By Daniel Hunter

First Government data on the Work Programme suggests the 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.

Today’s (Monday) publication gives the first official insight into Work Programme performance. It reveals that after the first nine months, almost one in four — 24 per cent - of participants who started in June had already completed at least three successive months off benefits.

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 per cent.

Today the Government has also published data from Work Programme providers showing that in the three months since the launch of the Youth Contract in April, 17,100 18 to 24 year olds started in a job.

"These figures are the first indication that the Work Programme has had a promising start in what’s been a very difficult labour market," Employment Minister Chris Grayling said.

"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.

Today’s data shows clear evidence that, 36 weeks into the programme, 48 per cent of the earliest participants — those who started in June 2011 - had had a break in their benefit claim and 24 per cent had spent a continuous 13 week spell off benefits.

Of those who left benefits most quickly - in the first 10 weeks - 7 out of 10 were still off benefits 13 weeks later. Taking account of all these figures suggests that the proportion of June starters who will have now spent at least 13 weeks off benefits could be higher than the 24 per cent recorded after nine months, and could be in the region of 30 per cent.

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