More unemployed people would have found jobs since 2010 if the government's high-profile, multi-billion pound Work Programme had never been invented, according to an influential committee of MPs.
On Friday the Commons public accounts committee published a report into Iain Duncan Smith's flagship scheme. The MPs found that between June 2011 and July 2012, only 3.6% of people referred to the scheme moved off benefit and into work, less than a third of the target of 11.9%.
Labour MP Margaret Hodge, the chair of the committee, told The Huffington Post UK that the Department for Work and Pensions had failed to meet any of its targets and that the £400m spent in the programme's first 14 months had been wasted.
"If they [had] completely ditched the whole programme more people would have got into work," she said. "If there were no programme, you would expect better outcomes."
"The department believes it's on track I'm very sceptical, I think the design and funding means there's very little money up front and no money for training. They’ve designed it wrongly and they haven’t funded it properly."
The programme was introduced in June 2011, at an estimated cost of between £3bn and £5bn over five years, but the PAC said the performance in the first year or so fell "well short" of expectations.
Not one of the 18 providers has met its contractual targets and their performance "varies wildly", so the DWP should take action against those which are failing, said the report.
The MPs warned that, given the poor performance, there was a high risk that one or more providers will fail and go out of business or have their contracts cancelled.
The committee said it shared concerns that providers are concentrating on people more likely to generate a fee, and sidelining jobless clients who require more time and investment, a process known as "creaming and parking".
Hodge also said it was "outrageous" that of the 9,500 former incapacity benefit claimants referred to providers, only 20 people had been placed in a job that has lasted three months.
The Barking MP also raised concerns about justice secretary Chris Grayling's time in government. Grayling, who was a work and pensions minster at the time the programme was launched, was promoted to the cabinet in the last reshuffle.
"Chris Grayling does not have the greatest of records of learning from what works and what does not work," Hodge said.
A DWP spokesman said: "This report paints a skewed picture. More than 200,000 people have moved off benefits and into a job thanks to the Work Programme.
"It is making a real difference to tens of thousands of the hardest to help jobseekers. Long-term unemployment fell by 15,000 in the latest quarter.
"The Work Programme gives support to claimants for two years and it hasn't even been running that long yet, so it's still early days. We know the performance of our providers is improving."
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