THE Government’s bid to tackle the North East’s unemployment record is in tatters today as figures show £2.3m was spent finding work for a very small number of people.
Questions are being asked about the Government’s ability to tackle long-term joblessness as it emerged the Work Programme saw firms and charities paid more than £2m to help people back into work, but only 1,130 out of 54,830 were successfully placed.
In Northumberland, just 80 out of a potential 4,570 people were helped into employment, bringing with it a bill of more than £167,000.
The Department for Work and Pensions insisted the scheme is performing well in its first year, and said the £2,097 cost per job was still considerably cheaper than the previous Labour Party-backed scheme which came in at £7,495 per job.
Last night, the TUC said the scheme’s failure showed that tackling unemployment in the North East needed a rethink.
Regional secretary Kevin Rowan said: “The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have been hiding behind their Work Programme as though it was a magic wand to make up for all their economic failings in government.
“The reality is there is still a huge jobs deficit in the region with seven jobseekers per job vacancy. No jobs scheme is able to tackle this in isolation of wider economic policy.
“We desperately need a plan for jobs and growth in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, but instead the Conservative-led Government seems more focused on more savage cuts for the North East which will only make matter worse.” Wansbeck Labour MP Ian Lavery said the figures showed a “deliberate neglect” of the region’s jobless by the coalition. He added: “It is absurd that ministers are claiming this scheme is a success when it has do obviously been a failure, it is not doing anywhere near enough.
“The Work Programme is not working clearly, but even worse, I don’t think this lot care if it doesn’t improve south east Northumberland.”
Also hitting out was former Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who said the Prime Minister and his Cabinet “should be ashamed of themselves”.
He added: “The previous Labour Government’s programme, which was ‘only’ getting 50% of participants into sustained work was abolished on the ‘Not Invented Here’ principle before the evidence was in that the programme was actually a roaring success.”
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.
Nationally 800,000 people started the Work Programme, but only 31,000 stayed in a job for six months.
That 3.5% success figure is short of a Government target of 5.5% set for finding sustainable jobs. In Northumberland, the success rate was just 1.75%.
Employment minister Mark Hoban said: “The Work Programme is succeeding in getting people off benefits and into work. It’s still early days, but already thousands of lives are being transformed.
“Some providers have found their feet quickly and are already performing well but there is clearly a mixed picture today.
“We won’t tolerate second best. Getting the long-term unemployed back to work is my priority.
“My message to providers under-performing is clear: it’s time to up your game or we will send more participants to those who are coming up with the results.”
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