Select Committee on Work and Pensions Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by A4e

  A4e welcomes this opportunity to contribute to the evolving policy for Incapacity Benefit Reform. Over the last year we have provided training and employment services to 4,950 disabled clients and helped 1,840 clients back into work. A4e has built considerable expertise in delivering client-centred provision through our delivery of over 260 welfare to work related contracts on behalf DWP and Jobcentre Plus, across 90 delivery centres from Edinburgh to Exeter, Our philosophy is that work provides opportunities for personal and professional development, and that it is a partnership between individual, employer and Government.

  Our portfolio includes a number of programmes geared specifically to the IB claimant cohort, including previous delivery of the ONE PVS pilot in North Cheshire, a current national NDDP provision, and a specific induction course as part of the IB Reform Pilot in Greenock in Scotland, as well as pilots for PtW.

  Over the last three years we have been specifically researching and piloting approaches through our existing programmes to develop an effective delivery methodology for working with this particular client group. This has been a deliberate strategic approach, pre-empting the trend in unemployment decline and in anticipation of the emerging requirements of the economically inactive. This includes developing expert provision through our Jobcentre Plus LOT, BET and SIBS contracts to specifically target this client cohort. In addition we are also working closely with other Government Departments and local authorities to ensure that we link provision to associated reforms in the marketplace, Local Enterprise Grant Initiatives and Direct Payment for Social Care, that impact on our clients lives.

  Through this experience and strategic intent, A4e has evolved a bespoke series of principles to underpin employability programmes for IB claimants, namely:

    —    To customise programmes for the individual—essential for this client group.

    —    To provide a meaningful choice through a portfolio of options.

    —    To bring in employers at the earliest stage.

    —    To enable informed participation.

    —    To deliver hard targeted outputs (supplier) with light touch on the customer.

  On the basis of our experience and principles, A4e offers the enclosed observations on the PtW pilots. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to share more in depth views and dialogue on the IB reform agenda, and continue to actively contribute to this consultation agenda, building from our established experience in this arena. We strongly believe that the IB programme must not be viewed in isolation but must be part of a coherent programme that links welfare to work, enterprise creation and workforce development. As such, we pride ourselves in effectively working across all these areas.

  An overview of our achievements over the last year:

    —    worked with over 50,000 unemployed people across the United Kingdom who participated in our back to work programmes;

    —    helped 11,000 people secure work through A4e's Back to Work programmes;

    —    helped one of our clients into a job every 10 minutes;

    —    created 300 new jobs through its own growth and development;

    —    created 1,500 jobs through our Business Link services;

    —    provided on-line learning opportunities to over 15,000 learners across the United Kingdom;

    —    provided financial support to over 5,000 people through the A4e Discretionary Fund that funds the purchase of suits, spectacles, mopeds and other items that can help our clients back into employment;

    —    provided training and employment services to 4,950 disabled clients and helped 1,840 clients back into work;

    —    delivered services in 250 of the most disadvantaged wards in the country through its network of offices and outreach services;

    —    managed workforce development and business support contracts, working with 500 providers to deliver multimillion pound business on behalf of the public sector;

    —    provided business support training and capacity building to over 16,000 childcare providers nationally;

    —    managed over £200 million of public sector funding on behalf of a range of Government agencies;

    —    helped black and minority ethnic voluntary and community organisations secure over £1 million of lottery funding as well as providing capacity building services to over 1,000 voluntary/community sector and social enterprise groups;

    —    worked with over 10,000 voluntary and community organisations to provide support, work experience, employment and training to;

    —    worked with over 65,000 small and medium sized businesses people across the United Kingdom across the United Kingdom; and

    —    created or supported 15,000 businesses through our business support programmes.


Spacing of interventions

  In A4e's experience, the most successful interventions are those that provide structure to clients, building rapport with those delivering the intervention, and introducing them to a pattern of regularity that they should expect in work.

  Whilst a minimum contact frequency could be specified, any solution should provide flexibility to facilitate as much or as little support to help each individual client recognize their unique employability barriers, and implement practical steps to address these where this is possible.

  This keeping pace with the customer approach reflects our experience and research, emphasizing the need for flexibility according to each individuals needs. On non-JSA benefits, especially IB (and especially with stock) you deal with a wide variety of issues. As such there needs to be flexibility over the interventions, and minimum time frames are an essential "back stop".

  However, support needs to be delivered at the client's pace and then built up (if slow) or maximise it (if quick). This is essential as it enables the barriers that need to be overcome to be identified in a collaborative manner.

  In the main, a minimum frequency of monthly contact should be appropriate for most IB claimants. This would give JCP staff appropriate regularity to make in-roads into employability barriers, whilst at the same time facilitating an unthreatening regime for long-term claimants who might otherwise feel unduly intimidated by the pilot approach.

Mandatory action plans

  A4e endorses the policy of mandatory action plans as part of the WFI process, and supports DWP.s view that such documents will help focus discussion between PAs and customers. Whilst we absolutely endorse a work first approach, we know from four years of experience in delivering ONE that the key to engagement is not hitting the client hard on "process" and work first activity. Engagement with the voluntary and community sector to support and resolve client barriers is essential. Aggressive "mandatory action planning" with a "work focus" will alienate the stakeholders and scare a proportion of the clients.

  Any action planning approach must be clearly explained to, and be understood by, claimants to avoid potential fears and suspicions over such an approach. This could be best achieved by applying a differentiated action planning approach, geared to individual employability and welfare barriers.

  This may require perhaps less abrasive semantics, replacing the term action plan with life plan, support plan. or similar, to help achieve claimant buy in underlining that this is not a work at all costs approach. The approach must look at the available support structures, examine barriers, discuss options and tease out aspirations—making clients think about self-improvement, training, and barrier busting. A work-focused approach can then be built from this starting point—engaging more clients and creating ownership.

  Those with less severe, and ultimately addressable, barriers should expect a more intensive support planning approach to move them into work. Those with more severe incapacities, for who work may not realistically be an option, should face a less intensive approach, which may focus on ensuring they are receiving the full and correct entitlement for their condition and signposting them to support from the vol/com sector that may aid their long-term rehabilitation.

  Although mandatory participation is being applied in respect to certain elements of IB reform (eg application of sanctions in pilot areas) this should not be the automatic starting point for client engagement. The key issue is what is made mandatory and with whom. A mandatory discussion with an adviser about next steps in personal progression is all that is needed—the skill with the adviser (or delivery intermediary) is to convert this into meaningful outcomes. This is absolutely achievable, but only where a mixed economy of provision is available that creates a climate of work enthusiasm. Such an approach must not only engage those already enthused to get back into work, but also the mainstay of clients who must be engaged if IB reform is to be viewed as a true success.

  As a final point, DWP must ensure that any action planning/participation approach does not turn IB reform into a mere funding issue for IBPAs managing their caseloads. This will kill the initiative and prevent ultimate success.

Content of safeguards

  The parameters of content should be the same for both stock and flow clients. If an effective model is established, then it should have the potential for the same impact levels on any client group. This will, nevertheless, necessitate a means to drive continuous improvement and innovation in design moving forward, enabling it to continuously sharpen its teeth in terms of its suitability and effectiveness in this regard. As part of this, the process design should be geared to ensure IBPA push forward clients with genuine employment potential, rather than looking to ring-fence. their caseload at an optimum level (a teething problem that A4e has experienced on its own IB pilot, where IBPAs have been hesitant in making referrals).

  At the same time the content of the interview should also include appropriate safeguards for those for whom work is not a realistic option ensuring they are not being coerced into work preparation activity that is detrimental to their health or beyond their capabilities. There should be a subtle differentiation of approach between stock and flow, with an alternate engagement process for the former is required with a better process for exploring the client's background and understanding their circumstances.

   As part of this the current initial model needs to be considered. This effectively separates claimants into three categories; those clearly capable of work, those clearly not capable of work, and those for whom such a judgement cannot be made until future activity has taken place. This simplification may be stark, but serves to highlight how easy it can be to mis-classify a claimant at an early stage. As we cannot be certain from limited working with a client, it is important to emphasis the distance traveled or each individual.

  Building on this, A4e would advocate a pilot approach to externally contracting the WFI and IBPA role in combination. From experience, the culture and ethos of Jobcentre Plus at a grass roots level is sometimes not the most conducive structure for driving intervention regimes (as previously indicated), and to replicate the same approaches as taken with flow and mainstream JSA clients will simply not work. The output based New Deal PSL, ONE and Employment Zone models are arguably all more effective, with providers managing both the advisory caseload and providing the interventions. Such providers (in an IB context) must be able to demonstrate on an auditable basis that they can work in the process environment of JCO advisory interviews, with a track record of managing risky funding such as EZ, ONE and PSL. Building on this, A4e would wish to see the total process competitively tendered on a pilot basis and tested against an internal model. To effectively hit stock targets you will need a mixed economy with public, private and the vol/com sector blending their talent to impact on client group.

  We believe this is the most effective way to achieving significant gains in the short to mid term.

  The points above link back again to the issue of safeguards. This initiative needs to be developed with trusted partners. From our experience, the voluntary and community sector are key partners because so many services and networks that the client is dependent on are based here. It is the massive non-funded support structure that Government accepts and that IB policy is reliant upon. If this approach is mishandled, and the perception of the vol/com sector is that a work first/client exploitation model is being perused, then the policy may be less effective.

  A4e would be keen to share best practice from its own ONE PVS pilot in North Cheshire with regard to WFI models. Through this pilot A4e evolved its own WFI approach that engaged over 2,000 non-JSA clients on voluntary basis, engaging over 90% of the cohort and exceeding demanding jobs targets by 5% over the term of the contract.

Job preparation premium

  A4e views the suggestion of a maximum 26 week JPP, split into two 13 week, as sensible and in keeping with other Jobcentre Plus intervention models. A regime focused around work focused action plan support and achievement will further support this. The range of interventions suggested by Jobcentre Plus attracting JPP payments will provide a useful tool-box of support measures for IB clients. That said, A4e would question whether a predominantly mainstream package of interventions will truly challenge the diverse aspirations of the IB cohort. WBLA and Programme Centre provision can arguably be viewed in this context (eg is this really appropriate for an ex- management/professional IB claimant?). Similarly, NDDP, Work Preparation, Workstep and Condition Management programmes are already targeting IB clients, and are thus unlikely to deliver the performance step-change above the credible results that these programmes already contribute.

  A4e would prefer to see a more progressive role out of IB specific initiatives, such as the Working Neighbourhood Pilots being delivered by private EZ contractors, as well as the bespoke IB provision that has already been put in place in existing Pathway to Work areas. Programmes that are specifically geared to the needs of IB claimants themselves must surely stand a better chance of delivering greater outcomes.

  A further option to consider would be a relaxation of IB regulations that relate to self-employment, to offer this type of programme that may be appropriate for many IB claimants who are currently precluded from test-trading activity.

  Clearly, with any intervention route taken, a balance will ultimately need to be struck between the rigor and amenability of monitoring regimes. The use of established interventions is already governed by established monitoring arrangements, and there is no discernable reason why these shouldn't be as amenable to IB claimants as to other Jobcentre Plus client groups. A discernable degree of rigor is appropriate, and should be expected by all benefits claimants.

  The needs of IB clients must, however, be taken into account through any monitoring regime, but this does not mean that standards and rigor should be compromised. It should mean that monitoring standards are applied in such a way that best engage IB claimants in work-focused activity without disengaging them or tying them in needless bureaucracy. Again, this would suggest a broader deployment of IB specific interventions that can be tailored to client need, rather than potentially clumsy attempts at fitting clients to existing and potentially unsuitable models.

  Such an approach can best be facilitated, as already stated, by not linking funding to action plans and progressions. Funding should instead be on a per client basis, linked to agreed outcome volumes, leaving Jobcentre Plus and its suppliers to get on and deliver and evidence client progression. For example, a New Deal PSL or EZ output model coupled with a base line management fee would leave freedom for innovation and a light touch, whilst maintaining audit probity and monitoring integrity. This would remove the risks of a light- touch approach (which is absolutely necessary), which might otherwise dilute the work enthusiasm message, and create a double-standard perception to other Jobcentre Plus customers.

Employer partnership

  A4e works with many employers, both corporate and SMEs, who understand their role within the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) agenda. However there is still a reticence among much of the employer base to engage people in the IB category as they believe there is a higher cost in relation to support staff, infrastructure and accessibility, as well as potential loss of time and productivity. Not only do these views need challenging in a centralized way (public information and marketing) but there is a case for providing an incentive scheme that rewards those employers that can demonstrate their commitment to local and national employment issues.

Public sector as demonstrator of best practice

  The public sector, national, regional and local, has an important part to play as both regulator and employer. As such there is an excellent opportunity to develop innovative recruitment and retention programmes in relation to IB. The public sector could provide the lead for the private sector by demonstrating that there are effective ways on engagement that work by maximizing the talent within our community, and that by overlooking clients due to their incapacity means that they overlook the skills which other competitors will benefit from.

  Similarly there are key reforms taking place within the health sector, local government and central government such as LEGI, direct payment social care, decentralization of Government departments, OGC procurement criteria etc that provide an excellent opportunity for linked up approaches to sustainable solutions to IB issues.


  There are two issues that would support the IB reform programme.

  Firstly it would be the appropriate training of all staff to understand the issues related to IB, and the appropriate methods in dealing sensitively and appropriate identification of issues.

  Secondly we believe there is much scope for improving the certification of incapacity as such either through working with healthcare professionals in and alongside their facilities, or even by the introduction of a specialist certification programme by non-medical healthcare professionals. As such we would welcome involvement within any pilots as recommended this year in a DWP commissioned report entitled. The potential for certification of incapacity for work by non-medical healthcare professionals. (DWP225) by Karen Niven.

Detailed response

  What lessons can be learned from the PtW pilots in shaping the direction of the reform of IBs?

    —    Job outcomes for people on IB statistically, in pilot areas, claimants are twice as likely to gain employment. This is a testament to improved communication of available help to claimants, as well as the more obvious financial supplement of £40 per week for 52 weeks for people moving into jobs that pay less than £15,000 per annum a significant cushion for the transition period from benefits to salary.

    —    The pilots promoted an increased liaison between JCP and healthcare professionals. The vehicle was provided by the introduction of condition management programmes, but the primary gain has been an improved understanding of the therapeutic benefits of employment and an increased readiness for healthcare professionals to encourage claimants to consider employment options rather than taking the continued sick-note route.

    —    Probably the most important advancement to have come out of the PtW pilots is the affirmation that claimants need a truly individual supportive service rather than a generalised assumptive catch all. support programme.

    —    During the early months of the PtW pilots, most areas were slow to show a significant improvement in claimant activity and job outcomes. This was mainly due to a lack of investment in the early recruitment and training of IB Personal Advisors many not being in post until the actual go-live date. Some of the later pilots (eg Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster District, not scheduled to enter the pilot arena until April 2006) have secured additional, early impact funding to enable them to recruit and train IBPAs well in advance of the commencement of the pilot and have also allowed them to deliver a programme of awareness raising sessions for healthcare partners.

    —    High job retention rates within PtW pilot areas and, indeed, NDDP generally, are the result of carefully planned in-work support packages, agreed, whenever possible, before the claimant commences their employment. This must continue to be a key feature in future IB reforms in order to provide the claimant with a steadily decreasing ramp of planned support, rather than a sudden drop from intense support to no support.

  What are the Implications of DWP.s Proposals for the New Structure of IB. Do they Address the Complications Inherent in the Existing IB System? Is a Dual Benefit the Right Approach? Could it be Improved?

    —    Main benefit of reforms will be around raising the awareness of claimants that, in the majority of cases, IB is not for life. Many claimants, who do not have natural contact with JCP are unaware of what help to return to work is available to them the necessity to choose an option of inactivity or planned and financially supplemented activity will automatically provide this vital awareness through enforced contact with JCP or its agents.

    —    The introduction of a dual benefit system will provide a notable increase in job outcomes, not dissimilar to the increases seen through supplemented mainstream New Deal and WBLA programmes in recent years. However, in the case of IB, robust processes must be in place to ensure that people with severe levels of sickness and disability are not disadvantaged are caused unnecessary distress.

    —    Work activity programmes will need to be flexible and wide-ranging, and will need to be claimant-led and recognise that many people will have to address numerous personal barriers (disability-related, attitudinal, confidence-based, etc) before they are ready to move onto general Jobsearch-related activities.

    —    There will need to be an easily accessible transfer route between benefit categories for claimants who are no longer able to continue their planned employment activity due to a deterioration of their condition or, in fact, for people who wish to move from inactivity to planned activity.

  Will the Reforms Help to Improve Work Incentives for Sick and Disabled People?

    —    Certainly, providing that benefit limits for claimants choosing to agree to a programme of planned employment-related activity are set above current inactive rates and not at current rates, with those choosing to continue to be inactive being subjected to a reduced level of benefit.

    —    The two most common concerns demonstrated by IB claimants are, "How will working affect my benefits?" and "What will happen if the work fails?" These concerns must be effectively addressed for people to be sufficiently motivated to embrace employment opportunities. The first concern can be resolved by ensuring a clear process for claimants to gain easy access to accurate in-work benefit calculations. The second concern demands a review of the 52-week Linking Rule. Currently, the rule is little known to claimants and the process for taking advantage of the rule is confusing and onerous. Ideally, access to the rule would be automatic when starting in full-time employment has been confirmed.

  Is it Possible to Distinguish Between Those who are Able to Return to Work and Those who Cannot?

    —    Firstly, there must be clear guidelines for benefits advisors to be able to easily categorise those claimants for whom work is not an option due to the severity of their disability or illness. All efforts must be made to minimise distress caused by error or inflexible categorisation procedures and indicators.

    —    The more significant challenge will be to distinguish between those who are able and wish to return to work and those who are able but do not wish to return to work. This is where a clear policy decision will need to be made in so far as how much pressure will be put on people who are unreasonably (when measured against objective indicators) unwilling to participate in planned employment-type activity. Possibly, in the early years of the reforms, self-motivated activity levels will be sufficiently high so that undue pressure will not be necessary. However, as IB numbers decline and the harder to accept help cohort is more prominent, a more mandatory approach could be introduced with a greatly reduced risk of public outcry. This again would be analogous to the development of mainstream employment programmes . from .voluntary. (Employment Training, Employment Action, etc) to mandatory (New Deal ETF/VS, Gateway to Work, etc).

  What are the Implications of the Reforms on Levels of Fraud and Error?

    —    Some error is inevitable, but must be minimised through robust processes. Any errors resulting in significant claimant distress will receive high profile attention and may disrupt, if not damage, the reform strategy.

    —    With more people moving from benefits to work, fraud should be reduced. However, there will need to be a robust process for regular activity plan monitoring and review to ensure that people who receive the higher level of benefit do so legitimately. The New Deal/WBLA provider network has significant experience in personal plan monitoring, review and management and has the capacity to effectively respond to the high volume demand that will be generated.

  Will the Reforms Address the Main Areas of Concern with the Current System?

    —    One of the main concerns is around a lack of distinction between diverse levels of sickness/disability in relation to IB payment levels. Although this is partially addressed through Disability Living Allowance and Income Support, many people would like to see a tiered benefit system that recognises these diverse levels the reforms do not appear to address this concern.

The experience of sick and disabled

  Including: the experience of those who have taken part in different aspects of the PtW pilots; barriers in accessing support offered through PtW; awareness of the support available; and views on further reform.

    —    The major barrier to accessing support is a lack of effective communication. Despite intervention through work-focussed interviews, many claimants are still unaware of the scope of the help and support that is available to them. Reforming the aim of the target group to include stock as well as flow will partially address the barrier, but it is communication beyond the limited timescale of the work-focussed interview that is crucial. Although some PtW pilot areas have local contracts designed to inform and motivate claimants through short courses, these are under-utilised due to a lack of referrals from IBPAs. These essential interventions need to be embraced by JCP as an integral part of the back to work process.

    —    There are inconsistencies across pilot areas with regard to claimants accessing Advisor Discretionary Funds and Access to Work. This must be addressed across all PtW areas if claimant expectations are to be met.

  Are People with Different Disabilities and Health Conditions, in both Pilot and Non-Pilot Areas, Given Appropriate Support by JCP? Is there a Tendency to Help Those Perceived as Closer to the Labour Market?

    —    There does not seem to be a tendency to help those perceived as closer to the labour market. JCP has worked closely with the NDDP job broker network to ensure that all participants receive appropriate support. An unwritten code of practice has evolved in which, in most JCP districts, job brokers tend to work predominantly with participants who are closer, if not necessarily close, to the labour market, while JCP DEAs and IBPAs tend to work with participants who demonstrate longer-term barriers to employment.

  How will the Reforms Help Those who are not Able, or not yet Ready, to Work?

    —    Those claimants who are not able or ready to work will gain significant benefit from the Choices aspect of PtW. Access to condition management programmes (CRPs) will, in many cases, help claimants to review disability and sickness-related barriers and develop strategies to overcome the barriers. Conversely, in a minority of cases, it will provide confirmation that work-related activity is not a good option at that time.

    —    Providing the reforms promote a truly individual service, people at all levels of employment readiness will benefit from agreeing a realistic and carefully targeted activity plan the key is to emphasise individual need and to make no assumptions.

Support for sick and disabled people to move back into work

  Can the reformed systems support those with variable and manageable health conditions, or those who are able to work part-time? Are those with mental health difficulties adequately supported?

    —    In the majority of cases, IB claimants identified barriers to work relate less to the claimants current level of disability and more to barriers that have been created by the customers disability ie many customers have developed strategies to effectively handle their disability, but are still left with barriers such as age (a high percentage of NDDP customers are over 50 years of age), long-term employment inactivity, out-of-date skills, low self-esteem, a need to change job route, etc. A recent survey indicated that when asked about perceived barriers to employment, 40% of people in receipt of IB did not mention their disability as a barrier. Whilst disability and sickness-related barriers must be addressed, they should not dominate support provision.

  Does the Condition Management Programme (CMP) Provide the Right Level of Support?

    —    Yes, in most cases. However, the level of support in different areas needs to be more consistent effective support should not be the result of a geographical lottery.

Involvement of Healthcare Professionals

  Has PtW successfully worked with professionals, including GPs, particularly in rehabilitation initiatives such as the CMP? How can healthcare professionals be further engaged in the reform of the IB system?

    —    There is a lack of effective engagement of healthcare professionals outside of the CMP initiative. GPs in particular need to embrace the concept of employment is good for you. This again relates to communication. In preparation for their inclusion in the PtW pilot programme, JCP in the Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster district have been proactive in planning to deliver employment-related awareness training for GPs and other key healthcare professionals. As literally the front-line in the claimant experience, it is crucial to the success of IB reforms that they are fully embraced by healthcare professionals.

  We would very much welcome involvement in pilots as recommended by DWP report 225 .The potential for certification of incapacity for work by non medical healthcare professionals produced by Karen Niven. There are some excellent examples where the development of a bespoke programme, working with but outside the healthcare professional can bring about more effective resource allocations for both IB clients and mainstream health clients.

JCP resources

  Is JCP sufficiently resourced to deliver the PtW pilots, both in terms of staffing and finances? Are they equipped to deal with a reform programme for IB?

    —    JCP need to engage diverse partners if they are to successfully deal with the reform programme for IB. JCP does not have the staffing, finances, capacity and expert resource to deliver the programme without the collaboration of healthcare professionals, local authorities, PCTs, specialised support groups and independent providers.

Existing employment initiatives

  What has been the effect of the PtW pilots on existing programmes and support, such as the NDDP and WBLA?

    —    Five times as many people in PtW pilot areas are accessing NDDP. This was contributing factor to the significant overspend by many NDDP Job Brokers in the 2004-05 contract year. The increased number of pilot areas needs to be taken into account in the NDDP funding allocation for 2006-07.

    —    As NDDP customers can also simultaneously access WBLA, there has been a steady increase inprogramme starts. However, as WBLA funding has reduced, this vital facility has all but disappeared.

  Peripheral supportive programmes must be adequately funded for IB reforms to succeed. WBLA is an important part of the claimant offer.

  How do Personal Advisors Work in Collaboration with Other JCP Staff such as DEAs and with Job Brokers?

    —    IBPAs work closely with Job Brokers, NDDP being the prime offer to IB claimants.

The role of the private and voluntary sector

  Have the private and voluntary sectors been successfully involved in the PtW pilots? How can they be further involved in the reform of IBs?

    —    The private and voluntary sectors are not sufficiently involved in the PtW pilot areas. Opportunities to engage, inform, motivate and progress claimants are being missed.

    —    Funding needs to be made available to the private and voluntary sectors so that they can bring diverse expertise and innovative delivery methodologies into play to help to achieve the Governments IB reform aspirations.

    —    Partnerships with the private and voluntary sectors need to be diligently pursued. Diverse funding opportunities, European, local and national, could be explored by such partnerships and significant additionality could be introduced.

Local labour markets

  What type of jobs are PtW participants moving into? Are they receiving appropriate in-work support to enhance job retention?

    —    As participants are from diverse backgrounds, disability and sickness not discriminating between social and academic groups, jobs tend to be wide ranging, from management to operative levels.

    —    Many participants are effectively supported in the first six months of their employment, and this is borne out by the relatively high retention rates enjoyed by NDDP and the PtW pilot areas generally. However, in some cases, the support has been diluted to a form of tracking for retention-based outcome payments and/or credits. More emphasis needs to be placed on the provision of planned in-work support for up to 12 months, when required.

  Are Local Labour Markets Able to Provide the Jobs Needed?

    —    In most areas, jobs do not seem to be a problem it is participant engagement that is the issue.

  What is the Experience of Employers?

    —    The employer experience differs widely. Some have an excellent relationship with Job Brokers and JCP, and contribute fully to the progress of participants. Others, however, are totally unaware of the IB reform agenda and accompanying support mechanisms some, also demonstrating a serious lack of knowledge with regard to disabled people and the DDA.

    —    As an important part of the reform agenda, employers need to be enthusiastically targeted to dispel mal-informed beliefs and to raise their awareness of the significant potential of the IB cohort. Employer engagement must be a distinct part of future IB reform strategies.

Steve Mason

3 October 2005

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