Press Release

Welfare-to-Work Programme Failed Participants

Session: 2009/2010

Date: Thursday, 17 December 2009

Reference: PAC 07/09/10

Fewer than 20% of New Deal 25+ participants secured employment on leaving the programme, despite the £69 million spent on implementing the scheme from 1998 to 2007. This is one of the key findings emerging from the Northern Ireland Assembly Public Accounts Committee, which today published its report on New Deal 25+, a welfare-to-work programme for the long-term unemployed.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Paul Maskey MLA, Chairperson of the Committee, said: “While New Deal 25+ brought a number of benefits to the long-term unemployed, it was clear that the overall impact of the programme was limited and often short-lived. This is particularly disappointing given the fact that, during the period under review, the economy was relatively buoyant.”

One of the issues that concerned the Committee was the high number of repeat participants who, despite completing the programme on multiple occasions, failed to find a job.

Mr Maskey continued: “One of the main weaknesses of New Deal 25+ was its “one size fits all” approach. The Committee found that not enough was being done to tackle two of the most fundamental and common problem areas — a lack of qualifications and difficulties with basic literacy and numeracy skills. In the Committee’s view, these were key factors in the poor employment outcomes of the programme.

“Overall, we can only conclude that New Deal 25+ provided a poor return for taxpayers’ money.

“The Committee was encouraged to learn that the Department’s new programme, Steps to Work, is more flexible and allows for tailored support. As the Department for Employment and Learning moves forward with this venture, it must aim to help significantly more people into employment. The Committee calls on the Department to rise to this challenge, make a greater impact on long-term unemployment and deliver better value than was evident under New Deal 25+.”


Notes to Editors:
  • New Deal 25+, a mandatory ‘welfare to work’ programme established in 1998, which aimed to help long-term unemployed adults, aged 25 and over, to improve their employability and get into work.
  • The new ‘ Steps to Work’ Programme which replaced New Deal 25+ in 2008 enables individual participants to receive tailored support, including the development of numeracy and literacy skills.
  • Standing Orders under Section 60(3) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 have provided for the establishment of the Public Accounts Committee (the Committee). The main statutory function of the Committee is to consider accounts and the reports by the Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland (C&AG) laid before the Northern Ireland Assembly.
  • The C&AG is head of the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) and is empowered to investigate any area of expenditure and has a statutory right of access to all files and papers in Departments and public bodies.

The PAC Committee members are:-

Alliance Mr Trevor Lunn
Democratic Unionist Party Mr Jim Shannon 6
Mr Jonathan Craig
Mr David Hilditch 7,10
Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson 3,4,5,9
Sinn Fein Mr Paul Maskey (Chairperson) 2
Mr Mitchel McLaughlin
Social Democratic and Labour Party Mr John Dallat
Mr Patsy McGlone 1,8
Ulster Unionist Party Mr Roy Beggs (Deputy Chairperson)
Progressive Unionist Party Ms Dawn Purvis

1 With effect from 04 March 2008 Mr Thomas Burns replaced Mr Patsy McGlone.
2 With effect from 20 May 2008 Mr Paul Maskey replaced Mr John O'Dowd.
3 With effect from 1 October 2007 Mr Mickey Brady replaced Mr Willie Clarke.
4 With effect from 21 January 2008 Mr Ian McCrea replaced Mr Mickey Brady.
5 With effect from Tuesday 27 May 08 Mr Jim Wells replaced Mr Ian McCrea.
6 With effect from Monday, 15 September 08 Mr Jim Shannon replaced Mr David Hilditch.
7 With effect from Monday, 15 September 08 Mr George Robinson replaced Mr Simon Hamilton.
8 With effect from 29 June 2009, Mr Patsy McGlone replaced Mr Thomas Burns.
9 with effect from 18 September 2009 Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson replaced Mr Jim Wells.
10 with effect from 18 September 2009 Mr David Hilditch replaced Mr George Robinson.

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