In the same week that a BBC documentary suggested the coalition’s programme was failing, new government figures appeared to show the effectiveness of investing heavily in personalised employment support for disabled people.
Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures published in November showed that only about 1,000 of 79,000 claimants of out-of-work disability benefits found jobs through the Work Programme in its first year, a success rate of just over one per cent, even though claimants needed to stay in a job for only three months to be counted in the figures.
But this week, the Conservative minister for disabled people, Esther McVey, announced that more than 200 disabled former workers from the sheltered Remploy factories closed by the government had so far found jobs, out of more than 1,000 who had taken up the coalition’s offer of support. About another 240 were re-training, she said.
The ex-workers who took up the government’s offer are receiving one-to-one support and advice on moving to mainstream work from more than 200 “dedicated” advisers, as part of an £8 million package of support.
The package includes a “personal case worker” to “help individuals with their future choices”, and access to a personal budget of about £2,500 per person.
Although the former Remploy workers are likely to be easier to place in employment than many disabled people trying to find jobs through the Work Programme, the figures appear to show the effectiveness of intensive, personalised support for disabled job-seekers.
The success rate for ex-Remploy workers is so far about 20 per cent, compared with just over one per cent for disabled claimants of employment and support allowance on the Work Programme.
Anne McGuire, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, said: “The first round of figures on the Work Programme were not even disappointing – disappointing does not even begin to describe those figures.”
But she added: “If you put the resources in… you can actually make a real difference to employment opportunities for disabled people.”
Many former Remploy workers, though, have been left devastated by the closure programme.
The Daily Record in Scotland reported today how a Remploy worker in Glasgow has been found dead, on the day his factory closed its doors for the last time. His former colleagues told the Record his death was a “direct result of the factory being closed down”.
Meanwhile, a BBC Panorama documentary broadcast this week claimed that employees of the Work Programme sub-contractor Triage were told to spend as little time as possible on trying to find work for some of their disabled clients, because they were too difficult to place, a process known in the welfare-to-work industry as “parking”.
Panorama also claimed that staff in training sessions referred to clients as LTBs, or “lying, thieving bastards”.
Dame Anne Begg, the disabled Labour MP who chairs the Commons work and pensions committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the Work Programme, said the use of the phrase was “shocking”.
The BBC also surveyed organisations listed by the Department for Work and Pensions as “third party” providers on its Work Programme.
Of 184 organisations that responded, 77 per cent of those who specialised in supporting disabled people said they believed their expertise had not been used correctly by the main provider they were working under.
A Triage spokesman said the Panorama programme was not “balanced or fair”, and strongly disputed the idea that it “parks” disabled clients.
He said that all Triage staff were “trained to highest professional standards in order to provide high quality guidance, support, advice and job matching”, while “many thousands of people have had positive experiences and benefited from engaging with Triage staff”.
And he said the use of “LTB” had been “isolated and wholly atypical”.
The Department for Work and Pensions has so far declined to comment either on the Remploy figures or the Panorama claims.
1 August 2013