Employment support that works for everyone

Monday, 9 January 2017 - 3:44pm

Towards the end of last year, the Government published a consultation on work, health and disability. This consultation outlines the proposals for a new Health and Work Programme, which will replace the existing Work Programme from April 2017. 

person completing a job application form

The consultation is fairly broad-ranging and touches on the support offered to people, the assessment process, the role of employers and improving access to health services to ensure people have the right support to return to, or remain in, employment.

Our previous work on the Work Programme highlighted a number of issues with the current system. Jobcentre Plus were not always identifying people who are homeless and providers were therefore not incentivised to offer more intensive support. In addition, the barriers to employment faced by many people who are homeless on the Work Programme are not being identified, meaning that people are not being offered the necessary individualised and specialist support that people who are homeless need to get into employment.

In the consultation, there is a clear intention to introduce a more personalised, local approach to supporting people to overcome barriers to employment. A new Personal Support Package will be offered, targeted at people who are likely to be able to find work within 12 months but people with disabilities can volunteer at any time. From 2017, the Government intend to be able to offer a place on Work Choice, or Work and Health Programme to all eligible and suitable claimants who wish to volunteer.

The consultation document also addresses the issue of having the same assessment for financial and employment support, and whether this has led to people being arbitrarily categorised and not able to access support. The Government is keen to look at ways the assessment process could be streamlined to ensure employment support is more personalised, with Work Coaches having more discretion to make decisions on a case-by-case basis and adjust requirements and goals, as appropriate.

Other themes in the consultation include the role of employers in creating supportive workplaces so people can return to, or remain in, work and the need to increase the recognition of work as a health outcome across health and social care systems.

While there is a passing acknowledgement that people accessing employment support may face multiple barriers to employment, including experiencing homelessness, the consultation primarily focuses on disability and long-term health conditions. We would be interested in hearing your views on the employment support that should be available to people experiencing homelessness to ensure this new programme does not repeat the problems of the Work Programme.

We have outlined some key questions below – if you have any thoughts or comments, please email paula.reid@homelesslink.org.uk by Friday 10 February.

  1. From previous experience of the Work Programme and other welfare-to-work initiatives, what key principles should underpin a new employment support system?
  2. What are the biggest challenges people currently face in accessing the Work Programme and how should these be addressed in a new system?
  3. How can Jobcentres provide the right personal support at the right time for people? What specialist tools or support should work coaches have to help them to offer the right support?
  4. How could the claims process be made more streamlined?
  5. Do you have any examples of good practice from your own organisation in supporting people back in to, or to remain in, employment?