The coalition government is to go ahead with plans to launch a new work programme for disabled people with higher support needs.
The Labour government had announced plans to replace specialist programmes such as WORKSTEP with a new scheme called Work Choice this autumn.
But the future of the new programme had been cast into doubt because of the new government’s plans for a single work programme for all people on out-of-work benefits.
Maria Miller, the disabled people’s minister, announced this week that Work Choice would be launched on 25 October and would “sit alongside” the single work programme.
Miller said Work Choice would “help into work disabled people who face the most complex and long-term barriers to employment and who may require high intensity support in the workplace”.
She said it would replace the “existing confusing array” of specialist disability employment programmes – WORKSTEP, Work Preparation and the Job Introduction Scheme.
And she said it would “greatly improve upon the effectiveness of current provision by tailoring support to the needs of each severely disabled individual to help move them into and stay in long-term sustainable jobs”.
There will also be a cut in the number of contracts with employment support providers from more than 200 to just 28.
A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesman denied that the move signalled a rethink on plans for a single, overarching work programme.
He said: “They want provision for the hardest to help groups. It is very important to have that.”
Meanwhile, new DWP figures show that the number of disabled people who received support through the Access to Work (ATW) programme rose from more than 32,000 in 2008-09 to more than 37,000 in 2009-10.
Of those receiving funding to provide adaptations, equipment and other work support in 2009-10, only 390 had mental health conditions, while 1,720 had learning difficulties, 5,450 had hearing impairments and 5,280 were visually-impaired.
More than 11,500 ATW awards were made for aids and equipment, nearly 10,000 for support workers, and 12,700 for travel to work, while 250 were made for adaptations to workplaces, and 270 for adaptations to vehicles.
28 July 2010