NATIONAL AUDIT OFFICE: The introduction of the Work Programme
A statement from The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts:
This report highlights real risks with the Work Programme, both in achieving its objective of getting more people into work and in ensuring value for money for the taxpayer.
It is shocking that the business case and essential justification for the Work Programme were devised after the key decisions had already been made, and that no alternatives were considered.
The rush to get the programme up and running was so great that the supporting IT is still not in place even though the programme was launched 8 months ago. This has led to an increased risk of fraud and error.
Implementing the Programme quickly should not come at the expense of securing value for money. The Department did not pilot the Programme and did not have the data to test its assumptions about costs and performance. There is a real danger that providers will try to renegotiate contracts if targets prove too optimistic, or cherry pick clients who are easier to help.
Referrals to sub-contractors are already lower than projected by the Department and this may have a devastating impact on small charities providing specialist support. The number of harder-to-help claimants being referred is lower than expected. It will be troubling if these cases have just been ‘parked’ while contractors are paid for helping claimants that are easier to help back into work. We will want assurance that the Department has oversight of its prime contractors and that sub-contractors are not squeezed out of business.
The report is available to read on the National Audit Office website