As the Work Programme approaches its third year we are beginning to see the bigger picture. The scheme has always been ambitious in its aim – supporting those furthest from the jobs market while offering record value for money to the taxpayer, but has it done enough to achieve its goals?

ERSA and its members have spent the last few days pouring over the latest government statistics. What we found is the Work Programme is delivering at a far faster rate, it’s delivering value for money for taxpayers and greater performance for jobseekers. There’s been a 27% increase in the number of jobseekers gaining a Job Outcome, with 168,000 long term unemployed now in sustained work. Crucially it’s also delivering for jobseekers quicker than ever before, with jobseekers joining the programme in June 2012 entering employment more rapidly than those joining one year earlier.

The programme is having  a positive impact on youth unemployment, with nearly 41,000 young people entering sustained work by the end of June, and it’s making a real difference for the over 25s as well. Only three months into the third year of the Work Programme, 46.3 per cent of over 25s on JSA had a Job Outcome compared to a target of 33 per cent.

The Work Programme has undoubtedly come a long way, addressing its critics and delivering outcomes for jobseekers, but it still has space to grow and challenges to meet.  We know that jobseekers on Employment and Support Allowance need more resource and that other groups, such as those looking for work after leaving prison, are particularly vulnerable.  We know more time and more investment can make the difference to these jobseekers, many of whom have very deep barriers to employment.  We are on record as saying that the Work Programme will not be able to meet these challenges alone and that we need to explore more options as to how support across the board to this group can be increased.

However the statistics are only part of the Work Programme story. Behind the successes are the examples of innovation, ERSA members have taken up the ‘black box’ challenge and run with it. Our Innovation Guide highlights just some of the remarkable schemes members are using to inspire people to achieve their potential and get into work.  Similarly the Work Programme has seen the welfare to work industry collaborate as never before, including taking upon itself a new challenge to professionalise its own staff through the Institute of Employability Professionals.

In less than three years members have galvanised a whole industry to do better and to learn, both from past programmes, but also from each other. The Work Programme is succeeding because of the commitment from providers, advisers and most importantly jobseekers themselves.