REF2014 Impact Case Study: Shaping the design and implementation of payment by results contracts in the delivery of Welfare to Work programmes

Impact: Public Policy Impacts

Description of impact

Research carried out at the University of Portsmouth has improved the comparative evidence base used by policy makers, providers and advocacy organisations when designing and delivering contracted out welfare to work programmes in the UK, including the development of service user safeguards implemented through the Department of Work and Pensions ‘Commissioning Strategy’ and Work Programme (which will cater for over 3 million unemployed participants between 2011 and 2016). The research findings have also had a wider impact in informing policy makers, providers and user groups in other countries that have introduced or are introducing such contracting systems.

Who is affected

Government bodies; Policy makers.


Research investigated the rationale, design, implementation and impacts of contracted out welfare to work programmes in the countries at the forefront of reforms (Australia, the Netherlands, the USA and the UK), with two studies specifically commissioned to inform UK policy development. The research findings assessed and gave policy makers and user groups insights into how different contracting models shaped the experience of participants and employers, including the types of services offered by providers, the placement strategies they adopted, how service users were treated, and how benefit sanctions were designed and implemented. They helped persuade UK policy makers of the importance of contracting agencies independently monitoring participant experience and ensuring robust systems to respond to complaints of unfair treatment and poor service delivery.
Impact statusOpen
Category of impactPublic Policy Impacts
Impact levelBenefit (delivered impact)


  • welfare to work


  • REF2014