Tuesday, 13 March 2012

THAT graph

Anyone involved in the 'Workfare' debate has probably come across this graph.

Firstly, I make no attempt at claiming a bi-partisan position, I actively support the Schemes involved in 'Get Britain Working' policy but just like all positions that I hold, I like to do it with fact. I do not fear evidence in any way because I am not dogmatic and if I find evidence to suggest my view is wrong, I will simply change my view. If I say something that turns out to be incorrect, I will withdraw my comment.

 Now, with that said, let's review this graph and the text that accompanies it.

  “This [graph] appears to show that the youth work experience scheme has had no additional impact on the speed at which young people leave benefit, and may have actually led to them spending longer on benefit than they would have done.”

Now, as you can see, they are hinting at a lot and the creator of the graph has a lot to answer for. The table below shows the raw data

So we can see that the graph line for the Work Experience starts on weeks on scheme whereas the JSA line starts from start of claim.

This makes the two lines incomparable. As the Work Experience scheme is *primarily* for those between 13 and 39 weeks * Thanks to @consentmeuk for correcting me when I said at first that is was open to ONLY those of 3 months or more, whereas in truth, in exceptional circumstances the limit can be lowered and for 16/17 year olds the start of the scheme can be immediate. While this new information doesn't really change my point, I do like to make sure it is accurate.

A couple of points though, the activities in the scheme do not begin straight away, I do not know if they count the Start of Work Experience to mean the sign on date or the date the work placement begins.
At any rate, only if EVERY person who joined the Work Experience Scheme joined on the first day of their JSA and went straight into their Work Experience placement would we be able to compare the two lines and even then we would need to make some allowances.

Hopefully, you'll see now why comparing them is flawed, if not I will explain a little further.

Please note this document

In particular this line "Off-flows from JSA remain high - almost  60% of claimants leave within three months 
and almost 80% leave within six months of making their claim"

So, 60% of JSA claimants stop their claim before their even primarily eligible for the Work Experience, the numbers are higher for 16-24 year olds in fact, and at halfway through the primary eligible timescale (6 months) the number of people that have already stopped their claim goes up to 80% (again I believe this to be higher for <25 year olds.).

So lets look at that graph again..

Most people that take part in the Work Experience Scheme do not even appear on X axis. You would need to make it three times as long in fact to get all people who join the Work Experience scheme on it.

The reason most people go ON the Work Experience Scheme is because they haven't got the ability (Or luck yet) to get off benefits. This is evident as the people that primarily use the scheme are the 40% - 20% or lower that are still on JSA when they become eligible for volunteering for the programme.

It seems pretty harsh to compare the success rate for coming off 'out of work benefits' as a whole to that of a system that is designed for those that find it hard to get off 'out of work benefits' and then claim that the system doesn't work because it only emulates the success of the group without the difficulty getting off JSA.

I am not going to make the leap to suggest that it DOES help, as although it seems self evident to me that it can't hurt, there simply isn't the evidence either way, which is the point of this whole blog entry.
Similarly comparing the Work Experience Scheme with The Future Jobs Fund , is difficult too, though what we can say is that it appears to have similar, if not better results for a fraction of the cost, but there are variables to consider.

As always, any comments or corrections are gratefully received.

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