Media Release

NAO Work Programme report – Social Market Foundation statement

Responding to the National Audit Office report into the introduction of the Work Programme, SMF Director Ian Mulheirn said:

“The NAO report confirms our analysis that there are serious questions over the viability of the Work Programme. Reporting results that closely echo the SMF analysis, the NAO report shows that the Government has massively overestimated what Work Programme providers will be able to achieve – by over 50%. This means that many of providers are likely to fail to meet even the minimum performance required of them by the Department for Work and Pensions and risk having their contracts removed.

“According to the NAO, providers will struggle to meet the Government’s expectations of how many people would get into work even if no programme to help people back to work existed. Such excessive optimism will put huge financial pressure on providers, forcing them to choose between cutting services at the front line and going bust. This will be bad news for the 2.4 million people the programme is designed to help, and exactly the wrong time for front-line spending on services to fall given rising long-term unemployment.

“The Government needs to urgently rethink how Work Programme is working. It should revise down substantially its performance expectations in light of the NAO’s report and our own analysis, and commit to publishing monthly performance data on Work Programme outcomes so we can see how the programme is really performing.“


The SMF report Will the Work Programme Work? was published on 22 August 2011.


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