Pathways contracts mean many get ‘bare minimum’ help


New research shows that paying providers of employment support according to how many disabled people they place in jobs leads to a “bare minimum” service for those less ready for work.

The research into the effectiveness of paying private and voluntary sector providers of Pathways to Work based on how many clients find work comes as the government is reviewing its work support programmes, including Pathways.

The report by the Policy Studies Institute for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says its research “reinforces concern” that providers given “outcome-based contracts” do not work with the “harder to help”.

It suggests that more funding should be available for organisations working with “clients with more complex needs”.

And it calls for more to be done to allow disabled clients to provide feedback on their Pathways experiences.

The Pathways providers covered in the research – three private sector and one charity – complained that the recession and a decline in job vacancies had “exacerbated the financial risks” in trying to reach their job targets, which were “not considered to be feasible”.

Internal targets set for advisers working with disabled clients had been lowered because of the recession, while advisers were frustrated that managers’ focus on clients who were “job ready” caused them to spend less time with those “further away from work”.

This meant that “creaming” (working intensively with clients closer to the job market) and “parking” (giving other clients a “bare minimum” service) were seen as “appropriate practice”.

The report did find some measures that helped advisers work with “clients not labelled as job ready”, but it also found that any innovations by providers were largely based on cutting costs.

The report came as Rebecca Sudworth, deputy director of the DWP’s disability and work division, told the all party parliamentary disability group that the number of clients found jobs had “been much lower than providers themselves felt might be possible”.

She also admitted that in some employment programmes there was “insufficient enthusiasm” to work with disabled people furthest from the labour market.

A briefing prepared for the meeting by the Disability Benefits Consortium concluded: “The funding system of payment by in-work results only has encouraged a concentration of effort on to those people regarded as easier to support into work.”

But Jonathan Shaw, minister for disabled people, said in a statement that Pathways had helped “nearly 190,000 people who face complex barriers into work” since it was first piloted in 2003.

He added: “We pay our private providers by results – if they don’t get people into sustainable employment, they don’t get the full payment.

“But we know we need to do more to help disabled people into work, which is why we have committed through our employment white paper to review our support programmes, including Pathways to Work. Our findings will be published in the spring.”

25 February 210

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