Posts Tagged ‘Kirsty McHugh’

From 2013: Private Eye on the Government Doctoring Workfare Stats

March 22, 2015

As numerous left-wing bloggers have pointed out, the government’s welfare-to-work programme has been a disaster from the start. Johnny Void in particular has repeatedly pointed out how you are actually more likely to get a job using your own initiative, than if you are one of the hundreds of thousands of unfortunates pressganged into workfare. I’ve posted up several pieces from Private Eye supporting this, and showing that the workfare sector can only succeed and make a profit through continual bail-outs. In some cases, employees for the workfare companies have even been reduced to committing fraud by falsifying the names and details of claimants, who have found work through the system.

In their issue for the 19th April – 2nd May 2013, Private Eye carried this story reporting how the government itself was falsifying the statistics in order to present workfare not as an appalling shambles, but as a success. The story ran

Emails between employment minister Mark Hoban and lobbyists representing Work Programme contractors reveal how the coalition tried to massage the pisspoor results of its welfare-to-work initiative last year “for public consumption.”

The correspondence, released to Private Eye, under freedom of information rules, show that Hoban pushed for “simple” figures to be publicised instead of the grim official statistics – a pattern likely to be repeated when the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) releases more Work Programme results next month.

The first figures, released in November, sowed that firms like A4e were not meeting minimum performance levels. The DWP had estimated that 5.5 percent of the unemployed would find jobs without the programme; and as no workfare firm has exceeded this, performance was thus worse than useless.

Hoban responded by meeting Kirsty McHugh, head of the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), which lobbies for A4e, Working Links and others who are paid to get the jobless off benefits and into work. She told Hoban: “On performance overall, I think it is really important that both the industry and the department are robust in terms of defending the Work Programme as much as we can.”

Instead of castigating failing contractors, Hoban agreed and emailed McHugh to thank her for “discussion around the November publication and the simplicity of messages required for public consumption”. He told her he was keen on the ERSA figure of “200,000 Job entries” which, he said, would be “much more understandable to the media/public than discussion around Job Outcomes.”

This “simple figure” was misleading, however. Official “job outcomes” numbers show the proportion of the unemployed who find and keep jobs via the Work Programme. Baldly stating that 200,000 people started jobs means little without counting the far larger official number who did not start or hold on to a job.

Hoban preferred to push unofficial industry figures over official ones, however, and set up teleconferences and meetings between ERSA and the DWP press office. The emails also suggest he considered simply ignoring the contractors’ failure to meet minimum performance levels. But McHugh wasn’t so sure. She emailed Hoban to say: “On Minimum Performance Levels we absolutely take the points made by the department of these. However, our view is that the existence of Minimum Performance Levels are in the public arena and we need to prepare for questions around them.” In the event she was right. Hoban’s official DWP press release avoided all mention of minimum performance failure – but this damning statistic still grabbed the headlines.

It really isn’t surprising any more that Hoban should prefer to publish industry spin, rather than any kind of objective assessment. The Tories see themselves as the party of business, to the near absolute exclusion of any other concerns. Furthermore, all the parties have developed almost symbiotic links with the major government contractors. Private firms, like the big accountants, send staff to help the political parties formulate policy. They sponsor the party political conferences, and then afterwards offer politicians and senior civil servants well-paid seats on their boards. Hoban was probably thinking of this, when he went off to get McHugh’s advice.

And massaging statistics seems to be second nature to the Tories. Mike and the other left-wing bloggers have in vain tried to get the figures for the number of people, who have died after being assessed as fit for work under the Work Capability Assessment, from the DWP under the Freedom of Information Act. The DWP have repeatedly turned this down, often under the most spurious claims. They have also released completely different sets of figures on similar issues, but subtly different, in order to present the situation as being much better than it actually is.

This is a mendacious government, which has been lying almost since before Cameron was elected. It’s high time it was gone.