach it's targets, although is working better now than it ever has, but still underachieving. Compared with the older schemes, what we have now is a DWP who have been told they must employ a whole salad of third party businesses to do their own jobs for them, and this comes at a great cost to the tax payer, given that it wouldn't be necessary if the DWP had their priorities in order to begin with!The WP Provider Guidance has more advice on how to issue sanctions and on how the WP Providers get paid, than it does advice on helping people bavck into suitable full time employment - where are our priorities?You should try sitting on the other side of the desk for a change to see what kind of effect this cruel, immoral system does to people and the effect it has on their lives.Please sign my petition to Abolish The Work Programme: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/abolish-the-work-programme-wp