ERSA Call for Evidence: Government Disability and Health Employment strategy

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Following  the release of the government’s Disability and Health Employment Strategy ERSA has produced a summary of the strategy and is now issuing an official call for evidence to members to inform its response to the Disability and Health Employment Strategy.

A number of key questions have been identified which ERSA and DWP are keen for members to address. These are set out below. We are looking to formulate our response to government over the upcoming weeks and ask members to make submissions to by COP Friday 28 February 2014.

Asks for ERSA members

1. How can we identify the hardest to help? What are the key characteristics we should be looking for?

2. How do we define and measure outcomes – what results should we pay for? What milestones could we develop? How should we define progression – increase in hours / increase in earnings? What incentives should be offered to reward progression?

3. Does national commissioning fit alongside a more integrated local/specialist offer?

4. Payment by results – how far should this be used for specialist support?

5. How much should a ‘black box’ approach should be used to achieve outcomes? Should we be more prescriptive?

6. How do we evolve and improve – building on new evidence and best practice?

DWP publishes report on future disability policy

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The Department for Work and Pensions recently published its a report, Fulfilling Potential, which looks at future disability policy objectives. The report draws upon submissions to the the fulfilling potential consultation launched last year. A brief overview of recommendations impacting upon disability employment are included below:

  • Prepare a new employment strategy for disabled people and for people with a health condition to consider how to help them secure and progress in work. The strategy is expected to be published later in 2013, and will be fed into by BIS, DWP and DH. It will also reference work being undertaken by consultative groups, which ERSA sit on.
  • Develop a specific evidence base around disability employment, to inform the new employment strategy for disabled people and for those with a health condition. DWP is currently considering options to progress this objective.
  • Investigate ways to improve the employment outcomes of people with mental health conditions. DWP will use an upcoming Disability Employment Conference next week, 18 July 2013, which ERSA is attending, to focus on partnership working with business and the launch of a two-year communications campaign.
  • Expand funding for Access to Work (AtW). In March 2012, DWP announced an extra £15 million for AtW over the spending review period. Government continues to work towards raising employer awareness of AtW, and to strengthen the role AtW plays in supporting independent travel. They are also currently considering how AtW can be more closely involved in supporting disabled young peoples’ transition into supported paid employment, through Supported Internship trials.
  • Specialist employment provision for unemployed disabled people with more complex barriers. DWP is currently looking into how to best provide employment support for those disabled people with complex barriers, as part of the employment strategy. The Work Choice evaluation will feed into this consideration.
  • Extend NEA to people claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). From February 2013, DWP removed restrictions to allow ESA claimants wishing to enter self-employment to become eligible to claim NEA.
  • Introduce a health and work assessment and advisory service, to ensure employees who are absent from work for four weeks receive appropriate occupational health expertise to support them in returning to work. The government will introduce a state-funded occupational health assessment and advisory service in 2014, to help employees absent due to sickness return to employment.
  • Consider how to fund and utilise the specialised services offered by Residential Training Colleges. Following the Liz Sayce recommendations, DWP is considering next steps as part of its wider strategy for disability employment.
  • Develop an online employer digital portal. DWP are designing and developing an online digital portal that will support employers to recruit and retain disabled people.

ERSA is in dialogue with DWP about the future disability employment strategy. Members should contact / 020 7690 6317.

Fourth independent review of the Work Capability Assessment announced

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ERSA welcomes Employment Minister, Mark Hoban’s announcement that Dr Paul Litchfield has been appointed to carry out the fourth independent review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

All new applicants for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) must undertake a WCA to determine their eligibility for the benefit. There have already been three reviews conducted by Professor Malcolm Harrington that put forward a range of recommendations to improve the current process.  

ERSA chief executive Kirsty McHugh responded to the announcement:

“ERSA very much welcomes the appointment of Dr Paul Litchfield following the efforts by Professor Malcolm Harrington to improve the Work Capability Assessment process.

“The experience of many of our members is that the WCA is still not accurate enough and that people are still being placed in the wrong category for support. This not only an issue for individuals, but can also be a real concern for providers of services, such as the Work Programme, as the results of the WCA determine the resources available for providers to help jobseekers. 

“Progress to date in implementing Professor Malcolm Harrington’s recommendations has been slower than expected and we urge the government to implement the recommendations as soon as possible.”

05 November 2012 – ERSA policy briefing on the Work Capability Assessment 

Provider-led Pathways to Work evaluation report published

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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has released ‘Provider-led Pathways: Net impacts on employment’, an evaluation report which looks at the Provider-led Pathways to Work programme. This was rolled out in 2007 and 2008 and catered for people on incapacity benefits with disabilities. It was abolished in March 2011 before the launch of the Work Programme.
The evaluation report found:

  • The overall impact of the programme was positive and raised the proportion off benefit by a statistically significant two percentage points;
  • It performed better for men and for those aged under 50; and
  • Performance was as good as the interventions made by Jobcentre Plus-led Pathways to Work.

The report findings are particularly interesting given they highlight the length of time it takes for the results of an intervention programme to be properly evaluated.

The full report is available here.