The government has admitted that its Pathways to Work programme to help disabled people into work is “less effective” than it first thought, and has launched an urgent review.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said the programme – first piloted in 2003 – had not helped as many disabled people into work as it had hoped.
An independent study into Pathways to Work pilots had found that disabled people in Pathways areas were about 25 per cent more likely to be in work after 18 months than those in non-Pathways areas.
But a report published last October found that when Pathways – which can offer work-focused interviews, help applying for jobs and managing a health condition, and financial assistance – was rolled out to other Jobcentre Plus areas it had no effect on employment rates, compared with non-Pathways areas.
Now the government has launched an “evidence-gathering review” of the back-to-work support provided by Pathways to people on incapacity benefit and the new employment and support allowance.
It aims to publish proposals on the future of Pathways this spring, but says it wants to move to a “simpler, stronger, more personalised model of support”, with a focus on “rights and responsibilities” and value for money.
Adrian Whyatt, chair of the user group Neurodiversity International, said the government had awarded Pathways contracts to large organisations which failed to involve or understand disabled people, while disabled people’s organisations were too small to bid for contracts.
The contracts failed to ensure providers set up boards of disabled people to control the programmes, so there was a “lack of expertise” at “every stage of the process”, he added.
A DWP spokesman said Pathways had helped more than 173,000 people into work, and helped to “significantly” narrow the gap between the overall employment rate and that of disabled people.
But he said more needed to be done, which was why the government was reviewing Pathways “to explore how we can further support those who can work fulfil that goal”.
He said the government believed that “organisations of all sizes, small and large, from the public, private and voluntary sectors, have an important role to play in helping people back to work”.
He added: “We work continuously with providers to help them find ways to improve and enhance the service they provide to this customer group, actively encouraging prime contractors to engage with niche providers who have the specialist knowledge necessary.”
6 January 2010