Making the best out of bad news is clearly part and parcel of the job when you’re a government minister. And today the minister in charge of employment at the department for work and pensions did his very best to portray pretty disastrous results from the Work Programme, as clear signs that everything’s going to plan.

The problem is, you don’t need to be our own dear Faisal Islam to work out that the flurry of figures which rained down from the DWP actually hide – and not very well – an entirely different story.

One of the government headlines, as anticipated, was focused on the “off benefit” figure. 56 per cent of the earliest participants in the Work Programme have come off benefits at some point.

But coming off benefits is clearly not the same as getting into work and is – in the context of how the government itself actually measures success in the Work Programme – irrelevant.

The real measure of success – or failure – is how many people are getting sustainable jobs, jobs which last six months for most claimants (three months for those furthest from the job market.)

On that measure alone, not one of the 18 different Work Programme providers met the government’s end of first year minimum target of 5.5 per cent. The overall outcome rate stands at 3.53 per cent.

All in the timing

And here’s an interesting thing. The figures the DWP released today cover the first 14 months of the Work Programme.

If you take only the figures for a full first year – the 12 months to which the key performance target was tied – the success rate across the programme drops back even further, to 2.3 per cent.

Closer analysis from the Social Market Foundation shows that results for people on employment support allowance – which replaced incapacity benefit – are a staggeringly low 0.93 per cent.

Employment Minister Mark Hoban said that it was early days and disagreed with my assertion that they were at best disappointing, at worst, disastrous.

These are challenging economic times and it was taking companies a while to “bed in” to the way the programme should work.

So the government’s own minimum targets for the end of this year no longer seem that important a milestone. The deadline now for companies who are failing – and that’s all of them under the current measure – is next April when Mr Hoban says he will consider taking market share away from those under-performing.

Read more on FactCheck:  Why the Work Programme isn’t working – yet.

Bad news for A4e

One of those companies is of course A4e. We established back in May and again in October that they were consistently falling short of the minimum performance levels required – with a job outcome rate of around 3.6 per cent.

The company founder, Emma Harrison, came onto the programme, and said our figures were wrong and that we’d been proven wrong twice. She couldn’t however provide her own figures. Today the DWP have done it for her.

A4e final official figures for the first full year show that we were slightly out.

Their outcome rate is actually lower now, at 3.35 per cent.

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