Memorandum submitted by "The Team"
at Gloucester Jobcentre
The Team, which comprises Specialist Incapacity
Benefit Advisers (SIBAs) and Disability Employment Advisers (DEAs),
in general welcomes the reforms announced in the recent Green
Paper and recognises that they go a long way to addressing the
needs of this client group. In particular we welcome the revised
rules on test trading and the extension of the 52 week link to
We are not a Pathways To Work district but have
been working with the client group for over two years and feel
that we have gained a real insight into the issues affecting the
success of the proposed reforms.
There are still some areas of concern which
are frustrating our efforts to deliver the goal of reducing the
number of IB clients by moving them into work. These concerns
are not covered in the Green Paper and it is these issues which
we would like to draw to the attention of the committee.
The submission overleaf covers these areas.
Legislation and rules which adversely affect the
smooth transition of IB clients into work
1. Working Tax Credits is one of the most
effective tools to persuade people on IB to leave benefits and
move into employment. In order for this option to be attractive
to them, their claim needs to be processed with the minimum time
delay. With the E-Portal now not in use, it is imperative that
we fast track claims in another way. Recent rules imposed (from
16 January 2006) have instructed us that we cannot fast track
claims from clients on IB, but can only use the fast tracking
system for people on means tested benefits. IB clients are therefore
being penalised by this new rule. The over complexity of WTC is
also an issue, as is the recent adverse publicity which has unfortunately
made clients wary about risking claiming.
2. We are continuously being encouraged
to use non Jobcentre Plus contracted provision to help our clients.
One of these is Learn Direct who we use extensively to provide
training for our clients. We have recently discovered that rules
state that for a person to receive free training they have to
be in receipt of a means tested benefit and this means that those
IB clients who are in receipt of no other benefit, are again being
penalised and are being asked to pay for their training.
3. Permitted Work is another much used tool
to encourage clients to consider work. Again we find that different
benefit rules make this an option for some, but not for all. At
present those on Income Support (IS) can only ever be £20.00
per week better off as a best-case scenario. Housing Benefit (HB)
rules also dictate that income from Permitted Work is taken into
account making this option non-viable. Experience has shown that
the majority of clients who undertake Permitted Work do move into
full time work and off benefits. We submit therefore that to make
this a real option for all, earnings under this legislation should
carry a 100% disregard on both IS and HB.
Job Brokers and others involved with this client
There is continuing confusion over the different
job roles and responsibilities of those organisations involved
with IB clients. This has the detrimental effect of a great deal
of double handling which is confusing for the clients and not
cost effective to our organisation. We would like to see more
definition of the various roles so that we can complement each
other and utilise our individual skills.
We submit that the SIBA role should be to undertake
WFIs and to caseload those who wish to move into work together
with those stock clients who volunteer for our services. This
should entail signposting these clients to complementary provision,
networking with health professionals and actively helping them
into work including advice on in work benefits.
Job Brokers (as the name implies) should be
actively involved in the marketing of employers to educate them
into understanding the benefits of employing this client group.
We know there is a concern that there may not be enough jobs for
all IB clients who want to work. This would therefore be an opportunity
to encourage employers to consider this client group rather than
others (ie those already employed).
Another role that should be undertaken by Job
Brokers is to support those clients who need to move onto Supported
Permitted Work. It is realised that these more severely disabled
people will not come off benefits. However for many, continuing
to be able to do a small amount of work is essential for their
quality of life and we feel they should be encouraged to continue
to do this. Legislation states that the support "must be
from a voluntary or public body whose job it is to help disabled
people into work". Job Brokers match this definition and
yet are contractually prevented from acting in this role. This
results in a disproportionate amount of SIBA time spent in trying
to find an appropriate support.
Personal Capability Assessment
We welcome the changes announced about the PCA.
We have long felt that the PCA has hindered progress we are making
with a client. Our role is to gradually progress a client towards
being ready to work. This sometimes takes many months and much
costly provision. We have found that in many cases a client will
feel better in themselves, and as a result be found fit for work
by a PCA. Although perhaps better than they were, in the majority
of cases they are still not job ready, and the bombshell of having
their benefits stopped immediately (often before they have been
informed of this), has a severe effect on their health (particularly
those with mental health issues). This means that they regress
to a point where all the progress made is negated, with the obvious
implications on budgets, the cost of the provisions they attended
being completely wasted.
In reality these clients move off IB but only
to claim another benefit (Job Seekers Allowance). Thus they are
not being moved off welfare. Indeed the resultant deterioration
in their health as a direct result of the PCA means that they
actually spend longer on benefits than they would have, had they
been left to progress at their own pace with the continuing support
of a SIBA.
We therefore submit that we would like to have
more of an input or involvement in the PCA process. SIBAs in many
cases have been working with these clients for many months and
know them and their problems well. We feel that our opinion should
be taken into consideration when deciding the outcome of a PCA
so that the above scenario is kept to a minimum.
1. In the Green Paper, an example action
plan was illustrated. One of the recommended referral sources
was Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. In this district we used to have
the facility to refer to MIND who provided this service, and many
clients previously referred have since moved into employment.
In this district, this provision was made unavailable to IB clients.
This was on the basis that we didn't have enough funds to afford
it and therefore it could only be used for mandatory clients (ie
New Deal). We realise this is a local issue but is being included
because it does illustrate that if we are to be successful in
helping this client group we will need the funding to enable us
to do this.
2. Funding issues also surround the question
of training, which is limited. One of the main problems with IB
clients is that many are having to consider alternative occupational
areas and will therefore need retraining. We would like to see
a more flexible approach, allowing us to access appropriate free
training provided an adequate business case is drawn up by the
Contracting out to the private sector
There is a concern that some of the work of
the SIBA if contracted out to other organisations may not be as
effective than if it was kept "in house". SIBAs have
undergone a great deal of intensive and expensive training in
advanced advisory skills and most of us come from a background
of many years of working as an adviser in some form.
This worry is less about trying to protect our
own jobs, but rather because as a team we genuinely care about
our clients and want to feel that we will continue to be given
the opportunity to give a first class service and ultimately help
make a real difference to their lives.