Memorandum submitted by Emma James
1. This submission (overleaf) has drawn
upon the live experiences of Specialist Incapacity Benefit Advisers
(SIBAs) and Disability Employment Advisers (DEAs) working in the
field in the Gloucestershire/ Wiltshire/Swindon (GWS) district.
Although not yet a "Pathways to Work" District the team
over the last few years has gained much experience about what
works well and what doesn't work so well when trying to place
clients with disabilities back in to work.
2. Many of the current incentives/programmes
in the general "Welfare to Work "programme work well
for clients with disabilities and although Credit will be given
to these in the main text the team have identified the following
barriers to disabled clients progression back to work. These cause
frustration to Clients and Advisers alike and their reform can
only expedite a return to work for many.
(i) Permitted Work Anomalies/Restrictions.
(ii) Test Trading Income Restrictions.
(iii) Personal Capability Assessments
(PCAs)Conflict of interest within DWPgreater "Joined
up Government" required.
(iv) SIBAs/DEAs and NDDP Job BrokersDefinition
and Dichotomy of roles.
What are the implications of DWPs proposals for
the new structure of Incapacity Benefits?
3. Although the simplification of benefit
rates may highlight the message that Incapacity Benefit (IB) for
some is only Short Term financial support until work becomes a
viable option, it is felt that the new structure of (IB) will
not radically simplify Incapacity Benefits. Many complexities
and anomalies that provide financial barriers to employment exist
between clients on IB and Income Support (IS) already, that are
not being addressed by this change. It is the existing barriers
that need removing before the new structure can claim to champion
4. Permitted Work is used by SIBAs/DEAs
as a vital tool or stepping stone back to work without greatly
compromising Benefits, usually for up to six months. For some
however this is not the case.
5. A young person on IB after one year who
receives £92.50 per week can earn up to £78 per week.
He is living with his parents and is not entitled to Housing Benefit.
The only effect on both incomes will be that both are taxable
and may attract Income Tax approaching £8-£10 per week
maximum. Clearly an excellent motivational scheme in this example.
6. Contrast this with the same person living
in rented accommodation with a rent liability of £80 per
week. Typically they might have to contribute £15 of their
non means tested IB towards their rent due to the level of their
benefit. Introduce £78 per week permitted work and Two thirds
of this will be swallowed up due to the incumbent reduction in
Housing Benefit and then remove the Income tax liability and a
client may only see £16-£18 per week of their £78
earnings for as much as 15 hours effort. For some with working
partners and other means of financial support the experience is
more important than the money, but for many working up to 15 hours
for little more than a pound an hour net simply is not incentive
enough. It should be borne in mind many do not earn £78 or
work less hours in this scenario and so their net gain is even
less. These scenarios are not "penny perfect" but are
typical of what SIBAs/DEAs are confronted with on a regular basis.
7. It could be argued that disabled customers
on IS are protected under the Permitted work scheme as IS is not
taxable, earnings up to £78 will not attract tax. Also, as
long as Income Support remains in payment even at £1 per
week Housing Benefit will remain in payment in full. All well
and good , but the earnings Disregards on IS mean that benefit
is reduced pound for pound after the first £5 for clients
in their first year of receipt unless they receive a Disability
Premium which normally takes a year when the disregard increases
to £20. Nonetheless £20 is the maximum this client will
make from a maximum of £78 earnings.
Is it possible to distinguish between those who
are able to return to work and those who cannot?
8. SIBAs/DEAs feel able to accurately distinguish
between those who are able to return to work and those who cannot.
It is also felt that it is the individual determination to work
again (the human spirit) that is a greater factor in the return
of disabled people to return to work and whilst disability issues
are important/relevant they are secondary to the will to return.
9. Having said that, the work of SIBAs/DEAs
in determining whether a disabled person can achieve a return
to work is actually compromised sometimes by the DWP itself!!
In the form of the Personal Capability Assessment (PCA). Having
worked with clients for months or even as long as a year or more
investing money in their futures, SIBAs/DEAs have found that clients
have been deemed fit for work via the PCA, sometimes merely because
they have mentioned they are working with a SIBA/DEA or have been
doing unpaid "work placements/tasters." A significant
proportion of clients have mental illnesses in GWS district and
many have been set back months by such decisions. It is felt a
national mechanism is required where clients can be waived the
PCA if they are working with a SIBA/DEA for a fixed period of
time at the discretion of the Benefit processing supervisor.
Will the reforms address the main areas of concern
with the current system?
10. It is felt that a Positive effect of
mandatory Work Focused Interviews (WFIs) is that a captive audience
is created who can be advertised to and sold the benefits of the
service. On a negative point, although the WFI is mandatory the
action plan is not and there is a danger that a lot of time will
be used up by clients who will attend as required but pay "lip
service" to the action plan.
Are people with different disabilities and health
conditions, in both pilot and non pilot areas given appropriate
support by Jobcentre Plus?
11. Whilst the department is target driven
it is felt that SIBA/DEAs cannot fully address the needs of those
furthest removed from the labour market. It is imperative that
provisions/tools are available for those removed as well as closer
to the labour market.
12. An example of this is Supported Permitted
Work (SPW). SPW was specifically designed to allow disabled people
to do some work that were unlikely or never going to be able to
work 16 hour per week or more and thus become economically independent.
It does however allow them to become socially inclusive by doing
some work. SPW rules state the required Support Worker must be
someone whose job it is to arrange work for sick and disabled
people. These people should belong to Public or Local authorities
or a voluntary organisation.
13. Ironically, Job Brokers specifically
employed by the Department to support disabled clients back in
to work (albeit, ideally 16 hours or more) are not allowed to
execute this function.
How will the reforms help those who are not able,
or not yet ready, to work?
14. The ideas and provisions behind the
pilot offices in theory sound excellent. The condition management
schemes sound superb identifying what clients can do with a managed
condition as opposed to what they cannot do without support. The
emphasis is on the positive.
15. It is however feared that once the reforms
roll out nationally there will not be "real money" behind
"real provision" and if this is not the case the reforms
certainly will not be able to help those who are not able to work
or are not yet ready.
Can the reformed systems support those with variable
and manageable medical conditions, or those who are able to work
part-time? Are those with mental health difficulties adequately
16. The flaws in the Current Permitted Work
scheme and the PCA have already been highlighted and seem to affect
those most sensitive to change and destabilisation. Predominantly,
but not exclusively so, these are clients with mental health conditions
and whilst a well funded Condition Management Programme will be
of great benefit, the barriers already in the system need removing.
17. Another such barrier is that of the
Permitted work limit of £78 being applied to "Test Trading".
Many clients with episodic illnesses who cannot work to structured
hours had found solace in the Self employment Programme where
under supervision they could Test Trade their business for up
to six months whilst receiving IB. Although they could not access
"profits" for living costs they could test potential
income from the business in a live environment. This unfortunately
was dismissed as not permissible. This meant clients had to swap
to Jobcentre Plus payments in order to test trade properly and
cannot guarantee a return to IB should the business not succeed
and thus risking going on to the lower rate JSA (if the Dr refuses
to issue a sick note) following any abortive test trade. This
had been particularly useful for clients with ME/Post Viral/chronic
fatigue syndromes. However, since the change the uptake from IB
clients has dropped considerably with the less attractive Jobcentre
Plus Allowance Route. It is recommended that parity to Test Trading
is brought to all clients on whatever Benefits so embryonic businesses
can be tested as fully as possible in their given markets.
Is Jobcentre Plus sufficiently resourced to deliver
Pathways pilots, both in terms of staffing and financing?
What has been the effect of the DWP efficiencies
18. Although not a Pathways pilot district
SIBAs/DEAs in GWS have found that programme budget restrictions
are proving a barrier to work in some cases. Rules are restricting
access to the right provisions for the right person. For example,
Training budgets are restricted so courses over 13 weeks cannot
19. Another more worrying example is that
counselling provision set up via MIND as a provider is no longer
available to IB Clients. This would be particularly beneficial
to clients with Mental Health conditions on IB/IS yet it IS available
to some JSA clients as JSA has fully mandatory status.
20. It is felt that often the service advertised
as available to disabled clients is not that what is available
on the ground. The marketing does not match the product. The fiscal
constraints upon the treasury are appreciated, but with Contracts
Managers working with diminishing Programme budgets the ability
of advisers to deliver on the ground for the disabled will be
more difficult as provisions reduce. Pathways to Work when rolled
out nationally must not mirror what is happening in Non Pilot
offices now, if it is truly going to make a difference to the
lives of disabled people.
How do personal advisers work in collaboration
with other Jobcentre Plus staff such as Disability Employment
Advisers and with Job Brokers?
21. SIBAs have an excellent working relationship
with DEAs in GWS and understand fully the "hand off"
areas of work and which adviser is best suited to which client.
22. SIBAs & DEAs have good working relationships
with Job Brokers in GWS, but as the role of the SIBAs has grown;
Job Brokers are becoming more and more obsolete. It is often found
that they refer back to Jobcentre provision which can only accessed
via SIBAs or DEAs anyway and the Job brokers have become little
more than "signposting" organisations. In some senses
we are paying somebody to sell our own stock elsewhere which we
sell in our own shop already.
23. Although the analogy may be poor, clearly
there is a need for Job Brokers to provide a diversified product,
a specialism that is unique to them. SIBAs have long argued that
Job Brokers should literally be a "Brokerage of Jobs"
as the name implies. In reality Disabled clients largely are matched
in to jobs by SIBAs or find jobs themselves. It is felt Job brokers
would be best engaged developing work placements/jobs with empathetic
employers for our mutual clients and carve their niche in this
Are local labour markets able to provide the jobs
What is the experience of local employers?
24. Locally in GWS district it has been
found that jobs can be provided. However, as numbers of clients
grow with first Jobcentre Plus rollout and ultimately when Pathways
to Work rolls out demand for suitable jobs for disabled clients
25. It is felt that some lessons could be
learnt from the work of DEAs and the success of their Workstep
provisions. For many years clients often with severe disabilities
have been placed with jobs via Workstep providers from the private
sector who source jobs from empathetic employers. Perhaps Workstep
should be expanded to encompass funding for more SIBA clients
or even expand the number of DEAs if the provision grows.
26. This could also be dovetailed with the
suggestion Job Brokers should broker jobs with empathetic employers.
Moreover though it is felt that this function should be carried
out by one large well funded organisation as there seems to be
too many fingers in the disability pie.
27. Finally, it has on many occasions been
argued that prevention is better than cure. Although SIBA/DEAs
cannot stop illness occurring, the DEAs are often able to guide
employers on how to re-deploy existing staff with regard to the
Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) who cannot execute their existing
roles. This surely saves money for Government, employers &
employees alike as a disabled staff member can sustain existing
employment. A greater advertising, awareness & recognition
of this DEA "Retention Case" work could prevent many
people ever coming on to IB in the first place.
27 September 2005