The Employment Related Service Association (ERSA) has today published the latest Work Programme performance report, the last produced before the access onto the programme closes next month.

The Work Programme is the government’s flagship five year (2012-17) initiative aimed at supporting long-term unemployed people into work.

The latest statistics show that over 824,000  have now entered employment via the initiative, enough to fill Wembley stadium more than 9 times. The figures show that over 199,000 young people as well as 55,000 jobseekers on Employment Support Allowance have now gained work.

Despite this success delivered by specialist providers across the UK, the government’s next initiative, the Work and Health Programme, is set to be dramatically smaller in size than the Work Programme and Work Choice, both in terms of funding and the number of jobseekers they support. Recent ERSA research found that the reduction in funding – from £750 million in 2013/14 to less than £130 million this year – means that while 300,000 disabled people accessed contracted support between 2012-2015, this will fall to just 160,000 disabled people from 2017 to 2020.

In the context of the government’s commitment to halving the disability employment gap, the size of the new programme means that in each remaining year of this Parliament, 45,000 fewer disabled people will be allowed onto specialist employment provision. This means that only one in eight unemployed disabled people who want to work will receive the necessary help. 

Commenting on today’s figures, Kirsty Mchugh, Chief Executive of ERSA, said:
“Today’s report underlines just how successful the Work Programme has been. With referrals ending next month we should reflect on the transformative impact of the Work Programme on individual lives, businesses and communities.

“Yet it is also deeply concerning that far fewer jobseekers will have access to this kind of specialist support moving forward. As recent ERSA research found, the size of the new Work and Health Programme means that only one in eight disabled people who want to work will have specialist help to do so.

“While the Work Programme has played an important role in helping to reduce long-term unemployment, challenges around productivity and skills remain.  Rather than taking our foot off the gas we should continue investing in high quality specialist employment support as we move into a new future for UK Plc.”