DWP permanent secretary rejects Work Programme audit findings

21 July 2014

Robert Devereux, permanent secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions, has rejected the National Audit Office’s conclusion that the Work Programme is no more effective than its predecessors.

The NAO report, called ‘The Work Programme’ and published on 2 July, said that the programme is “achieving similar levels of job outcomes to previous welfare-to-work programmes for Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants aged 25 and over.”

Asked by Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chair Margaret Hodge whether this is disappointing,Devereux said: “That is precisely the thing which I have chosen to disagree with the report on,” adding that this is the first time he’s disagreed with a report in his seven years as permanent secretary.

At Monday’s PAC hearing, Devereux was asked by committee member Anne McGuire why he hadn’t made the point to the NAO prior to the release of the report. “Believe me, Amyas [Morse, NAO chief] and I have spent hours discussing the report,” he replied. “At the end of the day, though, it is his pen.”

The report’s findings, Devereux said, are not a “fair reflection of what is actually going on.” He added that “it is not the report I would have expected an auditor to be making.”