BASE Statement on Work Choice Official Statistics (May 2012)
The British Association for Supported Employment (BASE) welcomes the publication of statistical data from which we can begin to analyse and debate the issues around the specialist disability employment support programme, Work Choice. The data covers the period from when the programme became operational in October 2010 up to March 2012.
The data indicates that 14% of people who start the programme go on to start a job. We think there are a number of transparency issues in the data presented that make it difficult to draw out trends. For example, the first quarter includes around 14000 people who transferred from the previous programmes, Workstep and Work Preparation, the vast majority of whom were in employment and required continued support for this via Work Choice.
We believe that performance on this programme can be improved and that retaining a specialist disability employment programme is essential. BASE has already worked with our members & ERSA on making recommendations to DWP that we believe would increase job outcomes and make the programme more effective. We await a response from the department.
We note the range in job outcomes (8.1% to 21.1%) across the prime providers and feel that this requires further exploration to capture and transfer best practice.
We are astonished that DWP is unable to describe the impairment condition of 65% of those who have started the programme. This is particularly surprising given the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s insistence that this information be collected.
One of DWP’s critical success factors for Work Choice is that “providers will ensure the new programme contributes to an increased level of employment for disabled people, particularly people with learning disabilities and mental health conditions (the Public Service Agreement 16 target group)”.
BASE is concerned that the data would suggest that these key target groups (Moderate - Severe Learning Disability/Severe Mental Illness) are not significantly represented on the programme. According to the data, less than 4.8% of those on the programme have a moderate to severe learning disability and less than 0.5% have severe mental health needs. This is unacceptable given the programme’s stated aims.
On average, nearly 82% of referrals to the programme resulted in someone starting on Work Choice. However, this figure falls to under 75% for people with a learning disability meaning that 1320 people were unable to access the programme for some reason. We would like to see further detail on the reasons why these people were unable to access support.
Only 70% of people with mental health needs were accepted on to the programme. Again, we would want to understand why this figure is so low.
Disappointingly, there are no figures available for people with an autistic spectrum condition.
The programme was designed to support those who need the most support and yet 42.8% of those who started on the programme received Jobseekers Allowance and only 12.6% of starters had been in receipt of incapacity benefits.
We believe that further work is needed to ensure that Work Choice is focused on meeting the employment needs of people who require the levels of support associated with a specialist programme. 2170 people achieved unsupported job outcomes. This means that they required no additional support in their new job. This is surprising since Work Choice was designed to offer intensive in-work support. We believe that DWP’s commissioning model and the use of capped programme volumes drives the cherry-picking of customers in order to hit targets. This is at the expense of people who really need the support.
It is not helpful that the statistical release continually refers to “supported employment and “unsupported employment”. Supported employment is a globally recognised model of support and while Work Choice providers may use elements of this model, BASE wants to make it clear that we do not recognise the Work Choice programme as a form of delivery of supported employment.
The Government has agreed a cross-department definition of what constitutes good supported employment. We call on them to make funding available to deliver this evidence-based model of support so that people with significant disabilities can access the support they need to be able to gain employment.
The Work Choice official statistics (May 2012) are the first statistical release since the programme was started on October 2010. They can be found at http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/workingage/index.php?page=wchoice
Supported Employment and Job Coaching: Best Practice Guidelines, the Government’s agreed definition of good supported employment can be found at http://base-uk.org/knowledge