Scrap DWP-run job support and let local areas provide better help for disabled people

With millions at risk of losing their jobs, people with disabilities and health conditions in long-term unemployment should be supported locally, removing this responsibility from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Research by New Local (formerly New Local Government Network) says local community-led approaches can give far better support to jobseekers who face complex disadvantages related to disabilities and health conditions.

Out of this group of 2.3 million people, only 4% move into employment each year.

The research features examples from across the UK where local services have helped people into work, some of whom had been jobless for decades because of issues such as mental health problems, social isolation, drug and alcohol misuse, and contact with the criminal justice system.

In future, says New Local, DWP should be responsible only for providing benefits for this group. Meanwhile local government, the NHS and voluntary organisations should be resourced to provide personalised, trusted employment support for local residents.  

Report author Tom Pollard is a social worker who previously advised DWP on mental health. During this time, he found DWP was unfit to support disabled people and people with long-term health conditions.

Tom Pollard says:

“The DWP’s approach has proven not only ineffective but deeply damaging to millions of people facing complex disadvantage. With its narrow focus on the cost of benefits, people become simply numbers. They are pushed towards inappropriate support, designed in Whitehall without real understanding of the complexity of the challenges people face.”

With DWP focused on those who have fallen out of work because of the pandemic, it is now even less likely that people experiencing longer term unemployment because of disabilities and health conditions will get the support they need.

Adam Lent, New Local Chief Executive, says:

“Rishi Sunak has said he wants to ‘get creative’ with solving the pending jobs crisis, and this is a way to do just that. Empowering local organisations could help millions of people to take more control over their lives with the support of services rooted in their communities. Under the current system, this group will find themselves ‘at the back of the queue’ for work as unemployment rises.”

Disability rights campaigner Kaliya Franklin wrote the forward of the report. She says:

“At a time when so many people are newly unemployed and the attention of policy makers turns once again to lowering the ‘claimant count’, it is essential that disabled people, and others facing long-term barriers to employment, are not left behind.

“This timely report by New Local is very welcome as it focuses on the issues that disabled people themselves say are barriers to employment. This would contrast sharply with the top-down system which for decades has had little impact on reducing the disability employment gap – but has had an enormous, negative impact upon the lives of those subject to such policies.”

Notes to Editors

  • New Local was founded as New Local Government Network in 1996. It is an independent think tank and network with a mission to transform public services and unlock community power.
  • The full report: “This Isn’t Working. Reimagining employment support for people facing complex disadvantage” is available here: https://www.newlocal.org.uk/publications/this-isnt-working/ from 00.01 on 27 October.
  • The research was kindly supported by Lloyds Bank Foundation.
  • Disabled people have an employment rate that is 28.1 percentage points lower than that of people who are not disabled. Around 2.3 million people receive benefits because they are not able to work due to disabilities or health conditions and only around 4 per cent of this group move into employment each year.
  • The 2017 Conservative manifesto promised to bring 1 million more people with disabilities into employment over the next ten years.
  • For more information or to request contact with case studies, please contact Katy Oglethorpe, Director of Communications, on katy@newlocal.org.uk or 0791 2161 536.

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