Press release

Over a quarter of a million people escape long-term unemployment thanks to the Work Programme

Over a quarter of a million jobseekers have escaped long-term unemployment and found lasting work – normally at least 6 months.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


The Work Programme, launched in June 2011, has overhauled how the very hardest-to-help people are supported off benefits and into work by providing tailored support for people who are at risk of becoming long-term unemployed.

New figures published today show that in the last 3 months 44,000 long-term unemployed people have achieved lasting jobs through the Work Programme. This follows figures published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics which show that unemployment fell by 63,000 in the last quarter.

Over a quarter of the people who joined the Work Programme right at the beginning – many of whom had been out of work for over a year when the scheme began – have had at least 6 months in work (or 3 for the very hardest to help).

Minister for Employment Esther McVey said:

Over a quarter of a million long-term unemployed people have been helped into a sustained job thanks to the Work Programme – that’s a quarter of a million people who previously might have been written off now with the security of regular wage.

As the economy continues to grow, the Work Programme is successfully helping people to turn their lives around so they can look after themselves and their families.

Unlike the short term focus of previous schemes, the Work Programme is about keeping people in work. The figures published today show that the vast majority (230,000) of those who find sustained employment are remaining in work beyond the 6 month point.

Work Programme providers get paid the majority of their money when someone has stayed in work for 6 months, or 3 months for some of the hardest to help, so today’s figures don’t tell the whole story. Many more people have started work but not reached the 6 month point yet. Industry figures show almost half a million people had started a job thanks to the Work Programme.

The figures published today show Work Programme performance has improved since being launched in June 2011. Up until the end of June 2012, almost 24,000 had found lasting work. By December 2012, this had increased to over 89,000. This latest figure is 10 times that of June 2012 and over two and a half times the number in December 2012, with 252,000 finding lasting work.

Work Programme providers have improved significantly, but we have always been clear that we want to continue to drive up performance, help as many people into work as possible, and give the best value to the taxpayer.

From August last year we began referring more claimants to the better performing providers. In order to continue this improvement, the bottom quarter of contracts have been told to put forward plans for how they intend to boost their performance so they can deliver a better service for claimants, competing at the level of those contracts doing best at getting the long-term unemployed into work.

We have also recently announced that the contract in North East Yorkshire and The Humber, currently run by the Newcastle College Group was to be terminated with 12 months’ notice. This was the lowest performing contract when assessed against a range of performance measures. Over the next few months we will be conducting a procurement competition to identify a replacement provider.

As part of the continuous development of the Work Programme, in April 2013 the Building Best Practice group was set up to help providers improve the support they offer claimants. The group will make final recommendations in the spring. However, ministers have already begun implementing early recommendations, including building the capability of the voluntary and community sector, so the huge potential of this sector can be better harnessed to support some of the very hardest to help back to work.

More about the Work Programme

The Work Programme was launched in June 2011 and is aimed at those at risk of long-term unemployment. Providers are paid according to results to get people into work, with extra incentives to support the hardest to help.

Providers have flexibility to innovate and to design support that addresses the needs of the individual and the local labour market, rather than having to follow one size fits all processes. They get a small amount of money up front but most payment comes after someone has been in work for up to 6 months, and extra payments for each month afterwards.

Once referred, claimants remain on the Work Programme for 2 years. Even after a participant has started a job, their provider will offer them in-work support for the balance of their time on the programme.

Outcome payments are usually made after someone has been in work for 6 months, or 3 months in the case of the very hardest to help.

By the end of December 2013, 1.35 million people had been referred to the Work Programme and been on it long enough to count in today’s figures.

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Published 20 March 2014