The Commons Public Accounts Committee, in their latest report have highlighted the confusion that many Disabled People face when they require support in order to gain employment.
The Department of Work and Pensions offers a number of complex and partly overlapping programmes to help disabled people find and retain work. The assistance includes help finding appropriate jobs, developing new or existing skills, support and advice for those in work and grants to employers. Together, the schemes and programmes cost the Department around £300 million a year.
Disabled people can gain access to the Department’s specialist support in different ways, which adds to the potential for confusion. Some of the programmes are only available through the intervention of a Disability Employment Advisor based in a Jobcentre Plus office, while others operate a self-referral system.
For example, the New Deal for Disabled People operates a self-referral system, Access to Work is through direct application, and other programmes are usually available through the intervention of a Disability Employment Adviser. Explaining precisely what is available to individuals in their particular circumstances can be difficult, and the reasoning behind the differences in activities is quite confusing. Although the Department has a distinct rationale for each scheme and is clear on the differences between them, the logic is less readily apparent to the potential user.
Within the report, there are also some worrying statistics about how much money is spent on these schemes with little evidence that they enable Disabled People to find mainstream employment. For example, the Department paid £68.7 million in 2004-05 to Workstep. Workstep is aimed at those disabled people furthest from obtaining work and who need higher levels of support. There are more than 200 providers of Workstep, some of whom have very few clients and have poor records of helping people to get into or remain in employment. Remploy is funded by a block grant of more than £115 million a year from the Department, which covers the running of all services and any losses made by the businesses. It runs 83 factories providing segregated employment for Disabled People as well as running some Workstep programmes.
The report also states that ‘Poor management information makes it difficult to determine whether the programmes deliver value for money. Except for the New Deal for Disabled People, the Department has patchy and inconsistent cost and outcomes data for its programmes. There is also limited information available about clients, making it hard to establish whether programmes are meeting the needs of different groups. The Department should gather detailed information on what has been spent on each programme and scheme, what has been paid to each provider and what the Department has obtained for the expenditure.’
SCIL would like to see the Government increasing funding for schemes like Access to Work that actually support Disabled People in mainstream employment and also importantly, help people retain employment if they acquire impairments during their working life.