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Work Programme 'spin' attacked

New figures for the Government's flagship employment scheme caused a split, with ministers hailing a huge improvement, and campaign groups branding it a "miserable failure" for the hardest to help.

The Work Programme, which has come under attack since its launch in June 2011, helped 132,000 people find work in the year to March, up from 9,000 in the previous year.

Employment Minister Mark Hoban said: "The improvement in performance over the past year has been profound and the scheme is getting better and better. And because providers are rewarded for success, the Work Programme is designed to give taxpayers a far better deal than previous schemes."

But critics lined up to put a different interpretation on the figures, accusing the Government of trying to "spin" the scheme as a success.

Homelessness charity Crisis said the statistics showed that just 5% of the hardest to help people have been found work.

Chief executive Leslie Morphy said: "The Work Programme was set up to help those furthest from work back into employment. On that measure, it has been a miserable failure. The Government's own statistics, our research, charities and thinktanks are unanimous: homeless people and others who need more support have been left parked without meaningful help, lives on hold."

Richard Hawkes, chief executive of the disability charity Scope, said: "These figures will confirm what many disabled already know about the Work Programme - it's not working for them. A one-size-fits-all approach means disabled people aren't getting the individual, tailored support they need."

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) insisted the figures showed the "growing success" of the scheme, with all jobs achieved before people had completed the full two years on the programme. The DWP said the new figures only counted those who have been in work for long periods - six months in most cases, or three months for the hardest to help.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said: "Three years into the parliament and nearly nine out of 10 people on this flagship programme have been failed. Worst of all, the Government missed every single one of its minimum targets and in nearly half the country, the Work Programme is literally worse than doing nothing."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Ministers should know better than to try and spin the Work Programme as a huge success. Nearly two years on only one in 10 people has found proper work through the scheme - a number that drops to just three in every hundred for disabled people."

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