Report highly critical of DWP employment support

A report published by Demos suggests that Ministers should consider abolishing the Department for Work and Pensions after its failure to help ill and disabled people out of poverty. The Pathways from Poverty report suggests that most of the department's work could be carried out more effectively by other Whitehall ministries.

Tom Pollard, the report’s author, spent 18 months at the DWP on secondment from mental health charity Mind. By the end of his time there he concluded that the “DWP is institutionally and culturally incapable of making the reforms needed to achieve such a shift in outcomes for ill and disabled people, or for ‘harder-to-help’ groups more widely”.

The thought-provoking report says that DWP is unable to establish meaningful engagement with "harder to help" groups for three clear reasons:

  1. The ‘benefits lens’, through which all interaction with ‘claimants’ is viewed

  2. The department’s institutional resistance to radical reform and innovation

  3. The reputational baggage the department and its Jobcentres have with these groups

Tom proposes a series of measures to improve the effectiveness of employment support measures:

  • that DWP should separate out benefit entitlement to the issue of designing appropriate employment support. Support should be voluntary rather than mandated.
  • that local authorities and the voluntary sector have a much larger role to play in delivering support. The Department of Health & Social Care and the Department for Education should take over some of DWP's responsibilities.
  • meaningful co-production should be used to ensure that systems and services reflect the reality of people’s lives, needs and aspirations.

"...if the removal of these functions from the DWP proves to be a success, a more comprehensive approach could see the department abolished altogether. Its core employment support services could be delivered by local government taking ownership of Jobcentre Plus; its benefit and pension payments responsibilities delivered by HMRC; and support for‘harder to help’ groups provided through the channels described above. This could enable a much more localised social security system, with greater potential for ‘bottom-up’ design of services and support to respond to local need."