Shaw Trust has responded to the Department of Work and Pension’s and Department of Health’s consultation on improving employment support for those with a health condition or disability. As the largest third sector provider of DWP’s contracted welfare-to-work provision, delivering the Work Programme as a prime contractor in London East and operating as a subcontractor in six other Contract Package Areas (CPAs) across the UK, we welcomed the opportunity to respond to the consultation.
Shaw Trust’s response utilised a user-led approach to identify the changes needed to close the disability employment gap. Our response uses 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. This includes:
- A survey of 50 Work Programme Leavers
- Interviews with Work Programme and Work Choice advisers
- 7 focus groups with Work Choice customers
- 2 focus groups with customers who specifically identify having mental ill health
Our response to the Department of Work and Pensions Green Paper does not propose the need for any radical new programmes or support needed for disabled people who want to move into employment. Rather, our response finds that the best way to close the disability employment gap is to rethink how current support is delivered. Despite local and national governments commissioning a range of specialist and generalist employment support, the disability employment gap remains unchanged at 30%. The unchanging nature of the disability employment gap means that we need a new way of working. In order to support people into work, we need to use the policy levers we currently have differently.
Firstly, the assessment process should be able to properly assess an individual to ensure they have access to the right support. Rather than trying to separate the components of the WCA, if DWP wants to ensure that ESA claimants are not written off it should focus on reforming the WCA so that it uses a bio-psycho-social model of support.
Secondly, for people to access the right support at the right time, delivery must be appropriately case managed and tailored to the individual’s needs. While DWP’s proposal for greater co-location can help integrate services, it is important that DWP ensures that Jobcentre Plus is able to effectively case manage the support that an individual receives. For advisers, this means having smaller caseloads to be able to deliver the tailored support required. For customers, this includes being able to start and stop employment support, as well as flexibility to decide when they receive support. As seen in our evidence, voluntary support, including voluntary participation in the proposed Health and Work Conversation, is a more effective way of delivering the right support.
Finally, in order to close the disability gap, the DWP must remember that this is a local, as much as a national, policy issue. The disability employment gap is as low as 18% and as high as 32% in some areas. Utilising current local support, including local funds through LEPs and developing social prescribing routes, will allow us to drive the right outcomes as well as meet the needs of each local area.
Download the full Shaw Trust response to the Improving Lives Green Paper (pdf, 398K opens in new tab or window)
Please contact Gemma.Hope@shaw-trust.org.uk (opens in new window) and Annie.Kohanek@shaw-trust.org.uk (opens in new window) for questions or information