The last administration's Future Jobs Fund cost £1 billion. It was intended to create 150,000 jobs (although an independent evaluation says it created 105,220).

DWP's own "customer experience" report on the programme concluded that "almost all participants reported a significant increase in their skills... perceived sense of employability". And the independent evaluation says it “moved people off long-term benefits…engaged employers…benefited communities” and even “improved people’s health and reduced criminal behaviour.”

So there doesn't seem to be any doubt that this fund was "socially useful" (to borrow a term). But...

a) was it worth the cost - what were the savings to exchequer as a result?

b) was the programme created in a way that created as much economic, as well as social value, as possible?

Well first, the independent evaluation say the net cost of the programme to government was £3,946 per participant when direct costs and savings to the Exchequer are counted. But that this does not account for indirect benefits – which may or may not have made it cost neutral or better.

Second, The Future Jobs Fund was restricted to the public and third sectors. (Although bizarrely, a senior civil servant working on the policy reported that this was more as a result of DWP  misreading state aid rules than a clear policy intention!) It is difficult to make the case for huge direct economic value creation going on in those two sectors, at least compared to the private sector. This programme supported - whisper it - the "economically useless"!

Now the new Government are introducing the Youth Contract which will also cost £1bn. This aims to help 500,000 young people. It appears, however to be principally directed towards private sector employers. Presumably, this includes the third sector, unless the money is channeled through the Work Programme providers, in which case the third sector seems unlikely to see very much of the action.

So several questions arise here too...

a) Is the new Governemnt convinced the costs outweigh the benefits?

b) Is the programme created in a way that creates as much social, as well as economic value, as possible?

First, it seems so. Or why would they spend money on it? Although it is far from clear where the money is coming from.

Second, if the programme is only directed via the private sector, this looks promising for economic value - as long as we generously ignore the huge swathes of the private sector which don't actually create any value.

But in terms of added social value, it doesn't look good. This is what we could call a 'social value neutral programme' at best  – so much for factoring social value into government spending decisions.

Perhaps the Future Fobs Fund 3.0 will also be worth £1bn? Next time it will help a millon (!) young people. And with any luck (e.g. someone misunderstands the rules again) the programme will be directed principally via businesses which directly create both social and economic value. Now that's the future.