8 Oct 2013

It’s the non-work programme, charity says

The government’s work programmes, designed to help the disabled into employment, are failing, according to a leading disability charity.

Calling for a radical rethink, Disability Rights UK points to the government’s own figures which reveal a 95 per cent failure rate in finding sustainable work for those on the work programme.Liz Sayce, the charity’s chief executive, described the work programme as the “non-work programme”. In the past year, 5.3 per cent of people who receive the employment and support allowance and who have been referred to the programme have been found work.

At best, Ms Sayce said, this will rise to 12 per cent, which is an 88 per cent failure rate.

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Work Choice, which is for those with more complex problems, has a 31 per cent success rate. But when broken down the figures look worse. Half of all ESA and incapacity benefit claimants have mental health problems.

Yet, since 2011 only 58 a year have been placed in long term employment. This is especially stark when compared with one London NHS trust – Central and North West London – which has placed more than 200 in employment in the space of just one year.

The charity says that successive governments have set up huge, centralised employment programmes, at vast expense. There are concerns that the payment-by-results incentives are leading to those providing the work programmes to cherry pick the easier cases, and that employers themselves are disadvantaged by not having access to the “widest possible pool of talent”.

The CNWL NHS trust has developed an individualised approach to helping those with mental health problems over 10 years. Each claimant is given an employment specialist, who works as part of the clinical team. Emphasis is placed on readiness to return to work, but it is also time sensitive, with job searching beginning within one month.

And in today’s report, Disability Rights UK strongly advocates this more personalised approach. Indeed, their report Taking Control of Employment Support shows that 60 per cent of disabled people surveyed want more individualised plans, with more control over the support needed to find work and stay in it.

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said that previous schemes had not done enough for disabled people and those on sickness benefits. “This is why we introduced the work programme to give tailored support to address individual barriers to work. Thousands of the most hardest to help people have already found lasting work through the scheme.”

But what the charity hopes is that with the DWP due to publish its disability employment strategy later this year, it will review its approach.

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