Universal Credit and the Work and Health Programme: stories from the frontline

27 July 2018

Policy in Practice was invited to host a session on how Universal Credit is supporting people into work at the Employment and Skills Convention 2018.

Policy in Practice’s Benefit and Budgeting Calculator helps people on the Work and Health programme understand and navigate the benefit system and how the move onto Universal Credit will affect them. In our session we were joined by Marise Mackie, Contract Manager, from Pluss and Hazel Dales, Partnership & Integration Manager from Ingeus. They shared  practical, on the ground examples of the work they’re doing to help people transform their lives as Universal Credit rolls out across the UK.

Tackling the disability employment gap

Disability remains by far the biggest barrier to work. The Government wants to see 1 million more people with disabilities in work by 2027 and has most recently committed funding of £4.2m to help people with mental health and musculoskeletal conditions stay in work. Policy in Practice’s own analysis shows that just 1.5% of all workless households with someone living with disability moved into work between January 2016 and January 2017, far lower than any other group.

Why is it so hard to close the disability employment gap?

A recent Policy in Practice survey found that the biggest challenge frontline advisors face when helping people with disabilities into work is a lack of suitable employment opportunities. This significant challenge was closely followed by the need to help a person overcome their specific disability barrier. Other notable challenges include the ability to identify and engage with those who may benefit from support and poor financial work incentives and inadequate costs of work support.

Marise Mackie and Hazel Dales agreed, adding that raising the aspirations of people who have been out of work for a long time can often be as important a factor in success. Marise highlighted the importance of finding ‘hidden vacancies’, typically unplanned or unconventional roles that can add real value to the organisation. She also urged frontline advisors to be tenacious, as not all employers ‘get it’ immediately. Marise shared the experiences of Reuben and Tom who both have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. They each faced significant barriers to work which they successfully overcame, with Pluss’ help.

Hear Reuben’s story https://www.pluss.org.uk/news/reubens-story

Hear Tom’s story https://www.pluss.org.uk/news/toms-story

Hazel said that working with local authorities and ensuring that support is not just signposted, but is truly followed through, can really help resolve issues that affect work search. Such issues can include management of debt or housing. In Ingeus’ experience, this is best done when information is shared, often in the same geographic location.

Sally-Anne is on her journey back to paid employment after caring for her husband for many years; he’s now moved to residential care. She has physical mobility issues, anxiety and depression, and felt quite isolated. The community centre where she sees her Ingeus caseworker hosts coffee mornings and the NHS deliver psychological therapy from there too, which is very convenient for Sally-Anne. The centre is also where she attends the IT course her caseworker helped her to access, to help achieve her goal of a job in reception or administrative work where she can be seated. Sally-Anne’s confidence is growing and the centre is becoming a hub for her socially.

Martha’s been out of work for a few years due to anxiety. Her confidence was very low and she needed lots of support and reassurance from the Ingeus team. This included help with goal setting from her caseworker and job search support from the hub guide, several times a week. After mock interviews with the employer account manager, Martha was put forward for a role in support work, and she was successful. Her caseworker called in regularly in her first few days in the new role, ensuring that Martha’s anxiety didn’t get the better of her. To help the financial transition to work, Martha was received a better off calculation using Policy in Practice’s Benefit and Budgeting Calculator and it was at this point that Martha’s personal debt issues became apparent. The Ingeus team wrote to courts to establish repayment plans, helped her apply for in-work benefits and ensured she had travel funds for her first weeks at work. Martha is now settled and still regularly comes to the hub to continue her job search to better paid work now, she has gained experience.

Moving into work may mean moving onto Universal Credit

Helping someone who’s been out of work for a long time move into work can trigger a move from legacy benefits onto Universal Credit. To help people understand how the transition will affect them both Ingeus and Pluss use Policy in Practice’s Benefit and Budgeting Calculator.

“We believe that, with the right support, most people can find work and build a career. We chose to work with Policy in Practice because their unparalleled expertise in simplifying the welfare system, as well as their Benefit and Budgeting Calculator, allows us to deliver innovative services to jobseekers across the entire Southern region.” Marise Mackie, Pluss

Hard work is taking place across the welfare to work ecosystem to support people with the right information and help. Policy in Practice is proud to be supporting people across the UK move towards financial independence. To find out how Policy in Practice’s software helps build financial resilience visit www.policyinpractice.co.uk/software, email hello@policyinpractice.co.uk or call 0330 088 9242.

Written by Deven Ghelani, Policy in Practice, with Marise Mackie, Pluss and Hazel Dales, Ingeus