Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, spoke out after the government published the latest figures for Work Choice, its specialist disability employment programme, and as MPs prepared to publish another highly critical report on the mainstream Work Programme.
Sayce, the author of a major report for the government on employment support for disabled people, said the “employment outcomes” for disabled people from the Work Programme were “terrible”.
These figures, first published in November, saw only about 1,000 of 79,000 claimants of disability benefits finding work for at least three months in the scheme’s first year, a success rate of just over one per cent.
Sayce said the results from Work Choice were also “poor”, and added: “Disabled people deserve better than both these programmes.”
The latest Work Choice figures show that between October 2010 and December 2012 only eight per cent of disabled people on the scheme found sustained unsupported employment.
The figures also show that, of more than 8,000 claimants of out-of-work disability benefits who accessed Work Choice over its first nine quarters, only 1,370 people (17 per cent) secured some kind of work, including those placed in segregated settings.
Sayce said: “Given that Work Choice was set up to serve people facing the greatest barriers, it is surprising that this whole programme has only helped 1,370 people from incapacity benefit or employment and support allowance into employment in over two years.”
She compared the figures with the results of other schemes that provide flexible, “genuinely individualised support”, for example for people with serious mental health problems, which consistently support 50 to 60 per cent of disabled people into open employment.
Sayce called on the government to create “genuinely personalised, individual support that enables people to get decent employment, that interests them”, and offers “continuity of support” which is available when needed.
She said: “We need far more choice and control, through evidence-based and personalised support. The Work Programme and Work Choice are not currently delivering what we need and deserve.”
Her comments came as the Commons public accounts committee published its report onthe performance of the Work Programme.
The government is set to spend up to £5 billion on the programme over five years, but Margaret Hodge, the committee’s chair, said its performance so far had been “extremely poor”.
The report concludes that the “difference between actual and expected performance is greatest for those claimants considered the hardest to help”, particularly disabled people.
She said the government’s payment-by-results system was aimed at providing incentives to “prevent providers concentrating on the easiest cases and ignoring those who are hardest to help”, but that those incentives were not working.
Hodge said it was “shocking” that of 9,500 former incapacity benefit claimants referred to Work Programme service-providers, only 20 people had so far been placed in a job that had lasted three months.
A DWP spokeswoman said the report – which uses the DWP’s own figures – “paints a skewed picture”, and added: “The Work Programme gives support to claimants for two years and it hasn’t even been running that long yet, so it’s still early days. We know the performance of our providers is improving.
“When some of the hardest to help claimants have not worked for many years we know it will take more time and a lot of support before they can think about working again. That’s why we have given providers two years to work with participants, so it’s still early days.”