Austerity Isn’t Working

Steve Bell 28.09.2012

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) published a report today validating the criticisms of the governments Work Programme.  The Work Programme isn’t working.  Yet another example among many, of failed austerity policies.  It is time for us to agree that austerity isn’t working, and refuse to tolerate it.

 The Work Programme Isn’t Working


The government’s flagship Work Programme was launched in June 2011 with the stated intention of providing personalised support (CV writing, presentation/interview skills etc) to help 2.4 million unemployed people back into work over five years at the cost of £3-5bn. This money is paid to eighteen largely private providers across the country.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is a House of Commons select committee which seeks to ensure value for money for the tax payer.  The PAC today published a report on the performance of the programme; the findings were damning.

Only 3.6% of people on the Programme moved off benefits into employment, despite a government target of 11.9%.  In fact, the government itself had estimated that 9.2% of claimants would move onto employment with no intervention at all.  In short, people are three times more likely to find their way back into employment on their own, than through the government’s Work Programme.

Not one of the eighteen Individual Work Programme Providers met their contractual targets.

In order to attain better results, work programme providers neglected those who seemed like a harder challenge to find work for.  The Work Programme Providers were cherry picking their clients, so that the people most in need of help were the one’s least likely to get it.

Margaret Hodge, Labour MP and Chair of the Committee said “The best performing provider only moved 5% of people off benefits and into work, while the worst managed just 2%. The department must hold failing providers to account, as well as ensuring that good practice is identified and shared.”

One provider, A4E,  hit the news last year for its flagrant underperformance at its task.  This company received just under £46 million from the tax payer.  Yet, of the 93,000 people referred to their scheme, only 3,400 people have found work for a period of longer than six months.  That means a cost to the tax payer of £13,498 per job found. Employees at the firm have now been arrested for fraud.  However, the Chairperson of A4E at the time of the poor performance, Emma Harrison, claimed a £1.5m dividend, despite the company making a pre tax loss and promptly resigned as the scandal broke.

The Work Programme yields worse results for finding people work than doing nothing at all.  It does however provide billions of tax payer money into the hands of unscrupulous private contractors to exploit unemployment to make a profit; billions that could be spent on apprenticeships or real, paid work experience placements in the public or private sector.  The Work Programme isn’t working.

Cutting the Deficit Isn’t Working



UK Chancellor George Osborne has talked a lot of making ‘tough choices’ in order to cut the deficit. Yet despite Workfare, the work programme, the £375bn of fresh money the Bank of England has printed, the 660,000 public sector jobs cut, the 32 deaths a week of people with disabilities or physical/mental ill health whilst being harassed by Atos fitness for work tests, increasing child poverty; despite all this, the Chancellor has been forced to admit that neither the national debt, or the annual deficit have been reduced.  In reality, borrowing is up. Osborne was forced to admit his forecasts were false and borrowing is now set to rise.

Even by the government’s own measure, these policies are not working.  They are already doing enormous damage and inflicting great suffering across our communities.  The young are leaving school, college or University into a jobs market where 1,700 people are applying for 8 jobs at Costa Coffee. Those of us living with disabilities have seen hate crimes against them rise 25%, their life lines at the mercy of a ‘computer says no’ assessment process by private firm Atos.   Our pensioners are left to choose between heating their homes or eating by exorbitant energy bills, whilst those in care homes are suffering sub standard care and having to sell their homes to afford the privilege.  The working poor are to lose the housing benefit they require to fill the gap between what they are paid for their labour and the actual cost of living.  The poorest in the land are facing up to a 333% rise in their council tax thanks to a new tax on ‘spare’ bedrooms.

Borrowing is up, the deficit is up, the economy is not growing – this policy has manifestly failed to do what it was promised to do.

Doing Nothing Isn’t Working


It is time to take action. It is not enough to simply complain about the symptoms of Austerity but leave its root cause unchallenged.  Whilst we are foolish enough to turn against the scapegoats of immigration, benefit scroungers, skiver and shirkers, we deserve no better.  The promises of neoliberalism: the so called ‘Free Market’ (quite how it is free, no one can seem to point out), the trickledown effect, the idea that we all make it or don’t purely on merit- these are the modern day equivalent of the Flat Earth theory.  Manifestly proven untrue, yet still people hold on to the idea because it appears to chime with their own limited understanding of the way the world works.  We must do better to deserve better.

We can rediscover our solidarity, we can dream, we can create new ideas and ways of doing things at local level.  We do not have to wait until the 1% hand the world over to us to make a change.  We can make it now, with each other, and develop it over time.  Come on, we’ve got work to do.


Take Action

Do it!

Time Banks – get out of the money trap and share your time as a commodity of equal value to anyone elses.

Community Gardens – rediscover local food production in your community, make new friends, share your food with others.

Crowd Funding – got an idea and need some financial support? Sod the banks. You can look at crowd funding, open your idea up to the web and invite normal folks to fund your project.

Move Your Money – get your hard earned cash out of the corrupt banking sector and into an ethical, safe place.


The 99% Against Austerity – check this out.  Big march planned for 4th May 2013 in London. This is a great opportunity to vote with your feet and demonstrate your opposition to ideological austerity.


Say No to the Bedroom Tax – sign the petition against the Bedroom Tax

The War on Welfare (WOW) Petition – sign it, just sign it.


Boycott Workfare – join the campaign to stop tax payer funded forced labour in the UK

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) – awesome campaign by disabled people for disabled people. Just chek them out.

Occupy London – help create the ideas we need to create a better future together.


One thought on “Austerity Isn’t Working

  1. “In short, people are three times more likely to find their way back into employment on their own, than through the government’s Work Programme.”
    OMG …… so the Government are wasting £3 −5 billion of public money to pay for something that is three times worse than doing nothing at all. When nothing at all is completely free!!!!

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