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Giving Our Users a Voice - The Improving Lives Green Paper

20 April 2017

What will it take to transform the employment prospects of disabled people and people with long term health conditions?

This is the question the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Department of Health (DH) asked the British public in In February 2017.

Shaw Trust passionately believes that service users’ needs should be placed at the heart of policy-making. We know that service users’ needs are fundamental to designing, delivering and evaluating services that enable people to fulfil their potential.

The experiences of disabled people should insightfully shape the government’s policy on halving the disability employment gap. We asked our clients for their views into how the government could help them to improve their employment prospects, in response to Improving Lives Green Paper.

One client said: "The clouds will always be there, but I'm working again and it feels good".

The green paper
Our response used evidence gathered from focus groups with customers across a range of generalist and specialist employment support, including Work Programme, Work Choice and Shaw Trust’s specialist health and wellbeing provision for service users with mental ill health.

As seen in our consultation response, service user input is a key opportunity to challenge policy assumptions. In particular, one of the main policy ideas of the Green Paper is to have more services co-located.

The government’s focus on co-locating health and employment support in theory should lead to a more person-centred and streamlined employment service being delivered to disabled people.

By housing employment and health related services such as GP practices, IAPT and other wellbeing support in the same building, advisers should be able to refer disabled people and those with health problems more easily to a wider and more holistic range of support.

Shaw Trust has demonstrable experience of co-locating services, and originally did not question this policy assumption. Our Community Hubs offer an example of where co-location works.

Service co-ordinaination 
In September 2014, we transformed two of our Work Programme delivery centres in Hackney and Lewisham into Shaw Trust Community Hubs. Unlike previous Work Programme delivery, the Hubs are a one-stop shop bringing together employment, financial, health and wellbeing support. Bringing different types of support under one roof led to better communication between advisers and a clear rise in engagement and attendance from jobseekers compared to other Work Programme sites.

Moreover, having easy access to multiple services enabled customers to access support for specific barriers faster, and as a result the Hubs have seen customers moving into work more quickly in comparison to those in Shaw Trust’s other Work Programme sites.

However, after speaking to our customers, particularly for those with mental ill health, we discovered that many felt that it wasn’t simply the location of the services provided that mattered, but the sequencing of when they received support.

At our Hackney Hub (above) we support our clients into work.

Our service users with mental ill health identified that having to balance and attend various appointments during the week – including Shaw Trust programmes, Jobcentre Plus appointments, community mental health support, and their GP appointments – sometimes proved detrimental to their recovery.

Attending multiple appointments throughout the week on different days and in different locations was a cause of stress and anxiety for some participants.

Individuals emphasised that what made their experience at Shaw Trust so positive was how our advisers effectively coordinated and case managed their employment support. This effective case management reduced the stress to service users of travelling multiple times for support.

Without service user input into our consultation response, we would not have discovered what really mattered to our service users – co-ordinated, rather than co-located service delivery.

It’s Shaw Trust’s view that gaining the views of service users can help to solve the real policy problems that affect disabled people directly, rather than perceived problems. In short, when people are involved, decisions are better, outcomes improve, and resources are allocated more efficiently.

As civil servants start to analyse the 4,000 plus responses, it is our hope that the voices of our services will be represented in any service design, post June 2017. If we want to help more disabled people to transform their lives through work.

What's next?
You can read more of our response to the Green Paper here (opens in new tab or window).

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