Yorkshire job scheme ‘achieved more than Government failure’

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A SCHEME to get people into work designed by a Yorkshire council leader but scrapped by coalition Ministers had a 30 per cent higher success rate than its much-criticised replacement, figures revealed yesterday.

The Government’s Work Programme has been widely ridiculed this week, after national statistics showed just 3.5 per cent of the people who signed up had found a lasting job during its first 14 months of operation.

Yesterday MPs who represent some of the region’s worst unemployment hotspots joined the chorus of disapproval, with Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis pointing to the previous Future Jobs Fund as a better idea.

The Future Jobs Fund was drawn up by the leader of Barnsley Council Steve Houghton, who was asked to examine the problem of unemployment by the previous Labour government because of the borough’s jobs problems.

Coun Houghton suggested the £1bn scheme, which was adopted by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and provided cash to businesses in areas with high joblessness to provide people with jobs lasting at least six months.

It was scrapped in early 2011, with David Cameron describing it as a “failure” but yesterday Mr Jarvis said figures proved that it had achieved a 33 per cent success rate, which compared badly to the Work Programme.

He added that when taking figures for the first 12 months, the success rate dropped to 2.3 per cent and said: “Today’s figures reveal the Work Programme is comprehensively failing.

“We were promised a welfare revolution by David Cameron and George Osborne and what we’ve got has been exposed as worse than doing nothing.

“In Barnsley Central, 1,640 people have been referred onto the Work Programme in the year May 2011 to May 2012.

“Only 40 people have managed to hold down a permanent full time job as a result of this scheme which is just 2.4 per cent of the total number of people. Compare this figure with the Future Jobs Fund, which began in Barnsley and got 169 people, across the borough, into permanent jobs – a 33 per cent success rate.”

Mr Jarvis’s criticisms were echoed by Rotherham MP John Healey, who represents the Wentworth and Dearne constituency. He described the Work Programme as a “miserable failure”.

Mr Healey’s constituency recently suffered a new jobs blow when steel giant Tata announced it was cutting 120 jobs at its Aldwarke plant on the edge of the town.

He said: “The Work Programme is failing the people of Yorkshire. The Government’s flagship scheme is getting just 3.4 per cent of applicants in Wentworth and Dearne back to work, their programme is even worse than if they had done nothing.

“Meanwhile there are 910 people in the constituency who have been out of work for more than a year, and 6.4 claimants chasing every vacancy. This Government is letting local people down.”

Answering questions in the Commons on the Work Programme, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith dismissed suggestions that a successful scheme had been scrapped to be replaced with a failure.

Answering Labour shadow Liam Byrne, he said: “This programme, I believe, is on track and is the best programme that will be placing some of the most difficult people back into work.”

Mr Duncan Smith said the Future Jobs Fund was “losing money” with each placement it achieved.

He said: “The last government thought every problem could be solved by chucking shedloads of taxpayers’ money at it and not caring what the outcomes were.

Mr Duncan Smith said the Labour scheme was never rolled out nationally and, over an equivalent period, “the Work Programme has got more people into work for six months or more” – 19,000 compared with 15,000 under the Labour scheme – and was “delivering better value for money”.