Work plan 'finds jobs for 100,000'
As many as 100,000 people may have found employment during the first year of the Government's flagship Work Programme, with "a substantial majority" staying in jobs, employment minister Chris Grayling has said.
Mr Grayling said that the programme was delivering a "revolution in welfare-to-work", with around 22% of those taking part finding jobs, even taking into account the groups who are hardest to place in work, such as the disabled.
But he said there was a "big gulf" in performance among the private companies and charities who are helping place long-term jobless people in work on a "payment by results" basis. He said he was "completely relaxed" if some organisations drop out of the programme, telling those with poor records: "It's time to deliver or we'll find someone else to do it for us."
Labour said that the Work Programme had failed to deal with Britain's "jobs crisis", pointing to a £9 billion increase in Government estimates of spending on JobSeeker's Allowance and Housing Benefit over the next five years.
But Mr Grayling dismissed their criticisms as "nonsense", insisting that the total number of people on out-of-work benefits has fallen by 70,000 since the election, and that any increase in the benefit bill is down to the Government's decision to increase them in line with higher-than-usual inflation.
In a speech to mark the first anniversary of the Work Programme, Mr Grayling will say that the scheme has outperformed the expectations of the National Audit Office, which in January predicted that only 26% of the easiest-to-help jobseekers would find and keep work.
Early indications suggest that the proportion of job starts among this group is already "well above 26% in much of the country", Mr Grayling will say.
Information from providers about the first group of people to join the programme last summer suggests that the overall job entry rate, including hard-to-help groups, is about 22% - the equivalent of 60,000 jobs within three and a half months, he will say.
Once people who have joined the programme since September are taken into account, "the total number of unemployed people placed in jobs will now be well on the way to 100,000". While there is so far no reliable data on job retention, it is "clear from feedback from the front line that a substantial majority are staying in work once they get there", Mr Grayling will say.
"Now I don't want to overplay this," he will tell the Institute of Economic Affairs thinktank in London. "It's early days. The job market is still difficult. The industry is saying that it's more challenging than they expected, and that achieving goals will be tough. But it's been a decent start."