DWP test new conditionality policy focussing on a what a Disabled claimant “can do, not what they can’t”

Sun,31 October 2021
News Benefits

In a written reply to the Chair of the Work and Pension Committee, Stephen Timms, the Minister for Disabled People has set out a new benefits conditionality policy – ‘Tailoring Up’.

In 2019 the DWP introduced Health Model Offices (HMOs) in 11 jobcentres aimed to  test a wide range of initiatives including:
• providing more intensive support to disabled people and people with health conditions; and
• adapting the physical environment in the jobcentre to better meet the needs of disabled people and people with health conditions.

The Minister, Chloe Smith, says that:

“The HMO group of initiatives are being evaluated using a combination of qualitative and quantitative research. The evaluation will establish the initiatives that improve employment support and employment outcomes and identify the improvements that will be rolled out nationally.”

She adds that;

“Tailoring Up is applied to everyone on the health journey providing medical evidence before their WCA, and for those found to have Limited Capability to Work following their WCA, on both New Style ESA and Universal Credit.

Explaining the new initiative, Ms Smith says that:

“Tailoring Up is a new way to deliver our existing conditionality policy for people with health conditions. The approach focuses on what a claimant can do, rather than what they can’t, and commitments are built up and tailored to the individual’s situation.

Tailoring Up encourages a voluntary first approach to allow a claimant to test out employment support activities without risk of a sanction while they are still building their knowledge and understanding of the impacts of their health condition.

But she then adds that:

“However, she The Tailoring Up approach does not remove the option to apply mandatory conditionality. The approach is tailored to each individual dependent on their personal circumstances.

Many people will have a blend of commitments, some voluntary and some mandatory, and we retain the mandatory requirement for claimants to attend any interviews set.

All commitments are agreed in advance with the claimant and Tailoring Up reduces  the likelihood of any sanction referrals by applying a voluntary first approach where applicable.

However, claimants may still be set mandatory commitments if the work coach feels it is appropriate; and should the claimants fail to comply without a good cause, they could be subject to a sanction.”

Ken Butler DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy adviser said that:

"Tailoring Up cannot be said to be a truly voluntary approach as the final say on what conditionality a Disabled claimant has lies with their work coach.

It is concerning that the Minister also says in her letter that the DWP is keeping no data on:

  • how many disabled people have work coaches opted for voluntary arrangements over mandatory arrangements;
  • how many people who would be eligible for the new approach are still subject to mandatory arrangements;
  • what proportion of people eligible for the new approach who could have been subject to sanctions are instead under voluntary arrangements;
  • what are the proportions and numbers for each of the three groups of claimants eligible for the new approach - people claiming ESA in the work related activity group, people claiming UC who have been found to have limited capability for work, and people waiting for a work capability assessment; and
  • by how much has the number of people subject to mandatory arrangements reduced since work coaches could apply voluntary arrangements.

How can the pilot be evaluated without this information?

Also of concern is that the DWP will deem Tailoring Up to have ‘failed’ if it does not result in “enough job starts” so that mandatory conditionality, with the threat of sanctions, will remain instead.”

The Stephen Timm's letter to the Minister and her reply are available from parliament.co.uk.