Welfare Reform and Work Bill

Written evidence submitted by Leonard Cheshire Disability (WRW 11)

1. At Leonard Cheshire Disability we work for a society in which everyone is equally valued. We believe that disabled people should have the freedom to live their lives the way they choose – with the opportunity and support to live independently, to contribute economically and to participate fully in society.

2. As providers of welfare to work support for disabled people we have an in-depth understanding of the welfare to work sector and what works best for disabled people wanting to get back into work. This includes but is not limited to:

· The supported employment model;

· Employer engagement;

· Employability skills; and

· Supporting disabled people to become more employable.

3. We are one of the UK's largest voluntary sector providers of services for disabled people with over 250 services across the UK, including care homes, care homes with nursing and homecare services. We aim to maximise personal choice and independence for people with disabilities and all of our services are designed to meet the needs and priorities of the people who use them.

Halving the Disability Employment Gap

4. We welcome elements of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, particularly those that aim to increase the number of disabled people in work.

5. The Government’s commitment to halve the disability employment gap, as set out in the Conservative’s 2015 manifesto, is one of the most ambitious and exciting commitments for disabled people in recent decades. This pledge will transform lives, grow the UK economy by between £13bn [1] and £68bn, [2] and simultaneously raise taxes and cut welfare spending.

6. To achieve this goal, over a million disabled people will have to be supported into work over the next five years. [3] This will not be an easy challenge – the Government will need to be bold and introduce radical change to the current employment support on offer in order to meet these targets. It is vital that good intentions are matched with evidence based support that delivers. Further, this is not the right time to cut financial support for disabled people – doing so may even make it harder to find work.

7. In this evidence submission we outline what needs changing to ensure disabled people, particularly young disabled people, can find sustained gainful employment.

The scale of the problem

8. Disabled people are a third (33%) less likely to be in employment than non-disabled people, this ‘employment gap’ represents 2.2 million disabled people. [1]

9. Disabled people are also more than twice as likely as non-disabled people to be lacking but wanting work, at all qualification levels. [2] The disparity increases with those who have Level 3 (A-level equivalent) or above qualifications with 14% of disabled people compared to 6% of non-disabled people lacking but wanting work. [3]

10. There is a particular challenge to be overcome around young disabled people who face significant disadvantage in the education system and the labour market. Supporting disabled people when they are young gets them on the career ladder and prevents thousands from facing the disadvantages long-term employment can bring (including making welfare-to-work support more expensive and adding additional costs to the benefits system).

11. Although disabled young people have similar aspirations to their non-disabled peers, there is clear evidence that they find it harder to make the transition from education to work, [4] with disabled people nearly four times more likely to be unemployed at age 26 than their non-disabled peers.

12. Overall, disabled young people are twice as likely to be NEET (not in education, employment or training); and gaps in opportunity have remained consistently wide for the past decade. [5]      

What needs to change

13. To meet their target of halving the disability employment gap by 2020, the Government must:

· Radically reconfigure the way that welfare to work support is delivered for disabled people to ensure provision is specialised and tailored to help overcome specific disability-related barriers to work.

· Ensure health and social care is delivered in a way that complements rather than hinders an individual’s journey back to work.

· Increase disabled people’s participation in apprenticeships.

· Increase the number of disabled people who can benefit from Access to Work.

· Use its role as an employer and commissioner of services to employ more disabled people.

· Protect essential financial support for those not fit enough for work in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

Reporting on progress

14. The Bill helpfully introduces reporting requirements on the Government’s progress towards achieving full employment, and delivering three million additional apprenticeships. These reports will ensure that MPs and the wider public remain informed on the Government’s progress.

15. That is why it is important for the Government to also report their progress towards halving the disability employment gap. Doing so will ensure the Government’s bold pledge enjoys the same attention and commitment as those on apprenticeships and full employment.

Tailored support into work

16. We know from our experience of supporting disabled people into work that essential elements of effective welfare to work support for disabled people include intensive, specialised provision that is designed to help overcome an individual’s specific, disability-related barriers, and direct employer engagement and support.

17. Effective back to work provision for disabled people should include engagement with employers. Many employers are apprehensive about employing disabled people because of fears about the costs of making reasonable adjustments.

18. We have found that offering Work Trials is the one of the most effective ways of ensuring the people we support find gainful employment. Work trials give employers a risk-free opportunity to explore what it means to employ someone who is disabled. Employers are often surprised to find that it is much simpler than they thought to employ disabled people and that there is support available to them if they do, for example through Access to Work.

19. Equally, the individual can see whether the workplace is right for them, and whether they can manage their condition within their job responsibilities. In the majority of cases, we have found that the people we support have gone on to get a paid position.

Case study: Change100

Leonard Cheshire’s Disability’s Change 100 programme provides disabled students with paid work experience placements with some of the UK’s top employers. As well as aiming to break down perceptions about disabled people and broaden public understanding of disability, the programme aims to demonstrate to employers that disabled students are ambitious, talented and capable. To date, the programme has been successful in breaking down barriers for disabled people finding work. All disabled students taking part that have been looking for work have been offered graduate jobs by business such as Barclays and SAB Miller. All employers that participated stated that they would recommend the programme. The programme is now being expanded for 2015 as a result of its success and will focus on private and public sector. [6]

20. The Work Choice employment support programme has been proven to be more effective than the Work Programme at helping disabled people into work. Work Choice routinely sees more than 40% of participants finding work [6] compared to the Work Programme which has only supported 15% of its disabled participants back into work [7] , this number is even lower for those disabled people in receipt of ESA.

21. However, those who need this provision are not consistently directed to it. For example, many people who are put into the Work Related Activity Group are referred to the Work Programme. Just 21,000 disabled people per year [8] are getting support through Work Choice for example, compared to ten times as many people with health conditions and disabilities joining the Work Programme. [9]

22. There needs to be a more targeted way of ensuring disabled people are signposted to the provision which works best for them so those with the highest need receive intensive provision like that offered by Work Choice. This could be addressed by building an assessment of an individual’s barriers to work into the Work Capability Assessment, which will provide the roadmap for the type of support an individual needs to get them ready to go back to work.

Coordinating provision with health and social care support

23. Health and social care support must be delivered in a way which enables disabled people to take up work and welfare to work support. Disabled people must be able to arrange their medical treatment flexibly so they fit around their working hours and/or back to work support. For example, those providing medical services must ensure that those with long term conditions who need regular treatment should have priority over which appointment times they can have, so they are best able fit them around their work.

24. Similarly, social care must be delivered in a way which reflects people’s working patterns, and that integrates properly with employment services. Too many disabled people are prevented from working because they cannot get the social care and health care they need to fit around work. For example, if an individual requires support, but that is not provided until after the start of the working day, or does not include support with accessing transport, then that person can be prevented from working.

25. Although the Care Act includes employment as part of the well-being principle that local authorities must consider when delivering social care, it does not go far enough. We believe there must be increased pressure on local authorities to have a clearer focus on promoting employment among recipients of social care. Eligibility criteria for receiving social care should recognise that social care can help to support people to work.

26. Regulations should set out that adults with social care needs should be entitled to qualify for local authority social care designed to support them into work, where without that care they would be unable to work. Building employment into eligibility for care and support would be an important way of targeting care at individual outcomes and should save money in the longer term, both in terms of additional tax revenue and decreased benefit costs.      

27. We are pleased that the Government has created a Joint Unit for Health and Work, comprising of the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health, to begin to integrate healthcare services with back to work support for disabled people. This is an essential first step for bringing together these two departments to ensure services are joined up and focused on getting people back to work. We are looking forward to seeing concrete outcomes being produced as a result.

Apprenticeships

28. Apprenticeships provide an excellent route into work for young people, and allow them to develop the skills they need to succeed in the job market. As such, we welcome the Government’s pledge to "fund 3 million new, high quality apprenticeships this Parliament." [11]

29. However, too often apprenticeships remain inaccessible to disabled people. While the number of disabled people doing apprenticeships has risen slightly over the past few years, the percentage of disabled apprentices actually declined from 10% in 2008/09 to 9% in 2012/13. [12] This compares poorly to the 15% of working age people who are disabled. [13]

30. Engagement with employers is essential to ensure they know how to support disabled people and they can get support with reasonable adjustments through Access to Work.

31. The entry requirements of apprenticeships can be a barrier for many disabled people. For example, to apply for an intermediate apprenticeship an individual needs to have gained the equivalent of 5 GCSE passes. Our research finds the level of highest qualification held by disabled young people is generally lower than that of young people without a disability.  [14] Disabled young people are nearly twice as likely as their non-disabled peers to have a highest qualification below NQF Level 2 (the equivalent of five good GCSEs) and more than twice as likely to have no qualifications when compared to their peers, with 17% of disabled young people have no qualifications compared to only 7% of non-disabled young people.      

32. A report commissioned by the cross departmental Apprenticeships Unit supports these conclusions, finding that those with learning difficulties are more likely to not be able to attain Level 2 or 3 qualifications are excluded from participating in most apprenticeships or short-term work trial schemes, a gap which in provision which particularly affects, and those in need of more pre-employment support.      [15]

33. For these reasons we propose that some apprenticeships be made accessible for young disabled people who lack formal education, providing another route into apprenticeships for this group.

34. The Government must act to increase disabled people’s participation in apprenticeships over the next five years so that at 15% or more of new apprenticeships go to disabled people by 2020.

35. This can be achieved by:

· Supporting employers who offer apprenticeships via the Disability Confident scheme;

· Recognising the contribution of employers who offer apprenticeships to disabled people via the large employer levy and associated training funding; or

· Setting a challenging disabled participation target for public sector organisations which offer apprenticeships.

Access to Work

36. Access to Work offers disabled people and employers the vital support that they need to provide ‘reasonable adjustments’, like installing a ramp or providing screen reader technology in the workplace. This support helps reduce the disadvantages disabled people face when looking for work, and helps small employers cover the extra costs of disability in the workplace. This programme should be expanded and the application process simplified so that all the disabled people that need support are able to access it.

37. In our experience many people find the application process for Access to Work complicated and they struggle to get the right support they need. It is very difficult for someone who is new to the scheme and new to a job to understand exactly how much support they will need and how to evidence this on the form. Similarly, employers, who are asked to sign off application forms, often lack the understanding necessary to ensure someone gets the support they need.

38. To provide disabled people and their employers with the support they need, advisors must be trained so they have increased understanding of the varying needs people with different impairments might have. This will ensure advisers are able to guide applicants through the process and get the right support to overcome their specific disability related barriers in the workplace.

39. It is essential that disabled people and potential employers can be confident that essential support will be in place from the day they begin a new job. There are often delays in getting Access to Work in place when disabled people start work, which can make the transition to employment difficult or impossible. The Sayce Review for Government similarly recommended strengthening the indicative pre-employment Access to Work eligibility, based on work likely to be undertaken, to be finalised once the exact role is known. [16]

Case study

Natasha, 21, has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a genetic disease which affects her joints, heart and stomach. When she started her job, she applied to Access to Work to see if she could help with travel to work.

After starting the application process and taking the time to get a letter from her doctor to support her claim that she needed help with transport when she had a flare up, her advisor went on leave and she had to start the process over again. She was then told she had to provide three quotes from taxi companies before Access to Work would fund her transport to work. Natasha found this part of the process incredibly confusing and frustrating.

Her advisor told her she must get a quote inclusive of administration and account fees but most of the companies she contacted used a meter system and they couldn’t provide a quote, only an estimate. When she rang her advisor to explain they said they could not help. This process ended up taking several weeks and at this point Natasha had started her job.

‘Without the taxis I needed, I had to struggle with two buses, walking and changing and crossing at a very busy roundabout. I was rarely able to get a seat, so was knocked about as I tried to stand. Several times this triggered particularly bad flare-ups of my condition, with my joints dislocating repeatedly, my heart rate and blood pressure becoming unstable and recurrent vomiting. All of this made it extremely difficult to do the work I desperately wanted to do.’

When Natasha finally received a response from the DWP, she discovered she had to pay for the taxis upfront and could only claim the money back at the end of the month, which Natasha could not afford. Several weeks later, Natasha still hasn’t got the transport to work she needs to help her get into work without worsening her condition.

40. In the year to December 2014, Access to Work supported 32,000 people [17] and had a budget of £108m. [18] It is vital that the Access to Work budget keeps pace with demand as we all work towards closing the disability employment gap. To ensure those disabled people have the support they need to work, the Access to Work budget will likely need to increase by between £37m and £135m. [19] While this is a small contribution in comparison to the potential growth to the economy of £68bn, it is a cost that the Government must ensure is met.

41. In addition to increased funding, there are opportunities for creating a more efficient system which ensures more disabled people get the support they need, for little extra cost. For example, the Sayce Review of support for disabled people found that some large companies had managed to improve accessibility by making adjustments to their IT which meant individuals did not need to apply for individualised support through Access to Work. [20]

42. Disabled people have also reported that sometimes expensive adjustments can be avoided when the employer is able to be flexible about working hours. [21] For example, individuals who would struggle to get public transport during busy times and therefore need funding for taxis, could use public transport at less busy times – if their employer allowed them to work flexible hours. There is a role for welfare to work support providers and Jobcentre Plus to work closely with employers to support them to make such adjustments which will avoid individuals having to apply for Access to Work.

The Government as employer

43. The Government also has a key role to play as an employer and a commissioner of services. Almost 6 million [22] people work in the public sector across the UK, accounting for 1 in 5 jobs (the number is far higher when the amount of people who are employed in jobs which have been commissioned by local and national government are included). These roles can be used effectively to boost disability employment in a variety of ways, for example by requiring Government contractors to demonstrate their commitment to disability employment when they bid for contracts.

44. The Government could also promote disability employment via the tax breaks and business support it provides. For example, the Government has abolished National Insurance contributions paid by employers for under-21s from April 2015 to encourage employers to take on more young employees and reduce youth unemployment. The Government could offer something similar for those who employ disabled people. Further, the civil service, local government and the health sector could be a key driver in employing more disabled people.

45. The NHS for example, should share best practice on how best to support and encourage services to employ more disabled people. The Government’s regional strategy also presents an excellent opportunity to ensure that disabled people are connected to growth and to improve employment rates amongst disabled people – Manchester and other areas with additional powers over employment should seize this opportunity to make a difference.

Ensuring disabled people have the support they need to prosper

46. We are deeply concerned about the plans to cut support for disabled people in receipt of Employment Support Allowance (ESA). This Bill will cut support for new claimants placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) after April 2017 by around £30 every week. The WRAG group includes people who have suffered serious injuries, those in the early stages of progressive conditions like MS, and those with learning disabilities.

47. Currently there are almost half a million (492,180) disabled people within the ESA WRAG. This includes 8,000 people with progressive and incurable conditions such as Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Cystic Fibrosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis who have been put in the WRAG. [23]

48. Those placed in the WRAG have been found independently ‘unfit for work’. In general, they are not working because they are ill, and need time to recover or learn to manage their condition more effectively. Cutting this benefit will mean disabled people have to survive on the bare minimum as they recover, causing debt and stress. This will be counter-productive to putting disabled people in a position where they can work effectively and for those with health conditions it may risk prolonging, or even impeding their recovery.

49. The extra money individuals in this group receive is provided in recognition that they are likely to be unemployed for longer than those receiving Jobseekers Allowance, through no fault of their own. In fact, just over half (53%) of those in the WRAG take between two and five years to move off ESA. [24] This cut means that many disabled people will have to live on £73 a week for years on end – likely leaving them unable to meet any additional costs they might incur, for example they might need a new pair shoes or to fix a broken washing machine. This is unsustainable and likely to have a negative impact on their health and ability to gain employment.

50. While the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) covers some additional costs of disability, not everyone in the WRAG will receive it. Further, on average disabled people spend £550 a month on disability related expenses, [25] while PIP pays out between £100 and £600 monthly, meaning almost all disabled people will spend more on their disability than they receive.

51. Cutting support for disabled people who need time and support to become well will make it harder, not easier, for them get back to work. Doing so may even endanger the Government’s commitment to halve the disability employment gap over the next five years.

52. We are asking the Government not to cut ESA so that disabled people continue to have the support they need to find work and stay healthy

Conclusion

53. The Welfare Reform and Work Bill represents an excellent opportunity for this Government to commit to radically reforming the landscape of welfare to work support and ensuring that disabled people get the specialised support they need to prosper.

54. It is clear that closing the employment gap is not going to be achieved without a fresh approach to support. The Government needs to think big, and work to end ‘silo thinking’ to integrate employment, health and social care services, with disabled people at their heart.

55. The change must begin with this Bill. The Government should commit to reporting on progress made towards halving the disability employment gap and increasing disabled people’s participation in apprenticeships.

56. The Government must also protect essential financial support for those not fit enough for work in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of ESA, so that disabled people continue to have the support they need to find work and stay healthy.

57. Going beyond the Bill, the Government must also use its role as an employer and commissioner of services to employ more disabled people across the economy.

September 2015


[1] Disability, skills and work: raising our ambitions, Social Market Foundation, 2007

[2] Enabling work: disabled people, employment and the UK economy, Scope, 2015

[3] ONS Labour Market Statistics, May 2015 - Table A08: Economic activity of people with disabilities

[1] ONS Labour Market Statistics, May 2015 - Table A08: Economic activity of people with disabilities

[2] https://www.google.com/fusiontables/DataSource?docid=1ad4jAxsEQzM8ngxh-ttSqqX1UIVzqndaBYqctOc#rows:id=1 accessed 02/09/15

[3] Transitions into employment for disabled young people, Centre for economic and social inclusion, March 2015

[4] Department for Work and Pensions (2013), Fulfilling Potential: Building a deeper understanding of disability in the UK today

[5] Sisson, P & Jones, K (May 2012) Lost in transition? The changing labour market and young people not in employment, education or training, The Work Foundation.

[6] Find out more at: http://www.leonardcheshire.org/what-we-do/change100#.VKuxnNKsWIc

[6] Work Choice: Official Stats, November 2014 – 41.7% of participants found work up to September 2014

[7] DWP tabulation tool – statistics up to March 2015

[8] Work Choice: Official Statistics, DWP, August 2015

[9] Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion (2014), Fit for Purpose: Transforming employment support for disabled people and those with health conditions

[11] Summer Budget 2015, HMT

[12] Transitions into employment for disabled young people, Centre for economic and social inclusion, March 2015

[13] Family Resources Survey, 2010/11, DWP

[14] Transitions into employment for disabled young people: A report to Leonard Cheshire Disability from the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion. 2015. Rahman et al.

[15] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sfa-creating-an-inclusive-apprenticeship-offer

[16] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/49779/sayce-report.pdf

[17] Access to Work: Official Statistics, DWP, April 2015

[18] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmworpen/481/48105.htm accessed 14/07/2015

[19] Assuming the same proportion of disabled people need Access to Work support in the years ahead, an additional 11,000 disabled people would claim by 2020. To meet this demand, funding would have to rise by around £37m. However, of the 51,000 additional disabled people who found work between April 2014 and December 2014, 8,600 (17%) required Access to Work support. Assuming the same rate of new starters required Access to Work Support between 2015 and 2020 that would mean an additional 40,000 disabled people each year. To meet this demand, funding would have to rise by around £135m.

[20] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/49779/sayce-report.pdf

[21] Ibid

[22] http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/pse/public-sector-employment/q2-2013/sty-public-section-employment.html

[23] Freedom of Information request placed by Parkinson’s UK.

[24] DWP tabulation tool – figures for November 2014 – 259,280 in the WRAG move off the benefit between 2-5 years

[25] Priced Out: Ending the Additional Cost of Disability by 2020, Scope, 2014

Prepared 11th September 2015