Rumours are abounding in the press that the Conservative Party conference will be used to launch a workfare scheme (or pilot of one) for people unfortunate enough to still be unemployed after two years on the Work Programme. We thought we should reproduce this article, first published by us on 12 December 2012, to point out it has already been piloted. And found to fail (apart from at increasing sanctions).
More news of workfare schemes that fail to help people into jobs came out last week, as the first examination of the “Very Long-Term Unemployed Trailblazer” is released. The headline is that being sent on the Community Action Programme (CAP) – a 6 month workfare placement – has no effect on employment levels with 15-18% of people finding work – the same amount as people who simply got standard job centre plus support.
The preliminary results are from the trailblazer pilot, which tested CAP along with Ongoing Case Management (OCM) – “a more intensive a more intensive offer of flexible and personalised adviser-based support, as well as a set of mandatory activities, delivered by Jobcentre Plus through increased adviser interventions for six months”. These two schemes were tested with a control group continuing on standard job centre plus, and participants randomly assigned to the schemes.
Fifteen to 18 per cent in each programme strand had entered paid employment, become self-employed or were waiting to start work at the time of the survey, six to seven months after starting on the trailblazer. These job outcomes did not vary significantly between programme strands, nor did the types of jobs entered, take-home pay and hours worked.
For participants on OCM, those who reported receiving more personalised support to their individual needs were significantly more likely to be in work at the end of the programme. However, for CAP participants, neither attending a placement nor receiving jobsearch support were significantly associated with a job outcome around the end of the programme.
The majority of participants reported being in receipt of JSA at the time of the survey. DWP statistics published alongside this report found statistically significantly lower levels of benefit receipt for both CAP and OCM participants compared to the control group about six months after starting the programme.
It is of some concern that although job outcomes were the same, there were statistically significantly lower levels of benefit receipt for the CAP and OCM participants. Given that the difference here is not jobs, this could be explained either through a greater level of sanctions placed on those participants, or by people leaving JSA entirely because of workfare or even as has been seen with Mandatory Work Activity by people moving from JSA to Employment Support Allowance (ESA) as health conditions get worse due to the jobs they are forced to do.
In the main report (p6), we are told that
The majority of participants in the survey said they had not had any benefit sanctions for example for missed appointments or not actively seeking work) during the course of the programme. OCM participants were more likely to have had their benefits stopped compared to CAP participants and the control group.
Sanctions tended to have a heavy financial impact on participants when imposed for a longer time period, including challenges in buying groceries and paying for rent
So at least some of the difference can be explained through sanctions (34% of people on OCM were sanctioned, 28% of those on CAP and 30% of those who remained with the JCP (p71), but the results (p40) show that there was no difference in the rate of people leaving benefits entirely, nor in the rate of people moving to ESA or Income Support between the three strands. As a non-statistician it’s not really clear how there is a lower rate of benefit being claimed, unless it is all accounted for in the extra sanctions handed out to people placed on the OCM strand, or if small differences between the various outcomes do not show up individually but put together combine to make something statistically significant.
There is some detail on the effect of sanctions on participants as well (p72):
The survey identifies the key impacts of benefit sanctions reported by participants (Table A.4.20 of the technical appendices published alongside this report). These included having to borrow money, use credit cards or incur debt (56 per cent of all participants of those who have been sanctioned);having to go without food or reducing the amount spent on food (71 per cent of OCM; 58 per cent of CAP and 61 per cent of JCPO participants); delaying the purchase of non-food items that they wanted to buy (49 per cent); going into arrears on rent or bills (53 per cent), and not affording to go out (48 per cent). Reducing the amount spent on food was the only impact that varied significantly by programme strand.
So as much as 71% of people sanctioned go without food, half go into debt, with high street loan sharks waiting for those without friends or family who have them money to lend them, or go into rent arrears risking homelessness, or get behind on bills. This are the “challenges” that the report says people face as a result of being sanctioned.
Something darker lies in the full report, where they tell us that this pilot was not just about determining how useful these schemes would be for people trying to get a job, but also about how good it was at getting people to simply sign off (p11)
A secondary objective of the trailblazer programme was to test the extent to which participants were motivated to sign off benefits in order to avoid the disruption on their lives caused by the mandatory and intensive elements of the programme.
How well did it achieve this objective? The percentage of participants neither entered work nor migrated to IS or ESA did not vary significantly by strand (eight per cent of OCM, five per cent of CAP and six per cent of the control group). The majority of these participants who reported neither working nor receiving a primary benefit (61 per cent) classed themselves as unemployed and looking for work when asked for their main activity.
These results are only premilinary results, but taken alongside the failure of the Work Programme, which reduces your chances of finding a job, the worrying results from Mandatory Work Activity, which has no effect on employment levels but does increase the number of people claiming disability benefits, and the DWP’s own conclusion from 2008 that workfare schemes don’t help people into work, this preliminary result should be taken seriously as evidence that being forced onto an unpaid workfare scheme fails to help people get a job. Worryingly, it is becoming increasingly clear that these schemes are simply being used as ways to push people off benefits and to sanction those who remain on them.
The week of action against workfare continues in London today (Wednesday 12th) and in Brighton, Kings Lynn, York and Staines on Saturday and loads of things you can do as an individual too…