November 2012

DWP has announced that people on sickness benefits who are expected to be able to get back to work at some point in the future will, from Monday, be able to take part in voluntary work experience to help them move towards a job.

People on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) who have been assessed as being able to go back to work at some point are placed in the Work-Related Activity Group for the benefit and are expected to take part in activity which helps them prepare for a return to employment. One of the options available to them will now include voluntary work experience.

DWP has published the first data on the Work Programme. The data covers the 13 month period June 2011 to July 2012 and shows that 837,000 people entered the Work Programme. 31,000 people have been in work for over 3 or 6 months as a result, 30,000 of these being former JSA claimants and 1,000 previously being ESA claimants. This equates to 3.5% of individuals referred to the programme, substantially less than DWP's minimum performance level of 5.5%. Amazingly, only 1130 people across all the ESA payment groups found work during the year.

Entrepreneur and educator Doug Richard has published his independent report on the future of apprenticeships. In it he calls on the government to improve the quality of apprenticeships and make them more focused on the needs of employers. His recommendations include: * Redefining apprenticeships: They should be targeted only at those who are new to a job or role that requires sustained and substantial training.

Professor Harrington has completed his third review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) process. He sets out a series of recommendations to the Government based on the evidence he collected as part of the review and which follow on from the recommendations from his first and second reviews. The latest recommendations focus on consolidation and monitoring: * actively considering the need for further documentary evidence in every claimant’s case, and justifying it if this is not sought * continuing to strive for an appropriate balance between quality decisions and achieving benchmarks

The Minister for Disabled People, Esther McVey, has announced some changes to the Access to Work programme. The changes, announced in a written statement, include a streamlining of the application process, an intent to make travel plans more personalised and strengthened guidance for advisors on working with employers.

DWP has published the latest statistics on Work Choice. Statistics on Work Choice include data for England, Scotland and Wales for the period up to the end of June 2012. It contains statistics on all providers excluding Remploy, showing the number of referrals to Work Choice in the period and the corresponding numbers of Work Choice starts and job outcomes. The key points from the latest release are: * Referrals: 9,980 referrals for 9,440 individuals, in the period April 2012 – September 2012.

Liz Sayce, the author of the specialist disability employment report, Getting in, Staying in, Getting on, has written to disability minister, Esther McVey about her “serious concerns” about the rapid fall in the number of disabled people funded by the Access to Work (AtW) scheme.

Sayce published her report on disability employment programmes in June 2011, and among her recommendations called for the number of people receiving AtW funding to double.

The WeAreSpartacus group has published its own review of the Work Capability Assessment process from the perspective of the sick and disabled people going through it. The People’s Review of the Work Capability Assessment highlights stories of more than 70 people who have been inappropriately assessed, forced to go to tribunal, felt humiliated or treated inappropriately. It comes prior to the publication of the final review of the Work Capability Assessment by Professor Harrington, who steps down as advisor to the DWP this month.

The South East network meeting on 13 November has been postponed. A new date will be circulated and posted at shortly. BASE apologises for the short notice of this postponement.

The Health & Safety Executive has published a toolkit to support small businesses. The new Health and Safety Toolbox is the latest in a package of online guidance, bringing together in one place everything a small, low-risk business could need to manage health and safety. Written with busy firms in mind, it makes it easy to find relevant guidance on specific risks with a few clicks of the mouse.

It builds on Health and Safety Made Simple which provides sufficient basic information for large numbers of low risk businesses.