Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Evidence based policy making

Thanks to Harpymarx for the link to a new research report from the DWP about 'workfare' (requiring people who receive out of work benefits to take part in unpaid work activities). A quick summary of the findings, based on evaluations of workfare schemes from USA, Canada and Australia:

- There is little evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work. It can even reduce employment chances by limiting the time available for job search and by failing to provide the skills and experience valued by employers.

– Subsidised job schemes that pay a wage can be more effective in raising employment levels than ‘work for benefit’ programmes.

– Workfare is least effective in getting people into jobs in weak labour markets where unemployment is high.

– Workfare is least effective for individuals with multiple barriers to work.

– Welfare recipients with multiple barriers often find it difficult to meet obligations to take part in unpaid work. This can lead to sanctions and, in the most extreme cases, the complete withdrawal of benefits that leaves some individuals with no work and no income.

- Some states in the US [as well as Australia - DP] have scaled down large-scale, universal workfare programmes in preference for ‘softer’ and more flexible models that offer greater support to those with the most barriers to work. This includes a greater reliance on subsidised jobs that pay wages rather than benefits to participants.

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As Keynes once said, 'When the facts change, I change my mind. What is it that you do?' Now that his own department have published evidence that workfare policies didn't work when tried in the USA, Canada or Australia, will James Purnell please kindly drop plans to introduce them here?