Revealed: Government slashes welfare to work schemes by more than a third despite soaring unemployment

by Atul Hatwal

New figures released this week reveal massive cuts in the levels of specialist support for the unemployed. The government has slashed the numbers of people taking part in welfare to work schemes by 34% over the past year, from 137,000 to 90,000.

The drop in government backed training and employment support is the largest since records began in 1992, with the number now taking part in these programmes at its lowest ever level.

The withdrawal of support for the unemployed comes at a time of sharply rising unemployment. It rocketed by 80,000 in the last quarter alone to cross the 2.5m threshold.

The figures were buried in a barrage of thousands of new labour force survey statistics released by the government on Wednesday.

Typically, the participants in welfare to work schemes are those most at risk of becoming long term unemployed (out of work for 12 months or more). As unemployment rises, the numbers in these types of schemes would be expected to go up, to prevent people losing touch with the job market.

In the early 1990s, even John Major’s Tory government used these programmes as a key tool to tackle unemployment. In the comparable quarter in 1992, there were 365,000 people participating in welfare to work schemes.

But following savage treasury cuts to the department for work and pensions’ budgets, these provisions have been slashed.

Over the past year, the Tory-led government has run down a raft of welfare to work programmes including the future jobs fund, the new deal, employment zones and pathways to employment.

In their place, they launched a single initiative, the work programme, which outsources job placement to companies like Serco and G4S as well as large charities such as A4E.

The impact of the welfare to work cuts already appears to be hitting the dole queues.

In an uncanny coincidence, as the numbers of places in government training and support programmes fell by 47,000 over the past year, long term unemployment rose by 51,000 from 798,000 to 849,000,

Responding to the new unemployment statistics, the minister of state for employment, Chris Grayling displayed lukewarm concern, saying the latest figures were “unwelcome”. He commented,

“We must continue to focus our efforts on supporting business growth and ensure that people who do lose their jobs have the best possible support to get back into employment”.

The minister did not go on to elaborate how cutting welfare to work scheme places by over a third constituted giving the unemployed “the best possible support to get back into employment”.

The government’s sole hope to tackle unemployment appears to be a Micawberesque reliance on private sector expansion to offset the mass wave of public sector redundancies currently under way.

But in the last quarter, while public sector employment declined by 110,000 – the largest fall since records began eleven years ago – the private sector only added a net 41,000 jobs, leaving a shortfall of 69,000.

With almost 6 job seekers now chasing each vacancy, and dole queues lengthening, ministers are now facing the real prospect of sustained high levels of long term unemployment derailing their deficit targets as benefit bills rise and tax revenues shrink

When it comes to welfare to work cuts, the words “false” and “economy” are unlikely to publically pass ministers lips, but the expectations within the DWP are of another U-turn in the coming months with a major expansion of back to work support.

Atul Hatwal is associate editor of Labour Uncut.

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3 Responses to “Revealed: Government slashes welfare to work schemes by more than a third despite soaring unemployment”

  1. Nick says:

    Lets put some numbers to it.

    Someone benefits. 12.5K in benefits when you include housing benefit etc.

    Someone on minimum wage – 2.5K in taxes.

    Total saving getting someone back to work 15K less any costs with doing it.

    If you get one million back to work (not going to happen if the state is involved) the savings are 15 billion a year.

    Deficit left by Labour, 150 bn a year.

    Growth isn’t going to work is it?

    So lets look at civil servants. Cost of employing someone is 3 times wages. So for someone employed in the state on 33K a year, will cost us 100K.

    If we get that civil servant out of the state, even onto the dole, that is 85K each. Get rid of a million civil servants and that is well over half the deficit dealt with.

    Now these civil servants, dedicated and skilled according to the unions. They are ideal people to be re-employed. [Unless the unions are lying]

  2. Trevor Mitchell says:

    A friend told me when he paid his visit to sign on yesterday the first question he was asked was what happened about your application for job G….? He could not remember this reference and could not see it in his papers and so to the interviewer that he honestly could not remember it. He was then faced with an agressive rant about how this was the one job reference that he was given by Jobseekers and that he had to account for it. When he pointed out that in two weeks he had applied for over a hundred other jobs he was told they were not interested in those only the ONE they had asked him to apply for. So he told the interviewer to put whatever they felt was appropriate and he had nothing more to say.
    Later he looked up the job that was so important for Jobseekers and his future benefits. It was an Engineering position.
    My friend is a musician, a graduate and former lecturer in musical theory.

    O, and someone called Nick reckons that civil servants get 33K a year. This must be were he lives in LaLa land and not in the real world.

    I and my friend and 35 people worked in government up till 30 March this year when our contracts were cancelled. Only 4 have found other employment thus far. Most are graduates. And before Nick thinks ‘media studies’, these were law, science and history graduates.

    They people who are ideal candidates to be employed, and no one is lying. But sometimes it is difficult to debate real issues affecting real people with Daily Mail readers.

  3. BenM says:


    Deficit in Labour’s final Budget Year was £150bn (down from projected £170bn by the way thanks to growth inspired by spending).

    That was caused by a stupendous financial crash in the private sector. It is not an annual figure.

    Labour’s last bequest to Osborne was a growth rate of 1.1pc per quarter. In the three quarters since Ossie has, in aggregate, achieved just 0.2pc.

    That’s what cutting spending in a slump does to the economy.

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