A key government disability jobs programme had “no discernible impact” on helping people with long-term health conditions into work, a new series of reports has found.
The reports on two Individual Placement and Support (IPS) trials found the costs of running the programme in Sheffield and the West Midlands were greater than the “likely financial benefits”.
The research, carried out for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), also found the intensive support provided through the scheme had no impact on employment or earnings for those who began the programme out of work.
It concluded that – despite the intensive support – those who took part “continued to face major barriers to finding work”.
These barriers included persistent health problems “which continued to be challenging in a work context and which respondents did not always feel were helped by being in work”.
Crucially, the research found that – contrary to DWP’s expectations – those who took part did not experience work “as a therapeutic outcome”.
DWP and successive ministers have tried to argue for many years that being in employment improves health, despite repeated concerns about the “disastrous and cruel” theory raised by many disabled activists.
The IPS trials recruited nearly 10,000 people with “mild-to-moderate mental and physical health conditions” and provided half of them with intensive, individual support according to IPS principles*.
One of the IES reports found that some of those interviewed had said the support they received helped them make “more appropriate use of health services” because they were now seeking help at the right time.
And those who received IPS support usually felt they were “being advised to get the right kind of job for them… often contrasting this to the approach of Jobcentre Plus staff”.
But the research concluded: “The costs to the exchequer of funding the IPS services are greater than the likely financial benefits across both trial sites.”
Although aspects of the trials – such as “employer engagement” and “case conferencing with healthcare professions” – did not always match IPS principles, the trials were still “judged to be IPS”.
DWP declined to comment on the finding that those who took part did not experience work as a therapeutic outcome.
But a DWP spokesperson said: “The findings from these trials highlight many elements of the programme which worked well, as well as where changes could be made for improvements.
*IPS was designed as a voluntary programme to support people “with severe and enduring mental health needs in secondary care settings to find paid employment”
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