The Department for Work and Pensions (the Department) is responsible for the Work Programme, which aims to help people who have been out of work for long periods to find and keep jobs. Specifically the Work Programme aims to increase employment, reduce the time that people spend on benefit, and to improve support for the hardesttohelp - those participants whose barriers to employment are, relatively, greater than others on the programme. The Department assigns people to one of nine payment groups depending on characteristics such as age and the benefit each person is claiming.
The Department pays prime contractors to provide support to people to get them into longterm employment using a paymentbyresults approach. The amount the Department pays a prime contractor depends on its success in getting people into sustained work and the payment group of the individual. The Department has 40 contracts with 18 prime contractors. Either two or three prime contractors operate in 18 different geographic areas across England, Scotland, and Wales. Prime contractors may subcontract some or all of the support they provide.
The Department will stop referring people to the Work Programme in March 2016, although payments to prime contractors will continue until March 2020. Between June 2011 and March 2016, the Department expects to refer 2.1 million people to the Work Programme and forecasts total payments to prime contractors of £2.8 billion.
In this report we set out recommendations in five areas, following evidence we took from the Department on the basis of a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General. We will take further evidence from the Department in early 2015 to assess progress.