For the first 18 months that the Work Programme was in operation, DWP Ministers refused to give any interim outcome data (and forbade providers from doing so as well) on the ground that it had to be properly verified first. In the interim, the Work and Pensions Select Committee spoke to the Minister responsible at the time, Chris Grayling, on 19 March 2012.

When the Government did eventually release figures on the first 14 months of the Work Programme on 27 November 2012,  they revealed that targets for the first year target had not been met (DWP also released an accompanying document and the Employment Minister Mark Hoban issued a written statement to parliament).

In evidence to the DWP Committee on 20 November 2013, a senior civil servant Neil Couling attempted to defend the Work Programme by quoting data that was not publically available at the time (Esther McVey admitted this in a response to a parliamentary question on 9 December 2013). Given that we weren’t able to examine this data ourselves, it was difficult for my colleagues and I on the committee to question or hold him, the Ministers he reports to, or the Government as a whole to account.

I’ve written to the UK Statistics Authority regarding the practice of using unpublished statistics in this way, and will publish the reply here when I receive it.