- This story was clarified on 6 February: see final paragraph
The Employment Related Services Association, the trade association for the welfare-to-work industry, has said the number of people finding jobs on the government’s Work Programme is so far "broadly in line" with expectations.
The organisation said initial performance figures for the first six months of the payment-by-results programme showed that between 18 per cent and 23 per cent of people referred to the programme had started employment.
Kirsty McHugh, chief executive of ERSA, said the data was based on performance figures provided by most prime contractors for the six-month period since the initiative began in June 2011.
McHugh said it was "too early to draw firm conclusions on likely performance levels across the life of the contracts" but the data indicated the scheme was working well so far.
"Clearly, however, the economy is a cause for concern," she added.
McHugh said the low rate of referrals of hard-to-reach people claiming Employment and Support Allowance was the "number one issue for the welfare-to-work industry".
Many charity sub-contractors were recruited to provide this specialist help and have been frustrated by the slow take-up in this area.
"Referrals have not been coming through in anywhere near the number that the Work Programme has been expecting and that is having a disproportionate affect on the voluntary sector," said McHugh, echoing what the National Audit Office found last month.
McHugh said ERSA, which represents most prime contractors and many sub-contractors, planned to issue recommendations in the next few days to the Department for Work and Pensions on how to increase the rate of referrals for people claiming Employment and Support Allowance.
- McHugh has asked us to clarify that the initial performance figures relate only to people who started the programme in June last year and had been on it for six months