4 February 2009
The Pathways to Work programme to get disabled claimants into work is turning into a financial disaster for the private and voluntary sector agencies involved, according to figures obtained from the DWP, with one company already making staff redundant.
Data obtained using the Freedom of Information Act by Indus Delta, shows that provider led Pathways programmes are getting just 27% of the number of claimants into work that they should be. This compares to 93% of the target being met under New Deal for Disabled People and an astonishing 170% under Workstep.
What makes the figures even worse, however, is that they only cover the period up to the end of September 2008, before the credit crunch began to cause mass redundancies throughout the UK.
For Pathways providers, who are paid primarily for actually getting claimants into a job, such poor performance could lead to severe financial difficulties in a very short space of time.
Reed in Partnership, one of the largest pathways provider has, according to Indus Delta, already laid off 5% of its workforce and is consulting with a further 10% about possible redundancy.
There are probably several reasons for the dramatic failure of Pathways. One is likely to be bidders for the contracts hugely exaggerating the number of claimants they could get into work in order to secure contracts from the DWP.
Another may be the failure of providers to realise just how great the resistance is of many employers to the idea of taking on sick and disabled staff, particularly at a time when people who have not been excluded from employment by incapacity or disability are flooding into Jobcentres.
The disorganisation of the DWP may also be playing a part. According to one poster on the Indus Delta website, which is used by welfare-to-work professionals, the DWP’s screening tool results in them seeing far too many people who are not well enough to work. G-Man complains that they have claimants referred to them by the Jobcentre Plus who come in with ‘oxygen cylinders or with broken necks’:
‘You have someone with a mild mental health issue screened out and someone with Lung Cancer made to come and see us. . . . I am spending 90% of my time and tax payers money on people who couldn't return to work whether they want to or not.’
G-Man also complains about the failure to provide personal advisers with the right information:
‘Another side to this are the government doctors reports we are supposed to get when we see the client. To date out of the 125 clients I have seen so far I have had only two reports, one of them had started work the week before and the other had been taken off incapacity benefit. We have a pile of doctors reports but no referrals to put them with.’
One thing that is virtually certain is that unless the DWP alter the contracts in favour of Pathways providers, things will only get worse. The credit crunch means there will be fewer job vacancies and many more people chasing them. In addition, the introduction of ESA, with its harsher test of incapacity, means that companies are likely to be sent even fewer clients with ‘mild’ conditions and many more clients with very severe ones.
2009, it seems, will witness an increasing number of Pathways staff making claims at the very same Jobcentre Plus offices as their former clients.