The Government has published new research that suggests the Work Programme scheme is having a positive effect in helping the long-term unemployed.

A year after the payment-by-results scheme was launched, significant numbers of participants are spending at least three months off benefits according to the data which has shown almost one in four – 24% – of participants who started in June 2011 had already completed at least three successive months off benefits.

The Government says that early signs are that the figure will have continued to rise and is now – a year into the scheme – perhaps in the region of 30%.

It has also published data from Work Programme providers showing that in the three months since the launch of the Youth Contract in April, around 17,000 18-24 year olds started in a job.

Employment Minister, Chris Grayling, said:

“These figures are the first indication that the Work Programme has had a promising start in what’s been a very difficult labour market.

“People I meet in the industry already say that performance is well ahead of where it was at the same stage with the Flexible New Deal from which it took over, and this data gives further encouragement. Now the welfare to work industry really has to demonstrate that it can reach new levels in helping the long-term unemployed back to work.”

The Work Programme was launched in June 2011 giving tailored support to those at risk of long-term unemployment. Private providers and voluntary organisations are paid according to results, with a job outcome payment being made after 13 or 26 weeks in employment, with further payments being made for sustained employment after that.

Reliable data on job outcomes is not yet available, as most claimants have to be in a job for six months before providers receive an outcome payment. Official statistics will be published for the first time in the autumn.

Matthew Fell, CBI Director for Competitive Markets, said the programme seemed to have made a promising start but added:

“It’s still far too early to tell how the programme is performing overall.

“In a challenging economic environment we should take action to make sure the programme delivers on its promise, not write it off.

“The Government and programme providers must work together, and with employers, at a national and local level, to ensure that the programme can grow and fulfil its potential.”