The government’s flagship program to combat long-term unemployment has failed to find employment for 93% of those registered. The £2.9billion Restart scheme, launched by Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak last year, is meant to provide up to 12 months of support for the long-term unemployed to help them get back to work.
But figures released in response to a written parliamentary question from Labour’s shadow jobs minister, Alison McGovern, show that only 16,180 of the 226,785 people who started the scheme later left it for reasons such as than starting a job or quitting Universal Credit intensive work. -research scheme.
“It’s completely overwhelming,” McGovern said. “We’re supposed to be in a vacancy crisis and these people are trying to get back to work.”
The Restart program is mandatory for benefit seekers referred to it by work coaches at employment centres, and is provided by private contractors such as Serco, G4S and Maximus, paid primarily on performance.
“Unfortunately, despite spending over £2.5bn on Restart, the government’s incompetent [Department for Work and Pensions] is better at outsourcing failed programs to G4S and Serco than finding work,” she added. “It’s no surprise that these figures show that the failure of this government is most pronounced in the North West and Greater Manchester.”
In these two regions, 1,370 of the 29,720 newcomers to the system then left it, ie nearly 5%.
Restart is also struggling to find enough participants to meet projected caseloads – the roughly 225,000 people who started the program at the end of April are 40% lower than the 375,000 who were originally expected to have joined by then. Restart’s eligibility criteria have been expanded to allow more people to be referred to the program.
Tony Wilson, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, said the program lacked benchmarks because long-term unemployment was much lower than expected at the height of the pandemic, while “inactivity” caused by people dropping out of the labor market has increased.
“The government has committed significant funds to deal with an unemployment crisis that has not materialized. We have not had mass unemployment. And instead, we face a crisis of participation. So the crisis we prepared for is not the one we have,” he said. “Employment is still half a million below pre-pandemic levels. Economic inactivity is 400,000 higher than it was before the pandemic began.
DWP’s Kickstart youth unemployment scheme fell 90,000 from its job creation target of 250,000 when it closed earlier this year. The resulting underspent money has been taken over by the treasury, and any underspending from the restart is likely to go in the same direction. Wilson said he should instead be invested in tackling economic inactivity.
“We now have the highest rate of economic inactivity, unemployment, due to long-term health problems that we have had in 20 years. It’s long Covid, it’s NHS waiting lists, it’s mental health issues getting worse during the pandemic. We are not doing anything to address any of these factors that have led to the drop in the labor force which leads to economic inactivity, which leads to labor shortages. Instead, the money just goes back to the treasury because unemployment is so low.
A DWP spokesperson said: ‘Thanks to our balanced approach to managing the economy, unemployment is at its lowest since 1974 at 3.7%. Less than a year after its launch, the Restart program is already supporting a quarter of a million long-term unemployed – with more to follow. Providers are paid based on the number of job seekers they manage to support in work, providing value for the taxpayer. »