Tag Archives: Work Programme

A tale of two systems: the Government’s health and disability employment strategy

Today the Government has published proposals showing how it intends to improve the way it supports disabled people to find, stay in and progress work.

Work is a huge issue for disabled people. Only one in two disabled people currently have a job. Disabled young people are twice as likely to be not in education, employment or training (NEET). And if the same proportion of disabled people were in work as the wider population, there would be 2 million more people in the workforce.

But how well does the new strategy address the challenges disabled people face? Will it create the personalised support disabled people need?

What are the challenges for disabled people?

Many disabled people want to work – but find the labour market a daunting place. Many report that employers see them as too ‘risky’, often making assumptions about what they can and can’t do.

During recruitment, disabled people feel like having an impairment can automatically ‘discount’ them from jobs even when they are qualified to apply.

Disabled people looking for work also rely on having a wide range of other support services in place which can be very difficult and bureaucratic to co-ordinate, typically including housing, social care, welfare advice and other support such as childcare.

So it’s vital that there is joined-up, specialist support available for disabled people. But as Scope’s recent report found, disabled people too often report that the support they receive to find and progress in work is just not up to scratch.

The Work Capability Assessment – which tests whether or not someone is fit for work – still hasn’t been sorted out. 90,000 disabled people have had their benefits suspended for things like missing interviews at Jobcentre Plus. And only 1 in 20 disabled people have been supported to get a job through the Work Programme.

So it’s really welcome that the Government are trying to find ways to improve the system. But the challenge is that today’s proposals risk creating a tale of two systems – of high quality support for the few, and a one size fits all approach for everyone else.

High quality support for the few

The good news is that the Government recognises the need to make improvements, and have put forward a number of new proposals.

Some are really welcome. They propose creating a new ‘gateway’ to support, so that disabled people can get the right support at the right time. This is something Scope has called for before and that has been endorsed by the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

There’s also a focus on who delivers employment support, with more emphasis on specialist and smaller providers like Disabled People’s Organisations. This is good news, as many – such as the Essex Coalition of Disabled People – are doing excellent work and can offer a unique perspective on employment issues.

There’s also a welcome focus on the need for better evidence about the kind of support disabled people feel is useful, and how it can be best be delivered.

One size fits all for everyone else

The problem is that even if these proposals are enough to create a genuinely personalised specialist support offer, the chances are that too few disabled people will benefit.

The details of exactly who’s in or out of the specialist system are yet to be worked out, but the strategy is clear that the majority of disabled people will only receive employment support through the mainstream offer – primarily the Work Programme.

This is worrying. Despite some improvements it’s pretty widely accepted that the Work Programme is still a long way from being effective for most disabled people. We know that only 3.16% of the combined ESA groups found work, and a number of commentaries show that too often disabled people are being left without the right kind of support.

Although the strategy does contain some proposals for mainstream support such as introducing ‘ESA Champions’ in Jobcentres, it’s hard to see these delivering the step-change in personalised support the mainstream offer needs.

The strategy also makes clear that there is only very limited money available, which is ultimately what’s placing the limits on access to specialist support.

The Chancellor announced in the Budget that £350 million is available for disability employment and the Department is clearly still grappling with how to spend this money. But the indicators are that it is likely to be through greater rationing of specialist support and placing as many people as possible into the generic programmes.

So although today’s strategy is welcome, there’s a real danger that we end up having a tale of two systems: effective, holistic support for a small number of disabled people with high support needs; and patchy, heavily-conditional mainstream support for the rest.

As the Government starts to think about how they will deliver the proposals, it’s vital that they work to ensure that as many disabled people as possible receive personalised, specialist support.

Behind the figures: what do today’s sanctions figures mean for disabled people?

New figures out today show the scale of the Government’s new sanctions regime. In total, over 90,000 disabled people have had their benefits suspended for anywhere between 3 weeks and 3 years. Here’s four things you need to know:

How many disabled people do sanctions affect?

Since November 2012, when sanctions were tightened, 90,004 disabled people have had their benefits suspended.

This breaks down as 82,860 disabled people on Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) – the out-of-work benefit available to everyone – and 7,180 disabled people on Employment Support Allowance (ESA), which is meant to be for those who face the biggest barriers to work.

This means that 1 in 7 of the total number of JSA claimants who’ve been sanctioned are disabled people, and 4 in 5 of the total number of ESA.

How does this compare to previous years?

It’s hard to say exactly, because DWP haven’t published figures specifically for disabled people before last year.

But looking at the figures for those on ESA – the majority of whom are disabled people – we can get a sense of how many more people are being sanctioned under the new regime. The increase is pretty shocking.

Since December 2012 the number of ESA sanctions was 11,400. For the same period in 2011/12, the number of people sanctioned was 5,750. This is an increase of 50%.

Compare this with an 11% increase for JSA sanctions year on year, and it’s clear that the regime change has had an even more dramatic effect for those who face the most barriers to work.

Why are people being sanctioned?

What the stats show is people being sanctioned for things like missing interviews with advisers, or not engaging with the Work Programme, or sending enough job applications.

What they don’t show is the reality for disabled people: interviews with advisers clashing with medical appointments; inaccessible transport; advisers without specialist understanding of conditions and impairments; a lack of jobs with the flexibility disabled people often need.

Do sanctions work?

No. Disabled people face a wide-range of barriers to work. Lack of available jobs, fewer qualifications and even negative attitudes from some employers can make the workplace daunting.

So simply taking away benefits from a disabled person really doesn’t help – as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have repeatedly pointed out. In fact, suspending benefits can make things worse: stats from the Trussell Trust show that increasing use of food banks is linked to the tightening of sanctions.

Instead of simply suspending benefits for no reason, we need a system that actually works for disabled people, that supports them to find a job they want, and that takes seriously the barriers they face.

Disability in 2013

The Government hoped the Paralympics would improve daily life for disabled people.

But one year on disabled people have been telling Scope that daily life is really tough.

Here are some reasons why:

Basic care

Disabled people rely on support from their councils to get up, get dressed, get washed and get out of the house. But councils have been upping the bar for eligibility, with 83 per cent of councils now setting the threshold at a higher level. According to London School of Economics 69,000 disabled people have been pushed out of the system. Support for those in the system is also being squeezed. A Scope survey found almost 40 per cent of disabled people who continue to receive social care support are not having their basic needs. Angela from Luton talks about the impact this has on her:

The Government recently committed to investing £3.8bn in social care and its Care Bill reforms are introducing a cap on costs and national eligibility to end the postcode lottery in care. But the Government has also said the plans will set as standard the higher level that most councils have moved to. Experts say this will leave 105,000 disabled people outside of the system.

As Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said recently: “If you can’t get out of bed or get washed in the morning, then you can’t change the way people think, you can’t take part in sport and you are not going to be involved in the community.”

At the same time parents of disabled children have also been raising concerns about the difficulties they face when it comes to finding the right kind of support, services and activities for their children.

Paying the bills

Life becomes more expensive and you’re more likely to be on a low income if you are disabled. Living costs are spiralling and income is flattening for everyone. But recent research showed just how tough things are for disabled people. Fifteen per cent of disabled people – over double the rate for the public (7%) – use loans to make ends meet.

What’s the Government’s response? It is taking away £28bn of financial support, sticking with both the broken system for deciding if disabled people are entitled to out-of-work support and the discredited Work Programme, which has failed to help disabled people find work.

Attitudes

Most non-disabled people don’t get a chance to speak to disabled people, so disabled people feel strongly what’s said publicly is crucial in shaping attitudesDisabled people, charities and the Government all saw the Paralympics as an opportunity improve hardening attitudes. Scope’s chief executive Richard Hawkes describes last summer was as “a breakthrough moment”.  He says “disabled people had never been so visible. Disability had never been talked about so openly”. Surveys in the aftermath of the games pointed to an improvement in public attitudes. But, as the Government’s own report found, there are increasing concerns that this is being undermined by negativity around benefits.

We want to know what you think. What is your life like in 2013? Respond below, on Facebook or tweet us @Scope.

How can we better support disabled people’s career journeys?

Guest post from Rob Trotter, Public Policy Advisor (Employment and Skills) at Scope.

The current labour market is a challenging place for disabled people. Over half of all disabled adults are unemployed. Most want to work but can face extraordinary barriers to finding and retaining a job.

Employment support – to help disabled adults find, prepare for and progress in work – is a vital part of removing these barriers. This can be anything from financial support like Access to Work, to help to find vacancies and prepare for interviews.

It’s welcome that the Government has announced in the 2013 Spending Round that £350 million will be available for employment support programmes. This investment could prove a vital lifeline for disabled people at every stage of their careers, from the first steps in looking for a job, to the support needed to progress.

But the challenge is that current employment support programmes aren’t yet effectively supporting disabled people. For instance, only 2.9% of Employment Support Allowance claimants – nine in 10 of whom are disabled people – have found a job through the flagship Work Programme. Too often, programmes focus only on job ‘outcomes’ rather than the needs of the person.

So today, five leading disability charities have published a major report setting out new ways to improve employment support for disabled people.

The report – Work in Progress: Rethinking employment support for disabled people – calls for a personalised, multi-agency approach which focuses on empowering disabled people to lead their own career journeys.

The report recommends that:

  •  There needs to be greater involvement of employers in the design and delivery of employment support
  • The Government should incentivise greater localisation of employment support for disabled people in order to stimulate innovation
  •  A more targeted approach should be taken for young disabled people who face particular challenges and often cannot access effective support

It also outlines how the quality of support can be improved, and calls for much greater empowerment and involvement of disabled people in their own journeys through work.

Six talking points from the Spending Review

Young disabled man outdoors with personal assistant

1. Do you want the good news or the bad news first?

Good news? Okay… the Chancellor has announced a £3.8 billion investment – including £2 billion of new money – in social care: the support disabled people get from their council to get up, get washed and dressed, and live independently.

The official document says, “This shared pot includes an additional £2 billion from the NHS and builds on the existing contribution of around £1 billion in 2014–15, with the aim of delivering better, more joined-up services to older and disabled people, to keep them out of hospital and to avoid long hospital stays”.

Here’s why this cash is welcome. The social care system is on its knees. Cash-strapped councils have been upping the bar for support eligibility, with 83% of councils now setting the threshold at a higher level. According to London School of Economics 69,000 disabled people have been pushed out of the system.

At the same time councils are squeezing the support for those that are in the system. A Scope survey found almost 40% of disabled people who continue to receive social care support are not having their basic needs met including eating properly, washing, dressing or being able to get out of the house.

Take away the preventative support and people fall into crisis. Have a listen to Angela Murray explain why social care is so important to her.

2. The ‘how’ is really important

Given that we now also know that councils are facing a further 10% cut in their budgets, a crucial piece of detail is how the cash gets to frontline social care. ADASS have said that previous injections of cash have instead disappeared into the black-hole of council budgets.

The documents talk about pooled budgets and NHS money being made available to councils through ‘local health and care systems’, which – in an exclusive for the HSJ – Jeremy Hunt explains will be achieved through Health & Wellbeing Boards. A cross-part panel of MPs and Peers recently argued that this would give it a better chance of reaching the people that need it. The official document explains that the Government is “putting £3.8 billion in a single pooled budget for health and social care services to work more closely together in local areas, based on a plan agreed between the NHS and local authorities”.

3. Britain Cares about social care

Today’s spending review announcement follows six months of campaigning. The innovative Stephen Fry-backed Britain Cares campaign, has seen over 25,000 people contact their MP about social care for disabled people – a thousand of who have sent personalised photos to show they care.

At the same time a young disabled woman from Luton – and former volunteer of the year – Angela launched a petition on Change.org which has received more than 45,000 signatures. She handed it in to 11 Downing Street on Monday.

4. But don’t celebrate just yet

The crucial question is now who gets care and who doesn’t. The announcement comes as the Care Bill is debated in the Lords over the coming week. The reforms seek to tackle the crisis in care by introducing a cap on costs, a new means-testing threshold and national eligibility to end the postcode lottery in care.

But under the current  plans – reiterated in the Spending Review – the Government will raise the bar for eligibility to social care to a level which London School of Economics (LSE) says will leave 105,000 disabled people with significant needs outside of the system altogether. They need that support to live independent lives. Without it, they are left isolated and in crisis.

5. And the really bad news…

The Government was briefing that there would be no further cuts on welfare. But that’s exactly what a cap on so-called Annually Managed Expenditure could mean. AME is Government spending which includes welfare and state pension bills. The Government is capping about half the budget. The Chancellor confirmed this will definitely include benefits for disabled people.

This means that regardless of how many disabled people need financial support, if the public finances take another nose dive, the Government could pull the plug on support for disabled people just when they really need it. This is ludicrous. Some disabled people will always need financial support. It doesn’t make them scroungers or skivers.

6. But let’s end on a positive note

The Chancellor committed to continue to spend £350m on employment support for disabled people. This mainly funds Access to Work and Work Choice. This support is especially important when you consider the growing consensus that the Work Programme (not linked to this funding) isn’t effectively supporting disabled people and ESA claimants. This will come to a head when the DWP publishes performance statistics for the Work Programme on Thurs June 27th.  It’s becoming ever more clear we need new solutions for getting disabled people into work.

With every Spending Review there’s is a lot to take in. But at a time when the Government is bringing in £11.5bn of cuts, an investment of £3bn into local support for disabled people is certainly good news.