Welfare 27 November 2012 The failure of the Work Programme Just 3.5 per cent of the 878,000 jobseekers referred to the programme have found work for six months or more. Sign up for our weekly email * Print HTML Yesterday, Rafael revealed a letter from employment minister Mark Hoban to coalition MPs preparing them for bad news on the Work Programme, the government’s flagship welfare-to-work scheme that pays private and voluntary sector organisations to place people in work. This morning, we found out what the bad news is. The first official statistics on the scheme's success rate show that just 3.5 per cent (31,000) of the 878,000 people referred to the programme between June 2011 and July 2012 found a job for six months or more (defined as "sustainable work"). This is significantly below the 5.5 per cent minimum performance target set by the government, which means that fewer people are finding work than if the Work Programme had never existed. The figure is even worse if one looks at the first 12 months of the scheme, the time frame that the government's target was based on, rather than the first 14 months (June 2011 to July 2012). Over that period, only 2.3 per cent (18,270) of the 785,360 people referred found sustainable work. As expected, Hoban is insisting that it's too early to judge the scheme. He said: Clearly these figures only give a snapshot picture as we're one year in, and the Work Programme offers support to claimants for two years, but these results are encouraging and something providers can look to build on But by any measure (including the government's), this is a bad start for what David Cameron hailed as "the biggest back-to-work programme since the 1930s". › Why are Indian farmers committing suicide over their debts? Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith arrives for a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street. Photograph: Getty Images. George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman. Subscribe from just £1 per issue More Related articles This is the place: the poem Tony Walsh read at the Manchester attack vigil The problems with ending encryption to fight terrorism How long will general election campaigning be suspended after the Manchester attack?