Disability employment gap Contents

3Supporting disabled people into work

19.Our previous report on The Future of Jobcentre Plus examined some aspects of support for disabled people who are unemployed.62 Box 1 provides a summary of our key recommendations as they relate to disabled people. We revisited a number of these issues, including the need for skilled Work Coaches and for JCP to build strong partnerships with the third sector, while taking evidence from the Minister.63

Box 1: Conclusions and Recommendations from the Future of Jobcentre Plus

The skills of Work Coaches: JCP is moving towards a generalist Work Coach model, where Coaches take mixed caseloads of claimants and do not specialise in helping specific groups. Many disabled claimants will have complex needs, however, that require knowledge, understanding, and dedicated help to overcome. We heard there is a clear case for allowing some Work Coaches to specialise in directly supporting disabled claimants. We recommended that the additional skills required for this role should be reflected in the creation of a new front-line role, with progression to a Senior Work Coach pay grade.

Partnership working through JCP: JCP will be the gateway for ensuring the right people are referred to the right support at the right time. To ensure that disabled people’s needs are met, it must ensure that it works with local organisations to address the broader social and health issues which affect claimants’ employability. We recommended the Department take steps to promote the discretionary Flexible Support Fund for this purpose, and gather data on how it is used to support partnership working in individual Jobcentres in order to measure whether it is being used effectively.

We also heard support for integrating part of the health budget into the DWP’s budgets to help JCP address the full range of barriers to work experienced by disabled people. We recommended that JCP districts be allocated their own health budgets for the remaining financial years during this Spending Review period, with the expectation that this would be spent on developing stable partnerships to address health-related barriers to work.

The Work and Health Programme: We were disappointed that DWP’s plans for the Work and Health Programme did not involve expanding on Work Choice’s successes in supporting disabled people into work. Our recommendations focused on getting the best results from the smaller contracted-out service. We welcomed the announcement that participation would be voluntary for most disabled claimants, but sought clarity from the Department on how mandation would apply to long-term unemployed disabled people. We also recommended that the Department should focus on specialist providers in commissioning the new scheme.

The Work Capability Assessment

20.The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) determines eligibility for ESA, or the equivalent components of Universal Credit (see Box 2, below). It has been subject to controversy in previous Parliaments. Our predecessor Committee found that it “frequently fails to provide an accurate assessment of the impact of the claimant’s condition on their fitness for work or work-related activity”. They noted that a high proportion of WCA decisions were overturned on appeal or at the Mandatory Reconsideration stage (with associated costs to the Department), and called for a “fundamental redesign” of the ESA application process.64 We heard continued concerns of deep flaws in the Work Capability Assessment. The British Association for Supported Employment, a trade association for supported employment providers, told us that these were of such severity that the WCA required a “fundamental overhaul”.65

Box 2: The Work Capability Assessment

The Work Capability Assessment determines whether prospective ESA claimants have “limited capacity to work”. Most claimants fill in a detailed health questionnaire and attend a face-to-face assessment with an external contractor. The final decision is made by a DWP “decision maker”. There are three possible WCA outcomes:

(1)Claimants who are found not to have limited capability for work are ineligible for ESA. They are found “fit for work” and may claim JSA instead.

(2)Claimants who are eligible for ESA may be found to have “limited capability for work”, but to be capable of some work-related activity. They are placed in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) and have to fulfil some conditions to receive ESA, such as attending work-focused interviews.

(3)Claimants who are found to have limited capability for both work and work-related activity are placed in the Support Group. Support Group claimants are not subject to conditionality.

Data on the proportion of claimants in each group is shown in Figure 5.

21.The green paper raises the issue of reforming the WCA, building on reforms already carried out as a result of five annual reviews of its operation.66 It proposes a model that uses the WCA solely to assess eligibility for financial support. Decisions about the type of employment support that someone is required to engage with would be made by “trained Work Coaches” who could “have full discretion” to make case-by-case decisions on initial support programmes. The Work Coach could then “adjust requirements and goals dependent on changes in a person’s condition or circumstances”.67 The Minister downplayed the importance of Work Coaches in providing direct support, telling us that they provide “the hub for our own layers of support, but also other support that is available in the community”.68 Work Coaches would be able to call on support from Disability Employment Advisers, JCP Community Partners,69 occupational health professionals, and JCP work psychologists.70 Nevertheless, the model proposed suggests that Work Coaches would make the final decision on appropriate conditionality.

22.The Work Foundation, a research organisation focusing on work and health, supported the idea of separating the financial and support-based elements of the WCA.71 We heard support in principle for a more flexible approach to determining disabled people’s support needs and providing support in JCP, recognising that within each benefit category there are claimants with a wide range of conditions.72 Set against this, however, we heard that determining an individual’s support needs is a highly skilled job—one for which generalist Work Coaches may not be appropriately qualified. The Disability Benefits Consortium, an organisation of over 60 charities, told us that Work Coaches without specialist knowledge may lack understanding of the barriers that a disability or health condition can create. This may lead them to apply conditionality that is “inappropriate or unmanageable for claimants”.73 Shaw Trust told us that their roundtable research with Work Programme and Work Choice participants had identified a “clear, singular voice on the importance of advisers who are knowledgeable or empathetic to an individual’s health condition”. They recommended that such advisers should be “a key force” in addressing disability unemployment. Several other providers and charities concurred.74

23.ESA claimants are currently subject to reassessments at intervals throughout their claims, to determine whether they are still eligible for their benefit, and which claimant group they should be placed in. The Department has announced that it will no longer require ESA claimants who have been diagnosed with “the most severe health conditions and disabilities from which they will never recover” to face re-assessment after their initial award is made. It has not, however, set a date for introducing this change.75 Neither has it given full details of which impairment groups or conditions will exempt claimants from reassessment.

24.We welcome the Department’s decision to exempt some severely disabled claimants from repeated reassessment for ESA. This will reduce pressure on disabled people (and their families, carers and so on). It should also reduce assessment costs for the Department and waiting times for assessments. We invite the Department to set out in response to this report both when it intends to introduce this change, and the criteria it will use to identify claimants that will be exempt.

Supporting disabled people who are further from work

25.The green paper also considers how the Department can best support disabled people who are some distance from employment, including those in the Support Group. Recent years have seen an increasing proportion of claimants found eligible for ESA, and placed in the Support Group, reflecting reforms to the WCA process. Six in ten applicants are now found eligible, compared to three in ten in 2009 (see Figure 5). A survey by the Department conducted in 2013 suggested that 52% of those in the Support Group wanted to work. Just 5% were actively seeking work, however, and 60% felt that getting a job would be bad for their health.76 The Minister told us that the Department is looking to provide more return to work support for claimants who have been “parked in the Support Group”, and is “very conscious” that it has to do more to help them to work where they would like to do so.77 The green paper asks for views on whether targeted support should be offered, what should be provided and by whom. Allied to this, it asks how contact with people in the Support Group should be maintained. It suggests, for example, introducing light touch interventions such as “a ‘keep-in-touch’ discussion with Work Coaches” on a voluntary or mandatory basis.78

Figure 5: Increasing proportions of claimants are being placed in the Support Group

Outcome of initial WCA by date of claim start, Great Britain

Source: DWP, Employment and Support Allowance: outcomes of Work Capability Assessments, July 2016

26.Kennedy Scott, a provider of the Department’s Specialist Employment Support programme for disabled people, agreed that “more thought needs to be given as to how we can help the ESA Support Group to progress and succeed”.79 We also heard from an individual with personal experience of disability, who told us that the Support Group should not be allowed to function as a “scrap heap” for society.80 Currently, those in the Support Group can engage with return-to-work support on a voluntary basis. Sense, a charity supporting people who are deafblind, told us that very few people who are currently in the Support Group are aware that they can volunteer for this support. Many are concerned that doing so would affect their benefit entitlement.81 A voluntary “keep in touch” discussion could ensure that people in the Support Group are kept well informed of the support available to them. We heard that the frequency of contact between disabled claimants and JCP should be determined by the claimants’ individual requirements.82

27.A November 2016 report by the National Audit Office concluded that the Department has limited evidence on how people respond to the possibility of receiving a sanction (which it uses to enforce conditionality), and has carried out little of its own research to examine the impact of its use of sanctions in the UK.83 Witnesses told us that even light-touch conditions can be very challenging for some disabled people (with those in the Support Group likely to have more severe conditions than others). For example, the National Autistic Society told us that “complying with mandatory activity such as attending interviews at the Job Centre can be particularly difficult for autistic people, who may struggle to communicate face-to-face”. They therefore recommended that “mandation and the threat of benefit sanctions should only be used as a last resort”.84 We previously recommended that participation in return-to-work support should be voluntary for disabled people. In our Future of Jobcentre Plus report we cited evidence that voluntary engagement is more likely to lead to success in finding and staying in work, while mandation can be counter-productive.85 We heard some evidence suggesting that disabled people (whether in the WRAG or Support Group) should be exempt from conditionality altogether. This reflected concerns over the Department’s lack of understanding about the effects and consequences of sanctions. Witnesses suggested sanctions might cause disabled claimants to disengage from support, pushing them further away from work and undermining trust between claimants and advisers. We heard evidence of the deleterious effects of sanctions on the health of those with mental health conditions, in particular.86

28.The Work Capability Assessment is fundamentally flawed. The Department should quickly begin the process of reforming it. We are pleased that the Department is looking at how it can take a more flexible, personalised approach to providing unemployed disabled people—including those with the greatest needs—with support. We are, however, concerned that the Work Capability Assessment model proposed in the Department’s green paper would place more responsibility on Work Coaches than is appropriate for their current levels of expertise, particularly in terms of re-assessing and varying conditionality over time. We reiterate the recommendation from our Future of Jobcentre Plus report concerning developing a front-line, senior disability specialist role for Work Coaches. If Work Coaches are to be handed much more discretion over setting conditionality, it is imperative that they do so from a well-informed position.

29.Disabled people who want to work and feel they might be able to do so with some assistance should have access to support wherever possible, irrespective of the type and level of benefit that they are claiming. It is important that Work Coaches encourage claimants to access programmes and resources where appropriate, and that individuals feel that they are able to take steps towards work without risking their benefit entitlement. A “keep in touch” discussion could help claimants who would like to take steps towards work to access support, while ensuring that they understand that this will not affect their benefit entitlement. We are concerned, however, about the green paper’s suggestion of applying conditionality to people in the ESA Support Group. We recommend that the Department does not immediately proceed with the idea of mandating contact between Support Group claimants and JCP. There is limited evidence to support this being a helpful approach, and some evidence that it is counter-productive. We recommend that any steps to engage the Support Group are introduced on a voluntary basis, and are led by the needs of individual claimants. We also re-iterate our previous recommendation, supported by Government, that participation by disabled people in contracted-out DWP employment support programmes should be voluntary and free from the risk of sanctions. This should extend to JCP programmes for the Support Group.

Protecting vulnerable disabled claimants

30.The Department has safeguarding procedures in place relating to some ESA claimants, intended to ensure that “no sanction is imposed inappropriately”; for example because a vulnerable ESA claimant has not fully understood the mandatory requirements of them and the consequences of noncompliance.87 It has also trialled a Yellow Card scheme, whereby claimants would be given 14 days to produce evidence of “good reason” for non-compliance before receiving a sanction.88 The Benefit Claimants Sanctions (Required Assessments) Bill proposes to extend DWP safeguards.89 It would require the Department to take into account claimants’ mental and physical wellbeing (amongst other factors) in deciding whether to impose a sanction, and to assess automatically whether they would qualify for hardship payments. We heard such an approach could be beneficial for some disabled claimants: particularly those with mental health conditions. Witnesses told us that there is a substantial risk that imposing sanctions on such claimants can increase stress, and lead to a deterioration in their health. Rethink Mental Illness, a mental health charity, explained:

The evidence base for [sanctions] effectiveness in changing behaviour for people with mental health problems is not well-established. Putting people with mental health problems under pressure to engage with support or employment that they find unhelpful or inappropriate for them will be detrimental.90

This could make moving into work more difficult, undermining the objective of the policy.

31.The Department must ensure that in attempting to ensure that disabled people comply with the conditions of their benefits, it is not inadvertently harming their work prospects. Sanctions, where applied, should be a means to an end rather than an end in themselves. We heard that inappropriate sanctions can cause significant hardship, which in turn can affect the health of disabled claimants and make a return to work less, not more likely. The Department must consider how it can enhance the protection that it offers to disabled claimants. Drawing on the outcome of the green paper consultation on the Support Group, and the Yellow Card trial, we recommend the Department develop a Code of Conduct for Work Coaches on applying sanctions to disabled people. This should incorporate existing safeguarding advice on protecting vulnerable ESA claimants. It should also include guidance on how to consider the impact on a disabled claimants’ mental and physical wellbeing when deciding whether to make a referral for a sanction.

The ESA-WRAG group

32.ESA is currently paid at £73.10 a week, plus £36.20 (for claimants in the Support Group) or £29.05 (for people in the WRAG group). £73.10 is also the JSA rate for a single person aged 25 or over.91 From April 2017, new ESA claimants who are placed in the WRAG will not receive the additional £29.05 a week. Instead they will receive £73.10 per week only. This will align the rate of ESA for those in the WRAG with the rate of JSA—although different conditionality requirements will continue to apply to WRAG claimants (see Box 2, above). The same reduction applies for new claimants of the Limited Capability for Work Element of Universal Credit (the equivalent to the WRAG). As the policy will only apply to new claims, current claimants whose circumstances do not change will not see their benefit payments cut as a result. There will be no cash losers: losses are notional, based on what claimants would have been entitled to in the existing regime. A number of groups are protected from the reduction in the event of a change in circumstances and will continue to receive the pre-April 2017 amount:

a)Existing claimants of incapacity benefit, severe disablement allowance, and income support claimants who have not yet been transferred to ESA, but following assessment are placed in the WRAG;

b)Those who are in the support group prior to April 2017, but who are subsequently re-assessed and placed in the WRAG;

c)Those in the WRAG who move into work after April 2017, but subsequently move back into the WRAG within 12 weeks of starting work; and

d)Customers migrating from the ESA-WRAG to the Universal Credit equivalent.

In total the Department expects the reduction from the previous benefit rate to affect around 500,000 families by 2020–21.92 The Department has not yet clarified how or whether transitional protection will apply in the event of other changes of circumstances: for example, if a claimant is reassessed and placed on JSA, but then subsequently moved back into the WRAG. We recommend that the Department clarify in response to this report whether and how transitional protection will apply to current ESA claimants who experience a change of circumstances aside from those set out in Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 regulations.

33.The measure was announced in the 2015 Summer Budget as a means of removing “perverse incentives” in the ESA system that might discourage claimants from returning to work.93 The Government’s impact assessment explained the rationale further:

This measure is intended to provide the right incentives and support to enable those who have limited capability, but who have some potential for work to move closer to the labour market and when they are ready, back into work. Aligning the rate of benefit paid to new claims for Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit with limited capability for work with the standard rate paid to claimants who are fully capable of work from April 2017 will remove the financial incentives that could otherwise discourage claimants from taking steps back to work.94

The impact assessment also stated that the reduction will contribute to making the welfare system “fair and affordable”.95 The current Secretary of State confirmed that, while the Department is not looking for any new savings from the welfare budget or benefits, it has “no plans to reverse anything that has already been legislated for” under the previous leadership.96 When the reduction was announced, it was expected to achieve savings of £640 million per year by 2020–21, or £1.4 billion in total between 2017–18 and 2020–21. Subsequently, this was revised down in the 2016 Budget. The measure is now expected to save £450 million per year by 2020–21, or £1 billion in total (see Table 1, below), over the same period.

Table 1: Forecast savings from changes to ESA-WRAG, £ millions, nominal terms





Summer budget 2015





Budget 2016





Source: Table 2.2 - Measures announced in Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015 or earlier which will take effect April 2016 or later

34.Alongside the changes, the Department has announced “new funding for additional support to help claimants return to work”, including:

a)£60 million per year from 2017–18, rising to £100 million per year in 2020–21, for “additional practical support”.97 The Department told us this would add up to a total of £330 million from 2017–2021.98 A task force of representatives of disability organisations and charities has been set up to advise on how this is best spent. One possible use is the JCP “Personal Support Package” proposed in the green paper. However, this will not be fully in place until after the green paper consultation closes, in February 2017;99

b)An extra £15 million per year for the JCP Flexible Support Fund, to be set aside for those with limited capability for work;100 and

c)Removing the 52 week “permitted work” limit for those in the WRAG.101

35.We heard significant concerns about the impact of the lower rate of payment on disabled people’s quality of life. Disabled people often experience higher day-to-day living costs. These extra costs are part of the reason why people who are designated not to be capable of work often receive higher rates of benefit. The MRC/CSO Public and Health Sciences Unit, based at the University of Glasgow, explained:

Sick and disabled people frequently have extra living costs associated with their health conditions, such as a need for increased heating, higher transport costs or adaptive aids. Equivalised income scales which take account of the extra costs of disability find that the income required to sustain a given standard of living is substantially higher than that required by non-disabled people, a shortfall which is not covered by current benefit levels.102

We note that the requirement to undertake work-related activity can in itself incur costs which may be higher for disabled people: for example, if a disabled claimant needs to travel to attend courses and training, or additional meetings at JCP.

36.Macmillan Cancer Support suggested that these higher living costs were especially important given the duration of many ESA-WRAG claims.103 As of February 2016, 68% of claimants in the WRAG had been there for between 2 and 2.5 years; whereas almost 60% of JSA claimants move off that benefit within six months (see Figure 6, below).104 As well as typically facing higher living costs than JSA claimants, WRAG claimants will also tend to have to get by on benefits for longer periods of time. The Equality and Human Rights Commission, and others, noted that the cumulative effect on disabled people’s living standards and quality of life had not been taken into account in the Government’s impact assessment.105 The Department did tell us, however, that it recognises this issue and is looking at ways that it can help affected claimants with their day-to-day living costs, including transport and energy costs.106 The Minister, discussing a recent report by Scope on disabled people’s living costs, explained:

I very much welcome the work Scope has done. Historically, Governments have had little detail about what disabled people have had to, and are choosing to, spend their money on. Scope has yet formally to launch its latest report—I do not want to steal too much of its thunder—but has done a valuable service in identifying certain key areas where costs for disabled people are considerably higher. This is not just clothing, transport and equipment, but, as the hon. Lady mentioned, energy and insurance, too.107

Figure 6: The majority of ESA WRAG claims are several years long:

37.We also heard evidence on the effects on work incentives of reducing the WRAG payment, which are the Government’s rationale for introducing the change. Kennedy Scott, an employment service provider, recognised the justification behind reducing WRAG payments in terms of improving employment incentives:

It is a major problem that many in the ESA WRAG group become “committed” to their benefit—hard-won through the Work Capability Assessment process—and do not want to risk going into work, falling out, and losing this higher rate of entitlement. More simply, it is also the case that the higher the benefit is, the less the incentive to work.

However, Kennedy Scott’s submission continued to make the apparently contrary case:

The greater the poverty a jobseeker is living in, the harder to find sustainable work. And this cut in entitlements may well lead to that outcome. Poverty leads to unstable housing, mental health conditions, worsening physical health, debt, and, at best, can provide a major distraction from the business of finding work.108

The overwhelming majority of submissions we received concurred with the second sentiment; the effect of the reduced rate of payment could be to make it less, not more likely, that those affected would quickly return to work.109 Mencap, a learning disability charity, stressed that expectations of a quick return to work were unrealistic for many in the WRAG group, as those in the WRAG by definition had been assessed as having limited capability for work.110

38.A number of submissions cast doubt on the evidence used by the Department to justify the claim that the reduction would increase incentives to work. United Response, a charity that provides employment support to disabled people, noted that a 2005 OECD report cited by the Minister in relation the effect of reducing welfare benefit levels on improving work incentives made no reference to disabled people.111 The Minister also told us about a study by Barr et al. which related to “benefit levels being a factor in getting people into work”.112 However, the study in question concluded:

While there was some evidence indicating that benefit level was negatively associated with employment, there was insufficient evidence of a high enough quality to determine the extent of that effect. Policy makers and researchers need to address the lack of a robust empirical basis for assessing the employment impact of these welfare reforms as well as potentially wider poverty impacts.113

39.Some witnesses, in opposing the reduction, offered ideas on how the impact might be offset. For example, the reduction might be “paused” until such time as the additional support promised is fully operational, or the Government might commit to reinvesting a greater amount of the money saved in additional employment support.114 Witnesses making these suggestions, however, also put on record their opposition to the reduction.

40.We welcome the announcement of additional employment support for people in the ESA-WRAG group, including the consultation on introducing a more comprehensive package of support in Jobcentre Plus. We have heard concerns, however, about the decision to align the rate of ESA for new WRAG claimants with the current rate of JSA. Where new ESA claimants have unavoidably higher living costs related to their conditions, this may leave them with lower disposable incomes than JSA claimants. ESA claimants are not expected to find work as quickly as JSA claimants, having been assessed as having limited capacity for work, and are likely to need support for longer. Even meeting the conditions of their benefits by participating in work-related activity can incur expenses that are higher than those of non-disabled claimants. It is imperative, therefore, that alongside the JCP support package the Department provides additional financial support to people in the WRAG where it has identified that the new, lower rate will leave them unable to meet essential living costs related to their conditions and benefit obligations.

41.The Government expects the new, lower rate for the ESA-WRAG to enhance incentives to work. The evidence is, at best, ambiguous. We heard substantial concerns about the possible impact of the new rate on disabled people’s capacity to look for and move into work. Ensuring that a financial support package is in place may go some way to mitigating this risk. We remain concerned that the Department’s rationale for its decision rests on limited evidence. Furthermore, the employment support-related mitigating strategies proposed are untested and dependent on the discretion and skills of JCP staff. In the case of the proposed “Personal Support Package”, they are unlikely to be fully implemented by the time the reduced rate is introduced.

42.We welcome the Department’s acknowledgement that disabled people may have unavoidably higher living costs related to their health conditions, and its commitment to helping ESA-WRAG claimants who receive the new, lower rate of payment to meet these costs. Having made this commitment, the Department must ensure that it spends its money wisely, effectively targeting support towards those in need. This requires greater clarity than has been forthcoming on how the Department intends to do this. If the Department is to press ahead with this change, it must ensure that prior to its introduction it has set out a clear plan for identifying where new claimants have additional, unavoidable living costs relating to their conditions that they will struggle to meet with the new payment level, and how it will ensure that they are able to meet these costs. This will require dedicated financing, beyond the remit of current discretionary support available through Jobcentre Plus (for example, via the Flexible Support Fund). We recommend the Government set out its approach in response to this report, prior to implementing the new, lower rate. Failure to do this could undermine both the Government’s case that there will be positive behavioural change amongst claimants and the savings that it expects to make.

Access to Work

43.Disabled people who are in employment, or who have accepted an offer of employment, can apply for support from Access to Work. This funds adjustments to enable them to carry out their jobs. The number of people using Access to Work increased over the last Parliament (see Figure 7, below). The Department told us that the increase in funding announced in the 2015 summer Budget would help a further 25,000 disabled people to access the programme, in addition to the 35,000 already accessing it.115 It has also commissioned independent research into how participation in Access to Work can be increased by 65% by 2020.116

44.We received a substantial amount of persuasive evidence suggesting the emphasis on improving participation is much needed, given limited awareness of the scheme among both employers and claimants. A previous DWP-commissioned review referred to Access to Work as the Government’s “best kept secret”.117 A wide range of witnesses including charities, employment support providers and research organisations told us that better promotion, especially to employers, was necessary to ensure that all those who could benefit from the scheme are aware of its existence.118

Figure 7: Number of Access to Work claims per year, 2007–8–2014–15

Source: DWP, Access to Work: official statistics, April 2016, p.14

45.Many witnesses told us that Access to Work should be expanded even further, suggesting it could play a substantial role in improving disability employment rates.119 The Business Disability Forum, which helps businesses to become disability-friendly, told us that it is a “world class labour market intervention”. As well as benefitting the individual user, it also benefits other people by countering employer assumptions about the costs and challenges of employing disabled people.120 We heard various estimates of the balance of costs and benefits of Access to Work. The Learning and Work Institute told us that the overall benefits to society outweigh the costs by a factor of three to one.121 Inclusion Scotland suggested that for every £1 spent on the scheme, the Treasury receives £1.60 back in tax receipts.122 The DWP has never carried out a cost-benefit analysis of Access to Work; it has, however, recognised external analyses of the programme’s cost-effectiveness in its own reports.123 The Business Disability Forum recommended that it should make doing so a priority.124 If it can be shown to generate such high returns, there may be a case for expanding it.

46.The evidence that we received on Access to Work was not, however, free of criticism. Some witnesses told us that they were concerned about caps on spending per individual, which could prevent those who require more expensive support from accessing it.125 Many told us that the application process could be improved. Would-be beneficiaries who are out of work cannot apply to Access to Work until they have an offer of employment, and the process of applying and receiving equipment can take a very long time. For example, CareTrade Charitable Trust, which works with people with autism, told us that one application it had supported had taken six months to be approved.126 Given this, United Response told us that it would be helpful if unemployed people could receive an “agreement in principle” from JCP to pay for support, minimising delays to them moving into work.127 Similarly, witnesses including Disability Rights UK told us that the length of time taken to process Access for Work applications can present a barrier to it being used for some of its intended purposes. These include accessing paid short-term internships and work experience placements.128

47.Mark Elliott, Director of Development at Leonard Cheshire Disability, a disability charity, also explained that lack of portability in Access to Work awards can result in disabled people tending to stay in the same jobs. They may, therefore, struggle to progress in the modern labour market. Portability of award, he explained, “would make a significant difference” to disabled people’s prospects in work.129 The Minister told us that the Department is looking at this issue, which in part results from the equipment awarded through Access to Work being given to the employer rather than the individual.130

48.Access to Work is a highly-valued scheme. It could be one of the Department’s most important tools in improving disability employment rates and helping disabled people to stay in work. Awareness of the scheme, however, remains low, and it is not without room for improvement. The Department should prioritise building on Access to Work’s impact to date, focusing on raising awareness and on improving the user-friendliness of the scheme. We recommend that the Department launch a publicity campaign for Access to Work, targeting disabled people, employers, and its own front-line staff. We further recommend that potential beneficiaries should be permitted to complete pre-eligibility checks in Jobcentre Plus without the requirement to have obtained an offer of employment, and that claimants should be allowed to take their awards, or pending awards, with them if they move jobs.

49.Given the extensive evidence of the positive effects of Access to Work on disabled people’s employment rates and the commitment to extra funding for the scheme, we are surprised that the Department has never sought to quantify its benefits. It may even be self-financing. We recommend that the Department carry out research into the costs versus benefits of Access to Work, to ensure that any further decisions on funding are made from a strong evidence base.

62 Work and Pensions Committee, The Future of Jobcentre Plus

63 Q117-128, Q167 (Penny Mordaunt)

64 Work and Pensions Committee, Employment and Support Allowance and the Work Capability Assessment, 1st Report of Session 2014–15, HC-302, July 2014, p.3. Around 1 in 4 decisions where the outcome is disputed result in the WCA decision being overturned. See: DWP, Employment and Support Allowance: Work Capability Assessments, Mandatory Reconsiderations and Appeals, September 2016.

65 British Association for Supported Employment (DEG0033). See also: Citizen’s Advice Scotland (DEG0047), Disability Benefits Consortium (DEG0045), Joseph Rowntree Foundation (DEG0085)

66 The last such review was completed in 2014. See Litchfield, P., Work Capability Assessment independent review: year five, DWP, November 2014

67 DWP and DH, Improving lives, para. 132–133

68 Q140 (Penny Mordaunt)

69 The green paper explains that around 200 new Community Partners, who will have personal and professional experience of disability, will be placed in Jobcentres to help build JCP staff capability and identify appropriate sources of local support for disabled claimants. See DWP and DH, Improving lives, para. 88

70 DWP and DH, Improving lives, pp. 42–43, DWP (DEG0083)

71 The Work Foundation (DEG0094)

72 Scope (DEG0069), ENABLE Scotland (DEG0029), CareTrade Charitable Trust (DEG0029), Blind in Business (DEG0017), ERSA (DEG0087), START Ability Services (DEG0079)

73 Disability Benefits Consortium (FJP0054)

74 Disability Benefits Consortium (FJP0054), Rethink Mental Illness (DEG0037), National Autistic Society (DEG0060), Shaw Trust (DEG0058), Scope (DEG0069), ENABLE Scotland (DEG0029), ERSA (DEG0087), Macmillan Cancer Support (DEG0068), Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service (DEG0064), MS Society (DEG0062)

75 DWP, Improving Lives, para. 148–150

77 Q138 (Penny Mordaunt)

78 DWP and DH, Improving Lives, para. 37

79 Kennedy Scott (DEG0056)

80 Name withheld (DEG0044)

81 Sense (DEG0065). See also: United Response (DEG0030), RNIB (DEG0025), Name withheld (DEG0044),

82 Remploy (FJP0080), National Autistic Society (FJP0052), Crisis (FJP0060)

83 National Audit Office, Benefit Sanctions, November 2016

84 National Autistic Society (DEG0060). See also: Disability Rights UK (DEG0041), Trade Union Congress (DEG0055), Inclusion Scotland (DEG0061), Inclusion London (DEG0059), ERSA (DEG0087), Citizen’s Advice Scotland (DEG0047), Rethink Mental Illness (DEG0037), Joseph Rowntree Foundation (DEG0085), MS Society (DEG0062), Scope (DEG0069), Centrepoint, Crisis, ERSA, Homeless Link, St Mungos, The Salvation Army (DEG0036), Name withheld (DEG0021), Catherine Scarlett (DEG0010), Mencap (DEG0084), MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow (DEG0073)

85 Work and Pensions Committee, The Future of Jobcentre Plus, 2nd Report of Session 2015–16, HC 57, November 2016, para. 64–66

86 Mind and the Royal College of Psychiatrists (FJP0067), Citizen’s Advice Scotland (DEG0047), Inclusion Scotland (DEG0061), Inclusion London (DEG0059), Rethink Mental Illness (DEG0037)

87 Department for Work and Pensions, Work Programme Universal Credit provider guidance, 2016, para. 4.8

88 The Yellow Card trial concluded in September 2016. A final report on the initiative is expected in April 2017. HC Deb 18 November 2018, cW52337

89 A Private Member’s Bill introduced by Mhairi Black MP in December 2016

90 Rethink Mental Illness (DEG0037). See also: Scope (DEG0069), Trade Union Congress (DEG0055), Centrepoint, Crisis, ERSA, Homeless Link, St Mungos, The Salvation Army (DEG0036), Mind and the Royal College of Psychiatrists (FJP0067), Citizens Advice Scotland (FJP0066)

93 HC Deb 8th July 2015, c333

98 Q183 (Alex Skinner)

99 The Personal Support Package will be offered via JCP, and will include an “enhanced menu” of tailored support provison for disabled people. See DWP and DH, Improving lives, para. 77

100 HL Deb 29 February 2016, c593

101 HL Deb 29 February 2016, c594. The removal of the permitted work limit means that ESA-WRAG claimants can work for up to 16 hours per week indefinitely, without their benefit entitlement being affected. Previously, if they had undertaken such work for longer than 52 weeks, they would have experienced a loss or reduction in benefits.

102 MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow (DEG0073). “Current benefit levels” refers to ESA rates prior to the 2017 reduction. See also: Ben Baumberg Geiger (Q31), Leonard Cheshire Disability (DEG0039), Breakthrough UK (DEG0053), Macmillan Cancer Support (DEG0068), Citizen’s Advice Scotland (DEG0047), Mencap (DEG0084), Citizen’s Advice Derbyshire Districts (DEG0088), Essex County Council (DEG0051), Advice Nottingham (DEG0052), Brawn, E., Priced out: ending the financial penalty of disability by 2020, Scope, April 2014; Zaidi, A. and T. Burchardt, “Comparing incomes when needs differ: equivalization for the extra costs of disability in the UK”, Review of Income and Wealth 51(1), 2005

103 Macmillan Cancer Support (DEG0068). See also; National Autistic Society (DEG0060), Breakthrough UK (DEG0053), Disability Rights UK (DEG0041)

104 Disability Rights UK (DEG0041)

105 Equality and Human Rights Commission (DEG0089), Essex County Council (DEG0051), United Response (DEG0030), Parkinson’s UK (DEG0024), Mencap (DEG0084), Inclusion London (DEG0059), Disability Benefits Consortium (DEG0054), Rethink Mental Illness (DEG0037)

106 Q185 (Penny Mordaunt), Q199-202 (Penny Mordaunt)

107 HC Deb 13 October 2016, c555

108 Kennedy Scott (DEG0056)

109 Q31 (David Finch), Disability Benefits Consortium (DEG0054), Rethink Mental Illness (DEG0037), RNIB (DEG0025), Advice Nottingham (DEG0053), Citizen’s Advice Scotland (DEG0047), Citizen’s Advice Derbyshire Districts (DEG0088), Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service (DEG0064), MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow (DEG0073), Papworth Trust (DEG0043), Twist Partnership (DEG0054), Disability Rights UK (DEG0041)

110 Mencap (DEG0084), Trade Union Congress (DEG0055), Citizen’s Advice Scotland (DEG0047), Disability Benefits Consortium (DEG0045), Leonard Cheshire Disability (DEG0039), Action for M.E. (DEG0031)

111 HC Deb 20 October 2016, c49724W, United Response (DEG0030). See also: Disability Rights UK (DEG0041), Parkinson’s UK (DEG0024), Scope (DEG0069), Inclusion London (DEG0059), Disability Benefits Consortium (DEG0045), Q31 (George Selvanera)

112 Q185 (Penny Mordaunt). See also: HC Deb 17 November 2016, c462

113 Barr, B. et al. “To what extent have relaxed eligibility requirements and increased generosity of disability benefits acted as disincentives for employment? A systematic review of evidence from countries with well-developed welfare systems”. Journal of Epidemology and Community Health, December 2010

114 Q94 (Danielle Hamm), Q92 (Diane Lightfoot), Essex County Council (DEG0051)

115 DWP (DEG0083)

116 DWP (DEG0083)

118 Inclusion Scotland (DEG0061), Breakthrough UK (DEG0053), MS Society (DEG0062), National Deaf Children’s Society (DEG0057), Essex County Council (DEG0051), Royal British Legion Industries (DEG0046), ENABLE Scotland (DEG0029), UnLtd (DEG0028), RNIB (DEG0025), Dimensions UK (DEG0018), Signature (DEG0008), The Work Foundation (DEG0094), Council for Work and Health (DEG0091), Equality and Human Rights Commission (DEG0089), Joseph Rowntree Foundation (DEG0085), Scope (DEG0069), ERSA (DEG0087), Papworth Trust (DEG0043), Business Disability Forum (DEG0042), College of Occupational Therapists (DEG0063), National Autistic Society (DEG0060), Sense (DEG0065), Action on Hearing Loss (DEG0038)

119 Learning and Work Institute (DEG0086), Scope (DEG0069), College of Occupational Therapists (DEG0063), Inclusion Scotland (DEG0061), Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service (DEG0064).Mencap (DEG0084), Result CIC (DEG0078), Arthritis Research UK (DEG0070)

120 Business Disability Forum (DEG0042). See also: Equality and Human Rights Commission (DEG0089)

121 Learning and Work Institute (DEG0086)

122 Inclusion Scotland (DEG0061)

124 Business Disability Forum (DEG0042)

125 Learning and Work Institute (DEG0086), Scope (DEG0069), Business Disability Forum (DEG0042), Inclusion London (DEG0059), Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service (DEG0064), MS Society (DEG0062)

126 CareTrade Charitable Trust (DEG0026). See also: RNIB (DEG0025), United Response (DEG0030), Kennedy Scott (DEG0056), Muscular Dystrophy Trailblazers UK (DEG0022), Dimensions UK (DEG0018), Blind in Business (DEG0017), Gary Denton (DEG0015), Mencap (DEG0084), Sight for Surrey (DEG0080), Aspiedent CIC (DEG0077), Sense (DEG0065), Papworth Trust (DEG0043), Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service (DEG0064)

127 United Response (DEG0030), Q91 (Diane Lightfoot, Danielle Hamm), Q96 (Mark Elliott)

128 Disability Rights UK (DEG0041), Inclusion Scotland (DEG0061), National Autistic Society (DEG0060), Blind in Business (DEG0017), Muscular Dystrophy UK Trailblazers (DEG0022), Q100 (Karen Walker-Bone)

129 Q91 (Mark Elliott)

130 Q177 (Penny Mordaunt)

30 January 2017