Support for all in the UK work programme? Differential payments, same old problem

James Rees, Adam Whitworth, Elle Carter

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    53 Citations (Scopus)
    261 Downloads (Pure)


    The UK has been a high profile policy innovator in welfare-to-work provision which has led in the Coalition government's Work Programme to a fully outsourced, ‘black box’ model with payments based overwhelmingly on job outcome results. A perennial fear in such programmes is providers' incentives to ‘cream’ and ‘park’ claimants, and the Department for Work and Pensions has sought to mitigate such provider behaviours through Work Programme design, particularly via the use of claimant groups and differential pricing. In this article, we draw on a qualitative study of providers in the programme alongside quantitative analysis of published performance data to explore evidence around creaming and parking. The combination of the quantitative and qualitative evidence suggest that creaming and parking are widespread, seem systematically embedded within the Work Programme, and are driven by a combination of intense cost-pressures and extremely ambitious performance targets alongside overly diverse claimant groups and inadequately calibrated differentiated payment levels.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)221-239
    JournalSocial Policy and Administration
    Issue number2
    Early online date6 Mar 2014
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2014


    • Welfare-to-work
    • Employment services
    • Creaming and parking
    • Conditionality
    • Work Programme
    • Payment by results


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