Employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants in the work-related activity group (WRAG) will be forced to have regular meetings with healthcare professionals employed by multinational welfare to work giant Ingeus or face losing their benefits, in a two-year pilot scheme in central England which begins in November.{jcomments on}

The regular meetings with healthcare professionals are allegedly intended to help claimants address their barriers to work. But there are sanctions for claimants who fail to attend and, if other programmes are anything to go by, there are also likely to be sanctions for those who are judged not to be fully participating in the process.

Around 3,000 people in the living in the Black Country, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland, Staffordshire and Shropshire will be forced to take part in the scheme.  The will be selected at random from the WRAG and will all be claimants who are expected to return to work within 18-24 months’ time.

The pilot will compare the help given by healthcare professionals to 2 other pilot schemes offering employment-focussed support to see which is most effective at helping people off sickness benefits and into work.

One in southern England (Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, Surrey and Sussex, Thames Valley, Greater Wessex and Gloucestershire and West of England) will give enhanced support from Jobcentre Plus. The other in North East England (Durham and Tees Valley, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and North East Yorkshire and the Humber) will see Work Programme providers increasing the help they give to people on sickness benefits.

The DWP claim that the regular discussions with healthcare professionals:

“will not replace someone’s GP, but can promote health support and help a claimant to re-engage with their GP if they are struggling to adapt to their condition. They will also signpost claimants to activities and information to help them manage their condition to improve their readiness for getting a job, and work with local services to provide a holistic approach to health interventions.”

No details have been given of what qualifications the health professionals will have or whether they will have had any specialist training in dealing with, for example, claimants with mental health conditions.

More details are available from the .gov website

Many thanks to Jim Allison for spotting this item for us



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