Work Programme not working for the disabled - government adviser

Tue, 08/10/2013 - 12:15 -- nick

The coalition's flagship Work Programme is not working for the disabled, a government advisor has said.

Liz Sayce, the head of Disability Rights UK, might not be the most obvious critic of policy - she wrote the infamous report that recommended shutting down half of all Remploy factories which guaranteed jobs for disabled people - but she describes the Work Programme as "the non-work programme - at best it is heading for an 88% failure rate with people on out-of-work disability benefits. Some providers do very good work, but perverse incentives stop them spreading it. Disabled people want to play a more central role, working with employers, to secure job and career opportunities and use their talents, to the benefit of everyone."

The most recent performance figures show the Work Programme is failing those on employment and support allowance - paid to those disabled and long-term sick people who are deemed fit for work - with only 6.8% of them getting long-term jobs.

Work Choice is seen as a better option, with more personalised support options, but has the same payment by results system that doesn't provide the right incentives to work with the most severely disabled people.

This means it has only found jobs for 58 people with serious mental health problems across the whole UK.

This isn't just an issue facing the coalition; the National Audit Office's research into the last government's 'Pathways to Work' programme shows it 'has turned out to provide poor value for money and the Department (for Work and Pensions) needs to learn from this experience.'

Disability Rights UK believes lessons have not been learned, and recommends more decision-making power needs to be put in the hands of disabled people themselves as they are best placed to understand their own needs.

The organisation has figures to back this up: "78% of disabled people responding to our survey wanted  more information and say over their employment support and 74% wanted to decide how the money available was spent. Research shows this bespoke support works far better than one size fits all."

It also recommends that "Government should radically re-think, cut out the middle man (the Work Programme or Work Choice provider) and put power in the hands of the people who can really make employment support work  - disabled people, and employers - with advice available to them as needed.

"The Work Programme is projected to cost £3-5bn over five years, yet is not working for a core group: people living with disability or long-term health conditions. It is time to cut out the middleman, releasing the money that is presently being wasted and transferring control of employment support to those who know how it can be used best – disabled people and employers."

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: "Previous schemes didn't do enough for disabled people and those on sickness benefits, which is why we introduced the Work Programme to give tailored support to address individual barriers to work. Thousands of the hardest to help people have already found lasting work through the scheme.

"More generally we have protected the budget for disability employment services and recently kickstarted a two-year advertising campaign to support business to become more confident at recruiting disabled people as sometimes employer attitudes can be a barrier to work."

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