6th PAC Report 2006-07
Gaining and retaining a job: the Department for Work and Pensions’ support for disabled people
Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said:
“More than a million people on incapacity benefits say they want to get a job. But it can’t be easy for them to find the right kind of specialist support from the DWP. There are currently six separate programmes, with their own rigid rules and often overlapping with one another. There is big scope for to the current departmental review to open the way towards a set of services which are easier to understand and access and better able to satisfy the varying needs of individuals.
“No one knows whether the over £300 million spent each year on these programmes is value for money. As so often with government initiatives, the management data about costs and outcomes is patchy and unreliable. That means the Department is not properly managing its support programmes, a conclusion supported by the fact that the quality of services provided around the country and what the DWP pays providers vary widely.
“Most people who are disabled became so as adults and were probably in employment at the time. The DWP should put much more effort than it has so far into helping them, wherever possible, keep their jobs. That must be a sensible and cost-effective use of resources and one which should complement the Department’s current efforts to help disabled people who are unemployed find jobs.”
Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 6th Report of this Session which, on the basis of evidence from the Department for Work and Pensions, examined the quality of its programmes to help disabled people find and stay in employment, management data and the performance of Remploy.
More than 1 million of the 2.7 million people on incapacity benefits say they want to work. In 2004-05, the Department for Work and Pensions spent around £320 million funding a number of programmes and schemes to help disabled people find and stay in employment. However, these reach only a minority-160,000-of those who could potentially benefit. More needs to be done to increase the numbers assisted into work and to aid job retention if disabled people who want to work are to realise the benefits that work can offer.
The Department’s programmes have arisen over a number of years stretching back to the end of the Second World War. As a result, there is an array of often overlapping provision rather than a streamlined, cohesive suite of services. The Department is undertaking a review of its disability related programmes and wants to introduce more clarity and greater simplification in what is provided. The review is due to report at the end of 2006.
Most people acquire their disabilities during the course of their working life, yet only one programme, Access to Work, focuses on giving people support before they lose their existing jobs. The Department maintains that, although they have a responsibility to promote employment opportunities for disabled people and help them tackle the barriers they face, the main responsibility for ensuring people remain in work lies not with the Department but with the employer. Nevertheless, preventing a person losing a job because of their disability merits further attention as it seems more efficient than providing assistance and support after this has happened.
There are more than 500 providers contracting with Jobcentre Plus to deliver one or more of the disability programmes. The quality and value for money of provision varies widely and acceptable standards are not always achieved. Between 2002 and 2005, for example, over 50% of the learning offered in Workstep provider placements was judged unsatisfactory by the Adult Learning Inspectorate, although the figure has recently improved.
Despite a contractual requirement to accept all valid self-referrals to the New Deal for Disabled People some providers are discouraging those people who need more help than others. The Department has altered its contract incentives to help alleviate the problem.
Because of the high number of individual providers, Jobcentre Plus has not been able to carry out the required number of quality inspections. A current review of contractor provision may weed out poor performers and result in fewer contractors. The Department is also moving more towards a prime contractor model (where a single provider acts as the directing agent for a number of other sub-contracting providers) in an effort to reduce the administrative burden, while maintaining access to specialist services.
Remploy is funded by a block grant from the Government. It operates a job placement and support service called Remploy Interwork that is highly effective in progressing people into mainstream unsupported employment. Remploy also operates a number of different businesses, including 83 factories. The factories do not progress many people into mainstream, unsupported employment and collectively the businesses make losses. Nevertheless, it is possible that Remploy Interwork’s success is due to its close association with Remploy. The Department commissioned a review of Remploy to inform ministerial consideration of its future configuration.
Notes for Editors
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