DWP ‘has limited evidence’ of what works helping disabled people find employment

The Government department dealing with disabled people has “limited evidence” of what works to support them into employment, according to an official report.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said the number of disabled people in work had increased by almost a third, to 930,000 in the past five years, but this had not been matched by a reduction in those who are unemployed.

The spending watchdog said the Government’s aim of getting one million more disabled people into work in the decade to 2027 cannot be used to measure its success.

Factors such as people already in work reporting a disability, and rising employment rates, affected the measure, said the NAO.

It found that despite the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) having decades of experience supporting disabled people, it does not yet know as much as it could about what works in helping disabled people to get and keep jobs.

It has also missed opportunities to assess the impact and cost-effectiveness of its programmes, leaving it with limited evidence to support its current efforts, said the NAO.

Amyas Morse (pictured), head of the NAO, said: “I welcome the Department for Work and Pensions’ renewed commitment to focus on improving the culture of its job centres and its evidence base.

“But given it has been supporting disabled people to work for a long time, it is not beyond reason to expect the Department to know ‘what works’ by now and it is disappointing that it does not.

“It has yet to make a significant dent in the number of disabled people who are out of work, some of whom say they would like to work given the right support.”

A DWP spokesman said: “It is encouraging that in the last five years the number of disabled people in work has increased by 930,000, but we of course want to make sure every disabled person who can work, does work.

“That’s why we recently announced we are reviewing our goal to see one million more disabled people in work by 2027, and we are working with a wide range of organisations to ensure disabled people receive the best possible employment support.”

Adam Smiley, Parliamentary affairs manager at disability equality charity Scope, said: “Today’s report paints a worrying picture. Frontline staff will face overwhelming pressure with the move to Universal Credit, and this could mean chaos for disabled job seekers.

“With the number of disabled people out of work stuck at 3.7 million for the past five years, it’s time for urgent action from Government.

“Disabled people need specialist and tailored support to enter and stay in work, and this often takes time, training and expertise to deliver effectively. It’s not something that should be rushed or squeezed in, and it needs proper staff resourcing.”

Marsha de Cordova, shadow minister for disabled people, said: “This Government has bitterly failed to support disabled people into employment.

“There has been little change in the disability employment gap over the last 10 years and millions of disabled people are locked out of work.

“Two years into its work, health and disability strategy, this chaotic Government lacks any clear measures to promote employment for disabled people.

“Labour is committed to halving the disability employment gap and ensuring that disabled people are supported to enter the labour market.”

Neil Heslop, chief executive of the Leonard Cheshire charity, said: “This report lays bare the lack of meaningful progress that has been made in supporting disabled people to get or stay in jobs.

“The Government has stated that it wants to get a million disabled people into work by 2027, but all the evidence, including our own, suggests that this may not be achievable unless there is a change in approach.

“There are simple and cost effective measures that make all the difference in breaking down the barriers disabled jobseekers often repeatedly endure. Sadly, these are often slow to access.

“Our research shows that only 23% of disabled people currently or previously working say they have received Access to Work support, for example, with the vast majority waiting more than three months for their application to be approved.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) National Audit Office.