MPs warn new work support scheme is being “front loaded for failure”

9 Nov 16

MPs have warned that the government’s planned Work and Health Programme may be “front loaded for failure” due to the requirements being placed on jobcentre staff.

The work and pensions select committee’s report condemned the “manifold reduction” in support for the WHP, which will have only a £554m budget.

It will replace the Work Programme and the Work Choice scheme for disabled people, which together had some £1.5bn to spend.

The committee said the Jobcentre Plus work coaches could be ill-equipped to assist applicants when the new programme starts in October 2017.

Under the plans for the WHP, the government has granted flexibility to run WHP to a small number of local areas, as part of its devolution drive. These are a commitment to co-commissioning the scheme with Greater Manchester and London authorities, and co-design WHP with combined authorities of the Sheffield city region, Tees Valley, Liverpool and the West Midlands.

However, work and pensions committee chair Frank Field said the success of the department’s approach will depend on supporting people who, in many cases, are long term unemployed or have substantial health issues back into work.

Jobcentre work coaches would be expected to provide employment support to “a broader and more challenging caseload of claimants, including those with disabilities, mental health conditions, and the long-term unemployed”, most of whom would previously have been catered for elsewhere, the report highlighted.

Field added that many of these people may have seen jobcentres as enforcement agencies, and their staff as police, and have been poorly served in the past.
“Instead of building on examples of successful programmes such as Work Choice, the Department is overseeing a massive reduction in the spending on the replacement Work and Health Programme. Compensating for this will require a massive cultural shift and practical shift in JCP, enabling it to become a place that supports real progress to, and in, work.”
However, he said the committee was not convinced that JCPs and Work Coaches will have the necessary resources, skills and expertise to do this, and especially not at the rapid and ambitious pace that the DWP is expecting.

“The government has expressed the need to reform capitalism, and to ‘make work pay’, Field highlighted. “We welcome the department’s willingness to take a flexible approach to Jobcentre Plus’s services, and to try to support those who have been inadequately served by the current system. But we have grave concerns that shifting a raft of new, specialised demands and requirements onto Jobcentre Plus, without significant training and preparation and with greatly reduced resources, is simply front-loading this brave new world for failure.”

 

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