The FOI Act is not fit for purpose

18 01 2010

I recently submitted an FOI request via they truly excellent whatdotheyknow.com. It was on an issue which a friend had researched for a front bench Conservative MP a few years ago, and I was interested in the official figure. The response is below:

Dear Mr Unwin,

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request of 16 December 2009 You asked:-

‘Please could you inform me of the average cost of finding work for

one person on the New Deal for Young People?’

The New Deal for Young People programme was introduced nationally in 1998. We estimate that the average cost of finding work for one person in the financial year 2004/05 on the New Deal for Young People to be approximately £3480 per job. This average costs covers the specialist intensive support given to young people as well as recruitment subsidies, training courses and support to start their own business. An independent evaluation of the New Deal for Young People (NDYP) carried out by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research in 2000 estimated that NDYP had increased National Income by £500 million per year.

The figures provided here are our latest estimates as to the cost per job on this programme. We carried out a cohort analysis to track all of the people who enrolled on the New Deal for Young People in the financial year 2004/05, to estimate how many of those people found work after participating on the programme and the average costs of those jobs.

This is the most up to date analysis the Department holds on the cost per job of New Deal for Young People as we have to track these people over a significant period in order to estimate how many have found work and the costs to the department of them doing so.

The approximate figure includes all of the costs associated with participation on the programme i.e. Departmental Expenditure Limits and Annually Managed Expenditure, an explanation and definitions of these cost terms are included in the Department for Work and Pensions Annual Report.

Yours sincerely

DWP Central FoI Team

What this means

I was able to ask this question because I knew the government was tracking this issue, but this prompts the question as to why the data is not publicly available as standard. It is very important that the public know that it costs around £3.5k to get one young person into work (orit did in 2004-05). For the same money the government could have employed one young jobless person on the minimum wage (£5.80 ph now) for sixteen weeks.

You may think this shows very good or very bad value for the taxpayer; but without the data no one can form reasonable opinion. The debate is always skewed by the information in the public domain, and to rely on an obscure and ad hoc Freedom of Information process to see partial data only when requested, is not good enough for a government which calls itself ‘democratic’.

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