Support for All in the UK Work Programme? Differential Payments, Same Old Problem

Rees, James; Whitworth, Adam and Carter, Elle (2014). Support for All in the UK Work Programme? Differential Payments, Same Old Problem. Social Policy and Administration, 48(2) pp. 221–239.



The UK has been a high profile policy innovator in welfare-to-work provision which has led in the Coalition government's Work Programme to a fully outsourced, ‘black box’ model with payments based overwhelmingly on job outcome results. A perennial fear in such programmes is providers' incentives to ‘cream’ and ‘park’ claimants, and the Department for Work and Pensions has sought to mitigate such provider behaviours through Work Programme design, particularly via the use of claimant groups and differential pricing. In this article, we draw on a qualitative study of providers in the programme alongside quantitative analysis of published performance data to explore evidence around creaming and parking. The combination of the quantitative and qualitative evidence suggest that creaming and parking are widespread, seem systematically embedded within the Work Programme, and are driven by a combination of intense cost-pressures and extremely ambitious performance targets alongside overly diverse claimant groups and inadequately calibrated differentiated payment levels.

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