Disability and health reform plans are welcome – but we need to do a lot more and do it better

31 October 2016

Following the announcement today of a new green paper on work and health, Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of Learning and Work Institute said:


“We welcome the Government’s manifesto commitment to halve the gap in employment between disabled people and those who are not disabled.  This would mean over one million more disabled people in work. However, our research shows that on current trends, it would take more than 200 years to achieve this goal.


“Many disabled people want to work, but they need effective support to do so.


“There are many welcome proposals in the Green Paper, particularly the commitment to reforming the Work Capability Assessment, transforming how employment and health services work together, and improving how we engage employers.


“However, the government risks willing the ends but not the means on disability employment.  Our analysis has found that fewer than one in ten disabled people receive any employment support at all, with funding for disability employment programmes due to be halved in this Parliament.  And on current plans, Jobcentre Plus will provide about ten minutes of support a month to just one in five of those on ill-health benefits.  We need to do more and do it better so that the scale of action matches the scale of our ambition.”


Learning and Work Institute have highlighted the following specific concerns:


    • On current plans, the ‘Work-Related Activity Group’ in Employment and Support Allowance will only get 88 minutes of Jobcentre Plus work coach time per year – 10 minutes a month. This isn’t enough.


    • The Work Related Activity Group only make up one-third of ESA claimants who have had their claim assessed.  For the other two-thirds – called the ‘Support Group’ – there is no funding for work coach support at all.  This needs to be addressed.


    • The Work and Health Programme recently announced as its replacement for the Work Programme and Work Choice, is over 80% smaller than the programmes that it replaced.  On a like-for-like basis, we estimate that employment support for disabled people will fall by around 55%.


    • We estimate that this would increase disability employment by at most 85,000 over this Parliament.  We need to increase funding for employment support, alongside reforms to reinvest the savings in health and benefits bills from supporting more people into work.


    • Plans to improve how services work together are welcome, but these have been the subject of reviews and consultations for more than a decade.  We need a partnership between government, local areas, health services and employers – with new outcome agreements – to integrate support and achieve a step change


Stephen Evans added: “We’re pleased this is a Green Paper meaning that it is open to public consultation – there are positive moves and the consultation gives scope to make sure action meets ambition.”


Read Tony Wilson’s blog on the Green Paper