Memorandum submitted by Leicester City
1. The proposals risk missing the opportunity
to tackle the main issues in the ICB system. The system is complicated
and in need of adjustment. We recommend that the work-incentive
system within ICB be simplified so that claimants can see more
easily the financial benefits of taking up employment.
2. Our experience highlights the need for
client centred and flexible services that deliver a range of different
types of support and over varying time scales required.
3. There is a serious gulf between ICB claimants
and employers in terms of perceptions of employability and we,
therefore, recommend more focus being placed on employers in order
to bridge this gap.
4. We recommend obtaining the active involvement
of employers. This could include running high profile employer
led campaigns to promote the business case for diversity for employers
and raising awareness of grants and support that are available
to employers. Local Authorities could play important roles in
any such campaignas major employers, as users and suppliers
of services and co-ordinating local employer forums.
1.1 This is a response to the Work and Pensions
consultation exercise from Advice Services and Economic Development,
Leicester City Council. The response is made based on the experiences
of three of the main service areas in Advice services
Welfare Benefits Advice Service;
the Job Service Partnership (JSP);
the Employment Support Unit (ESU).
2.1 The JSP supplements mainstream delivery
of Jobcentre Plus, by focussing on increasing the employment rates
of groups that are vulnerable in the labour market. This includes,
as a result, a focus on people with a disability or work limiting
2.2 The JSP operates a gateway system offering
intensive one to one support to enable clients to address barriers
they have to entering employment. The project also engages employers
through a Job Interview Guarantee Scheme that runs in tandem with
the gateway system and aims to give job ready JSP clients priority
interviews as and when appropriate vacancies arse. The JSP is
relatively new with it operating from April 2005. However, already
some patterns are starting to emerge that indicate some of the
issues that have to be addressed in helping people with a disability
or work limiting illness into work.
2.3 Once in employment, clients are given
support through an employment after-care service that provides
a support, mediation and conciliation service to both JSP job
starters and line managers. This part is managed from the Employment
Support Unit which also provides an employment rights enquiry
and casework advice service.
3. REFORMS TO
What lessons can be learned from Pathways to Work
in shaping the direction of the reform of incapacity Benefits?
3.1 The Pathways to Work approach clearly
shows an increase in the number of people returning to work from
incapacity or work limiting illness. Leicester is not an area
in which the Pathways to Work has been piloted and there has been
no significant change in the numbers claiming ICB as the following
3.2 ICB and SDA claimants in Leicester
|Claim rate in Leicester is 8.74% of working age population.
|Claim rate nationally is 7.29% of working age population.
|Number of claimants nationally is 2.7 million.
|Number of people moving from Incapacity benefits into employment is 300,000 (11%).
3.3 The trends in the number of people claiming incapacity
benefits has been practically level in Leicester:
|Year||Number of claimants
4. What are the implications of DWP's proposals for the
new structure of incapacity benefits?
4.1 This proposed structure will create a two-tier system
echoing the age old concepts of the deserving and undeserving
poor. Those with the most severe conditions will obtain additional
benefits on the basis of sickness and all others will need to
work despite their condition and only receive extra income if
they do this. This distinction can only be valid if barriers to
employment are removed for people with health problems (eg addressing
employer attitudes and matching people to the type of employment
locally available). The system does not provide discretion where
local labour markets fail to provide job opportunities that are
appropriate to individual needs.
4.2 Any division that is inflexible or ignores variability
of illnesses especially in the area of mental health requiring
increasing compunction will only create increased worry and stress
for people who do not feel they are able to work. For example
of this is the people with mental health conditions being told
to attend interviews or lose entitlement to benefits when they
are currently not in a position to do any form of work and no
employer would take them on.
4.3 The DWP's own research and press release states that
nine out of 10 people on ICB want to work. Why then the increased
threat that they risk reduction of their benefits? There has to
be a risk, possibly significant, that the proposed policy could
be seen to be penalising vulnerable people who want to work but,
through no fault of their own, cannot gain entry into the labour
market. If seen in this light the policy would be tantamount to
4.4 What is welcome in the proposals, though, is a recognition
that the reforms include more active support from employers. However,
the indications from projects being delivered by Advice Services,
Leicester City Council would indicate that there are considerable
problems with the perceptions or expectations that claimants have
4.5 This is particularly apparent when examining the
after-care Employment Support Service (ESS) offered to new job
starters. Out of a total of 19 clients passed through to the ESS,
17 have actually started work. Of these 17, eight (47%), have
a disability or health problem. The startling realisation is that
out of the eight people in employment that have a health problem
only one has revealed this to their employer. This may indicate
where the major barrier lies.
4.6 We would like to see, therefore, more focused work
undertaken with employers to alleviate the anxieties and negative
expectations that ICB claimants can have of employers.
5. Will the reforms help to improve work incentives for
sick and disabled people?
5.1 The proposals do not address the complicated linking
rules for benefits and the interaction between them. These complications
are compounded by the tax credit system that is yearly based as
opposed to weekly like most benefits for people moving into work.
There is a plethora of work incentives such as "in work credits"
to help increase incentive to work that although admirable are
difficult keep up with by advisers let alone clients. Therefore
without this information explained and comprehensive better off
calculations it is difficult to understand the financial implications
of moving into work. As changes in circumstances invariably cause
problems within the benefits system it is a "safer option"
for clients to remain on existing benefits. Additionally, if a
person moves off IB and into employment, but then subsequently
returns to benefits paid at a lower level than previously, this
can produce a negative connotation about work in general.
5.2 We agree, therefore, that the system needs to over
hauled. However, it is imperative that any adjustment simplifies
the system and shows quite clearly to clients their financial
incentive to take up employment.
5.3 The problem seems to be structural and not determined
by behavioural problems amongst claimants. We see no indication
that claimants with health problems are workshyindeed the
opposite seems to be the case. The JSP is an entirely voluntary
project and offers no work incentives, such as the Return to Work
Credit offered by the Pathways to Work pilots, other than the
prospect of getting a half decent job. Despite only operating
for a few months the four Personal Advisors are operating at full
capacity and have a caseload that well exceeds that in the original
project specification. This, of course, support the aforementioned
DWP research citing nine out of 10 ICB claimants want to work.
5.4 The evidence from the JSP and ESS, so far, suggests
that focusing on improving the quality of employment and employment
prospects would seem to offer greater potential for any improvement
on work incentive rather than benefit reforms. There must, however,
be a recognition on the part of Government that moving IB claimants
towards/into employment is a lengthy and time-consuming process
that incurs additional costs. We know from first hand experience
with JSP that concentrated one-to-one support over as long a period
as the client needs it is necessary if clients are to be assisted
into sustainable employment.
5.5 In order to encapsulate the concept of fairness,
therefore, we would recommend that any overhaul and simplification
of the system should not, and need not, involve more draconian
measures being taken against ICB claimants. We fear that the current
proposals fail on both fronts. They don't simplify the system
and they tighten restrictions on ICB claimants. Moreover, if the
proposals are to be taken seriously as assisting people into employment
then the system has to be more client centred and flexible in
recognition of the different types and levels of support that
6. Is it possible to distinguish between those who are
able to return to work and those who are not?
6.1 It is particularly difficult to decide who can and
cannot do some work. The current system requires an assessment
by an "independent" doctor in addition to a sick note
from the General Practitioner and this is substantially flawed,
partly due to lack of quality in the decision making process borne
out by the success of appeals. Leicester City Council Welfare
Rights Advice Service were successful in 39 of 52 appeals (75%)
against Personal Capability Assessment decisions that clients
were not "incapable of work" between April 2003 and
6.2 It is clear that the current decision making process
is flawed. This is due to a number of factors including the variability
of medical conditions and the inability of people to communicate
their disability adequately. The poor quality of decision making
was echoed by Judge Harris in the 2005 annual report of the Appeals
6.3 It is recognised that a large number of people on
Incapacity Benefit want to work but this is not the same as being
able to work and being able to find a suitable job. A large number
will require long-term ongoing support, more flexible employment
practices and understanding from employers to make this a reality
and these areas need more focus and funding. However, from the
above evidence, from the Employment Support service, it would
appear that claimants fear that employers will make a distinction
if they reveal their health condition.
7. Will the reforms address the main areas of concern with
the current system?
7.1 From our experience in delivering services in this
area and the evidence that we have gathered, no. There should
be more emphasis on seeking the active involvement of employers
rather than making people dishonest and fearful to disclose. It
should also be pointed out that, of the eight people with a health
condition who started in employment, all bar one is managing to
sustain their employment. Quite clearly, this indicates discrimination,
or fear of discrimination by employers at the recruitment stage.
7.2 Of course, there is legislation in place to counter
discrimination from employers. Although recognising the importance
of legislation as important, and welcoming the forthcoming strengthening
of the DDA, the evidence from the ESU's Employment Rights Service
is that very few people raise concerns through, or access, the
Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). Over the last four years,
out of a total of 1,513 enquiries to the Employment Rights Advice
line, only 21 (1.3%) have involved the DDA and, moreover, only
one has progressed to being dealt with as a case.
7.3 DWP Research Report No 277 (Disability in the Workplace)
confirms that many small employers have no or limited experience
of employing people with disabilities. Concern about the potential
cost of workplace adaptations is cited as one of the main reasons
for not employing people with disabilities. It is therefore important
that the Government promotes a high profile campaign of information
to all employers about the grants and other forms of support that
may be available to them through Jobcentre Plus schemes such as
Access to Work and Workstep. It is also necessary to seek to change
employers' recruitment practices, opening up vacancies to all
(thereby actually enlarging employers' recruitment pools) rather
than sticking to "word-of-mouth" recruitment which has
the effect of excluding many potential employees.
7.4 We do support, therefore, the active involvement
of employers and would recommend that the proposal give this more
emphasis. We would support a high profile campaign led by the
Government and Public Sector bodies and involving leading employers
and employer organisations in a similar vein to what has been
recommended by the National Employment Panel (NEP) in their report
on tackling the ethic minority employment gap.
Leicester City Council will be co-ordinating an employer forum
to carry forward the recommendations made by the NEP and we could
envisage doping something similar in the field of ICB reform.
7.5 Such an approach would lend itself to linking with
other employment and incapacity initiatives. An example could
be raising awareness in the local business community and complementing
the recent Workplace Health Direct initiative that aims to help
people return to work more quickly, reduce the burden on the NHS
and lowering the chance of people ending up on ICB.
8. FUTURE ROLLOUT
How successful have the Pathways to Work pilots been?
8.1 Leicester has not been a Pathways to Work area. However,
based on the national statistics, on a proportionate basis Leicester
could expect to have a total of 4,650 starts in a Pathways to
Work programme with 440 gaining employment.
When set against an unflinching level of ICB claimants over the
last number of years in Leicester this could represent a significant
8.2 The JSP adopts a similar approach to the Pathways
to Work pilots, particularly with regard to the intensive and
client centred service provided by Personal Advisers. The indications
from the JSP are that a Pathways to Work pilot could be expected
to, at least, replicate the levels of success of Pathways to Work
in other areas.
9. THE EXPERIENCE
Are people with different disabilities and health conditions
given adequate support by Jobcentre Plus?
9.1 The Disability Advisers and other Jobcentre Plus
staff offer an invaluable service that all three service areas
in Advice Services access on behalf of our clients. Nevertheless,
the reason why the JSP and, in some part, the ESU have been established
is to supplement and complement the mainstream delivery from Jobcentre
10. LOCAL LABOUR
What types of jobs are participants moving into?
10.1 All the jobs that the JSP clients have moved into
are at entry level including those with health problems. The samples
are small but, at this stage it would seem that there is a tendency
for JSP clients with health problems to work in health and warehouse
jobs and not in retail. The table below gives a breakdown of the
types of jobs that JSP clients have moved into.
|Type of job||All JSP clients
||JSP clients with health problems
11. Are local labour markets able to provide the jobs needed?
11.1 The indications are that the local labour market
is still buoyant and that employment levels are expected to continue
to increase. Manufacturing continues to shed jobs but these are
more than offset by gains in construction, distribution, hotels,
restaurants, public administration and education and health. There
is also considerable retail development planned in Leicester which
may mean Leicester escaping the expected downturn, nationally,
in the retail sector. It has been the experience of the JSP that
most clients gain employment with larger employers and it is larger
employers that tend to report recruitment difficulties.
12. What is the experience of employers?
12.1 As reported elsewhere, none of the employers are
aware that they have recruited employees with health problems,
this being deliberately kept from them by clients for fear of
being refused employment. The employer who was made aware, NHS,
has responded positively by making adjustments to the employees'
working conditions. So far, all the employees who have health
problems are settling into their employment apart from one person
who resigned because of problems due to his health condition.
3 October 2005
Nomis, Time Series. Back
"Enterprising People, Enterprising Places Measures to
Increase Ethnic Minority Employment and Business Growth",
(see pages 46, 79), National Employment Panel, May 2005. Back
Based on NOMIS. Back