Latest official Work Programme statistics published today show that the Work Programme, the largest employment support programme in the UK, has now helped over half a million people move into long term work.

The programme which began in June 2011 has, in less than five years, helped over 500,000 people into sustained employment (in most cases lasting six month or more). This is the largest number of people helped into sustained work through a single programme in UK history and a major contributor to the drop in unemployment unveiled in yesterday’s Labour Market Statistics.

This figure of half a million jobseekers includes 115,490 young people and 35,790 with disabilities and health conditions who are receiving Employment Support Allowance.  ERSA’s own figures show that a larger number – over 770,000 – have found some employment on the Work Programme. In many cases these individuals will not yet have been in work long enough to count in official Government statistics.  

To mark the achievement of the diverse organisations supporting people into work, employers and jobseekers themselves, ERSA is running the first ever Employability Day on 15 April, where providers around the country will open their doors to local stakeholders to show the impact that employment support is having in local areas across the UK.

Kirsty McHugh, ERSA Chief Executive, said:

“The Work Programme has helped over half a million people into long term work. This is a colossal achievement. To put it into perspective, the number of people now in jobs through the programme would fill Wimbledon centre court 33 times and still require extra seating!

“At such a milestone, never before achieved in the UK by one programme alone, we must take the chance to celebrate the achievement of those individuals who have succeeded in moving into employment and pay tribute to the dedication of the organisations that have worked hard to support them to do so.”


Tina’s story
Tina Johnson, a lone mum of three children in her 40s from Sheffield, did not believe she would ever find work again, having been unemployed for 22 years. Along with the long-term unemployment, Tina felt that her lack of recent experience and childcare commitments would prevent her from getting back into work. While on the Work Programme, Tina demonstrated immeasurable personal dedication to securing work, including considering working in sectors she never thought of previously. With support from Serco and its subcontractor Phoenix, Tina secured a permanent role with B&Q, which she has sustained for almost two years now. She has received further training and has won awards and recognition from colleagues and customers for going the extra mile.

Tina said: “Being in work has had a major impact on my life. I used to be embarrassed to say I’m unemployed. When I received my first wage I was so proud! I thought ‘I’ve earned that!’”

Simon’s story
Simon Astbury from Cannock, Staffordshire, lost his job and his home and was living on ESA as a result of a botched operation which left him fighting for his life, then he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He was referred to the Work Programme with Serco’s subcontractor Inspire 2 Independence, where he completed a number of qualifications and took on voluntary roles which helped him gain experience in the mental health field – a subject he’s passionate about. With support from his advisers Simon secured a Mental Health Employment Adviser role with ‘Making Space’, supporting other people with mental health issues get back into work.  Simon is now also a trustee on Mind’s board after the charity approached him about the role. 

Alex’s Story
Alex Campbell, 35, became unemployed after relocating to Newquay from Manchester and began to drink heavily. He struggled to even get interviews in the south west, despite having great work history working as a butcher, baker, fishmonger and barman among other jobs up north.

Having been out of work for a couple of years, Alex was referred by Jobcentre Plus to Working Links, which delivers the Work Programme initiative in the south west. He was partnered with personal consultant Shaun Rowe, who started to offer the personalised support Alex needed. When Alex was ready for a return to work, Shaun’s colleague, employer services consultant Clair Murray, used contacts to help get an interview at Domino’s. Alex impressed and started a part-time job soon after. Spurred on by his success, Alex also proactively found another part-time job at Sainsbury’s to complement his existing working hours.

He added: “I really enjoy working. I have my life back on track and am the happiest I have been in a long while. I owe Shaun everything.”

Ross’s Story
A 43-YEAR-OLD man from Glasgow who overcame a 20-year drug addiction is now focusing his efforts on helping others who find themselves in similar positions.

Ross McIlwraith’s life unravelled in 2009 after a methadone addiction caught up with him. That, coupled with the recession biting, caused him to lose his job as a driver for a demolition company.
He was referred by Jobcentre Plus to Working Links, which delivers the Work Programme initiative in Scotland to help people get back into sustainable employment. Ross is now working in a variety of places across Glasgow, including the Mungo Foundation and Salvation Army, supporting vulnerable people. 

He added: “At first, I tried to dodge it. I didn’t want to go. I felt as though I was doing okay on my own. But then I had to be humble and go to them. They listened to what I had to say and put me on the right path.

Yvonne’s Story

Yvonne was losing self- motivation after being shortly withdrawn from two roles. She was also dealing with personal barriers at the time such, having to receive Carers Allowance to take care of her mum.

Yvonne’s Adviser Kamaljit said: “Yvonne came across as a confident, bubbly character who was very sure of herself on the outside but inside she was feeling something completely different, Yvonne was beginning to feel like a failure”.  Yvonne knew she wanted to work in customer service so was provided with the opportunity to complete the Customer Service and Guilds Level 1 course alongside interview practice. She also started a course in Business and Administration at Hammersmith College on a part time basis and began volunteering out of her own initiative at Action Acton for 3 months to update her skills and aid finding work in this field.

Yvonne has now secured a permanent position at Simplify Digital where the employer was extremely impressed with her attitude and capabilities.

Yvonne said: I am happier, my self-esteem has improved, and I am back at the gym, and feeling more positive about life in general and my future. I am back to the person I used to be.


Press enquiries should be directed to Sam Windett 07720677477 /

Notes to Editors

1. The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) is the representative body for those delivering or with an interest in employment support services.  ERSA’s membership spans the private, voluntary and public sectors and ranges from large multi-nationals through to small specialist charities.  It has over 220 members, including all prime contractors of the Work Programme and a high number of subcontractors. The majority of its members are not for profit.
2. The Work Programme is the Government’s largest back to work scheme and caters for the most disadvantaged jobseekers in the labour market. Further information about how the programme operates, including the financial model, is available in this Policy Briefing on ERSA’s website.
3. The Government announced as part of its Spending Review last year the creation of a new Work and Health Programme, which will focus on providing support for claimants with health conditions or disabilities, as well as those who are long-term unemployed. 
4. The Government’s official publication on Work Programme statistics, which focuses on sustained Job Outcomes, jobseekers who have been in work for (in most cases) six months, is available here.
5. ERSA’s Work Programme statistics showing the number of people who have started a job, can be found here.
6. Europe Economics report, The Economic Impact of the Work Programme, can be downloaded here
7. Case studies of former jobseekers, frontline providers and employers are available on ERSA’s website. Interviews with ERSA’s Chief Executive Kirsty McHugh are available on request.