March 2015

The Department for Education has published an accountability framework to help monitor improved outcomes and experiences for children, young people and their families. It aims to show how the SEND system is performing, hold partners to account and support self-improvement. This includes a constructive approach to inspections, which will develop opportunities for local areas, as well as reassure families on progress.

DWP has announced the preferred bidders for the recently tendered Specialist Employability Support (SES) programme.

SES will be provided through 6 separate contracts which were announced today. Each provider will offer national coverage in order to give service users as much choice as possible.

People will be given the choice of 2 types of support:
* SES will consist of intensive, end-to-end provision, supporting candidates all the way to employment.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee has published its report into whether the current ESA regime is appropriate and proportionate for jobseekers with ill health and disabilities. It also considers whether the JSA and ESA regimes are achieving their policy intentions; the wider impacts on claimants; and possible alternatives. It builds on the Oakley Review of JSA sanctions.

The Department for Work and Pensions has commissioned the Centre for Economic & Social Inclusion to conduct an independent evaluation of the Merlin Standard. This survey will give an opportunity for providers and stakeholders to provide feedback which will contribute to the further development of the Merlin Standard by DWP.

Inclusion say that the survey should take 10 minutes to complete and all replies to the survey are confidential and will not be shared.

Business Secretary Vince Cable has announced plans to launch an online tool that will make it easier to find out how much people are paid in different occupations, sectors and regions across the UK. The aim is that the increased transparency will see the wages of people on low pay increase.

DWP has published statistics for Work Programme performance up to 31 December 2014. The statistics show that the programme has helped 401,000 people into work lasting over 6 months (JSA groups) or 3 months (ESA groups). Nearly 25% of all customers secured a sustained job within 2 years on the programme but the outcomes are far lower for people with disabilities (14%) and for ESA customers.

The Chancellor has announced additional IAP{T support for people with mental health needs in his Budget statement. The £25m package includes early access to supported Online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and the co-location of IAPT (Increased Access to Psychological Therapy) staff in Jobcentres. It is expected that 40,000 JSA, ESA and Fit for Work clients will benefit over the next 3 years.

The Midlands members network meeting scheduled for 20 March has been postponed. It is proposed that it will now take place on 23 April but this is still to be confirmed. Details will be posted at

Disabled people face a cap on the cost of support to help them into jobs, the Government has announced.

The Access to Work scheme helps people with disabilities, illness or mental health issues into employment. It covers the cost of things such as specialist equipment, support workers or fares to work if someone is unable to use public transport.

From October 2015, individuals will not be able to claim support worth more than one and a half times the national average salary, equivalent to £40,800 a year on current rates.

Proposed changes to fit-for-work tests could cause serious disadvantage for people with mental health problems and learning disabilities and should be trialed, according to recommendations from a recent tribunal.