Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Andrew Dilnot CBE

Rt. Hon. Iain Duncan Smith MP
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Department for Work and Pensions
Caxton House
Tothill Street

3 May 2013

Dear Secretary of State


I wrote to you on 1 November 2012 about the Statistics Authority’s interim report on the development of official statistics relating to the Work Programme.

I said in that letter that both the development of the statistics themselves, and the views of the Authority on their adequacy and coherence, should be seen as work in progress and that they may be overtaken by the release of further statistical outputs. We have now had the opportunity to review the first statistical release on outcomes from the Work Programme issued on 27 November 2012 and have updated the earlier report to take account of this.

You will note from the main findings section of the report that we see considerable scope for further development of the official statistics, in terms of the range of the statistics published, their public presentation, their coherence and their compliance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

In preparing this report we have had regard to the observations in the report by the Public Accounts Committee published on 13 February on Work Programme Outcome Statistics and in the related report by the National Audit Office published in December 2012. The PAC report comments that “the information published by the Department was unclear, and Parliament, the public, and the media were left confused as to the relevance and meaning of the information that did enter the public domain” and “in publishing its data the department did not make clear what level of performance it had expected.”

Whilst both the PAC report and the related National Audit Office report focus on the fact that 3.6% of people referred to the Work Programme between June 2011 and July 2012 achieved sustained employment (normally of six months) by July 2012, the Statistics Authority does not regard that as the most relevant measure to use – since many of the individuals would not have been in the scheme long enough to achieve six months sustained employment by July

Our conclusion is that the more relevant figure is that based on the June 2011 cohort on its own – namely that 8.6% of those referred to the Work Programme in June 2011 were in sustained employment of at least six months (or three months if hard to place) at some point during the 12 months following referral. That figure can of course now be updated for each month from June 2011 to give a monthly series. The existence of such different measures was the root of some concern at the hearing of the Public Accounts Committee on 17 December 2012 but there are good arithmetic reasons why one is a lot higher than the other and it is up to the authors of the Department’s statistical releases to explain these points clearly and fully.

Whilst this is not directly a matter for the Statistics Authority, it might be helpful for users of the statistics if DWP provided contextual information to support the interpretation of this percentage of each cohort achieving sustained employment. This contextual information could take the form of, for example, DWP’s prior expectations of the percentage achieving sustained employment, or information about target levels for providers, or about the
performance other similar programmes.

Annex 3 to the Authority’s report notes that many of the leading news media stated the relevant figure as either 3.5% or 2.3%. There can be no sharper illustration of the need to explain more fully and clearly the key figures.

We do recognise that the statistics on the Work Programme are relatively complex and unfamiliar to commentators, particularly at this early stage in their development. I hope that the Statistics Authority will be able to offer some further assistance. I have asked my colleagues to explore with DWP statisticians what further advice and support would be

I am copying this letter to Dame Anne Begg MP, Chair of the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee, to Rt. Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee and to Bernard Jenkin MP, Chair of the Public Administration Select Committee

Yours sincerely
Andrew Dilnot CBE

Full document here: Uk Stats to IDS

#RT via Bridget


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