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Work Programme

Country of implementation
United Kingdom
General short description of the innovation
The Work Programme was introduced in June 2011 and is the Coalition Government?s main welfare-to-work programme. Unemployed people claiming Jobseeker?s Allowance (JSA) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) are referred on to the programme from their local Jobcentre Plus, and remain on the programme for up to two years. / / The scheme is run by private for profit and non-profit Prime providers (and several sub-contracted providers) who are given wide freedom to help unemployed participants find work (blackbox approach). Providers are paid by results: they receive a job outcome payment after a participant has spent a minimum length of time in employment (either 13 or 26 weeks), and sustainment payments for every 4 weeks the participant remains in employment thereafter. To avoid ?creaming? and ?parking? payments are weighted and categorised into nine payment groups providing higher payments for the hardest to help into work.
Target group
Total Population
Policy Field
  • employment
  • social
Type of Policy
  • public-private partnership
Duration of the policy
Since June 2011
Scope of innovation
  • Budgets: Up to September 2013, a total of 1,047 million had been paid to Work Programme providers
  • Number of intended beneficiaries: Between June 2011 and December 2013, 1.48 million people were referred to the Work Programme in Great Britain.
  • Spatial coverage: Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland)
General description of (intended) objectives and strategies
Single activating welfare-to-work programme for claimants of Jobseeker Allowance as well as Employment and Support Allowance with contracted Prime Providers and weighted payments by results. Streamline the welfare-to-work system; make it easier for claimants to cycle between being in work and out of work with individual support by the employment service providers and the provisions in the future Universal Credit. /
Type of ideal-typical strategy for the innovation
  • liberalisation
Type of innovation
  • new policy, practice or measure
New outputs
  • benefit eligibility
  • services
Clarification of intended mechanisms, outputs and outcomes (optional)
The programme is mandatory for most of the nine eligible claimant groups and provides different times of referral (e.g. 18-24 year olds after nine months of unemployment, 25 and over after 12 months of unemployment) with some people being able to join the Work Programme earlier (e.g. care leavers, homeless). In the first two years of the Work Programme, providers in each contract package area received an equal share of referrals to each customer group. From the third year of contracts, DWP has started giving more new referrals to higher performing providers. This market share shift occurs where there is a difference in provider performance.
Intended target group
Unemployed JSA and ESA claimants
Working age population
  • employment situation (unemployed)
  • main source of income: social protection (social assistance as well as disability benefits)
Actors involved in policy-making/implementation and/or evaluation
  • agency or national social insurance body
  • central state
  • private for-profit organisations (commercial)
  • private not-for-profit organisations (e.g. Third Sector organisation or NGO)
Intended output
  • benefit eligibility
  • job guidance, coaching and counselling
  • others (work placement)
  • services
Clarification of outcomes in terms of impacting resilience and labour market inclusion
Following some research (McGuiness 2014), job outcome payments were made for 252,000 participants between June 2011 and September 2013. Of those participants who had been on the programme long enough to achieve a job outcome, 18.7% had done so by December 2013. Altogether, 506,020 participants had completed the programme in December 2013. 9.5% of them had entered employment and achieved the maximum number of sustainment payments. 15.5% had entered employment and job outcome/sustainment payments still being made to providers. 75% returned to Jobcentre Plus provision. This includes people who previously spent time in employment while on the programme, but returned to benefit not having achieved the maximum number of sustainment payments. / / JSA recipients aged 18-24 had higher shares of people being transferred into work 12 months after joining the programme than older age groups (25+) and new ESA claimants (McGuiness 2014:5). In the first year after the implementation of the Work Programme, all groups significantly underperformed in the actual performance level for job outcomes compared to expected minimum performance levels. During the first year the ratio of actual and expected job outcomes improved but still performance remained behind the original targets. This is especially the case for new ESA claimants who achieved less than half of the minimum performance level. / / Of all those referred to programme and having completed 24 months on the programme 22% had a job outcome. The decreasing proportion of participants achieving job outcomes within 12 months in 2012 is partly due to the increasing inflow of ESA claimants joining the programme. This group is often less likely to find work. Another explanation could be the entry into force of the new sanction rules for ESA and JSA claimants. Some research (Webster 2014) suggests that Work Programme contractors have been responsible for twice as many sanctions on the people referred to them as they have produced job outcomes: 394,759 sanctions and 198,750 job outcomes. Furthermore, recent research suggests that two years into the work programme ?creaming? and ?parking? remain to be a significant issue (PAC 2013, Rees et al. 2013). / / Sources: / DWP (2013). Work Programme: Provider Guidance. Chapter 1 and 2. / Lane, P. et al. (2013). Work Programme Evaluation. Procurement, supply chains and implementation of the commission model, DWP Research Report 832, London/Sheffield. / Newton, B. et al. (2012). Work Programme evaluation: Findings from the first phase of qualitative research on programme delivery, DWP Research Report 821, November 2012, / Public Accounts Committee (2013). Department for Work and Pensions: Work Programme outcome statistics, 22 February 2013, HC 936 2012-13. / Rees, J. et al. (2013). Support for all in the UK Work Programme, Differential Payments, same problems?..., Third Sector Research Centre, Working Paper 115. / Webster, D. (2014). The DWP?s JSA/ESA Sanctions statistics release, Briefing, 20 February 2014, Glasgow. [accessed 14 April 2014]
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