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New DWP into work reports suggest softly softly approach works better than sanctions stick

03 August 2017

These Employment and Support Allowance trials reports present findings from qualitative research into three labour market trials that aimed to assist Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants’ progress towards the labour market.

View reports

These reports evaluate the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) additional support trials which took place in 2015.

Crucially, the reports place emphasis on empathy in relation to a claimant’s needs rather than the current ‘sanctions stick’ approach. In fact, many claimants did not see the voluntary or mandatory nature of participating in the trials as making a difference to their engagement and were least engaged by the mandatory trials.

Disability Rights UK has long argued for better support for disabled people into work and has produced several key reports in relation to this issue, such as:

Taking Control of Employment Support

Peer support for employment: a practice review

These DWP reports would seem to be in line with our view. We hope the DWP puts their findings into practice.

About the trials

The trials had three models:

Voluntary Early Intervention (VEI) core model and its variants, Back Pain Pilot (BPP) and Occupational Health Advice (OHA). All three were delivered before the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

More Intensive Support (MIS), which was mandatory and supported ESA claimants who had completed the Work Programme (WP).

Claimant Commitment (CC), which offered claimants pre- and post-WCA, as well as post- WP, the voluntary option to negotiate a CC.

The reports found:

  • Early intervention, additional time with the Work Coach, occupational health advice and therapeutic treatment for lower back pain were all perceived as beneficial by claimants.

  • Claimants’ motivation to work and perceived job readiness were crucial to the progress that could be made. Some form of formal triage system based on this may therefore be a useful tool for Work Coaches.

  • The voluntary or mandatory nature of each trial was often not viewed by claimants as making any difference to their engagement. Instead, this was much more determined by perceived job readiness.

  • Timing of the support was critical – claimants needed support at a time and a pace that matched their assessment of their own capabilities.

  • It was very important to claimants that Work Coaches were empathetic, had a good understanding of their health conditions, and had a style that was supportive, collaborative and encouraging, rather than prescriptive.