Supported Business update (November 2019)

Supported Business update (November 2019)

Current Developments

Despite the on-going political uncertainty SBSG has continued to make progress in our discussions with DWP to protect the future employment of thousands of disabled employees in Supported Businesses and to open up opportunities for many more.

The principal developments in recent months have been:

  • Individuals supported by the Transitional Employer Support Grant (TESG) have increased by over 200 since its introduction in April 2019
  • All but one Supported Business (SB) have now commenced claiming TESG (only 30% of TESG were claimed in the summer)
  • A phased progression support payment of £1000 is now available when a person progresses off TESG and sustains employment for 13 weeks.  The SBSG is working with DWP to finalise the pathways and processes to maximise the potential of this initiative.
  • DWP have confirmed the SBs they are working with on the Extra Employer Support Grant (EESG) Proof of Concept (PoC)
    • Watford Workshop,
    • Yately,
    • Tremorvah,
    • Yorkcraft,
    • Haven,
    • Clarity,
    • County Print Finishers,
    • MTIB,
    • Realise Futures,
    • Solution 4 Data,

An EESG PoC Communication Strategy has been agreed, with a tele-kit planned for participating SBs in the coming weeks.

The PoC will be in 2 phases: 

  • Phase 1 will consist of data collection from assessments and financial modelling. Phase 1 is due to be completed by 31stMarch 2020. 
  • Phase 2 will be PoC live running where PoC SBs can bring in new employees and apply for support using the new funding model.

A Governance Board will be established to oversee the PoC. This will feed into the SBSG and there is the potential for the SBSG Chair to be part of the Governance Board.


TESG delivery

Issues arising from the delivery of TESG should in the first instance be addressed through the procedures outlined within DWPs Supported Business Guide. In cases where this does not lead to resolution or where additional clarity is required, issues can be referred to the SBSG (see communication below). A sub-group of SBSG have direct and regular communication with AtW Senior Operational Mangers where they can take such issues. Where necessary this can be further escalated to DWP Policy. 

Current issues being discussed with AtW Senior Managers include

  • what constitutes an offer of employment? 
  • inconsistency in timescales and quality of assessments – particularly for pre-employment 
  • occasions where AtW staff refuse to talk to SB staff at all if an appointee is involved.

Should SBs be experiencing other issues that are not being resolved through the SB Guide they should make this known to the SBSG (See communication)


Widening participation to other Social Enterprises

It is the intention of DWP to open up the EESG PoC to Social Enterprises (SEs) in April 2020. It is believed this may involve up to 5 SEs at this stage with it being widened further at the start of EESG, currently planned for April 2021.

DWP continue to consider how they will ensure SEs and SBs have the right structure, quality of support and ethos to support disabled people with needs in excess of standard Access to Work.It is likely that this will require a form of accreditation which might be delivered externally to DWP. DWP are aiming to finalise their requirements in time to provide assurance of the SEs joining the EESG PoC in April 2020.

SBSG considers that it is not sufficient to simply meet minimum standards set by DWP and that continuing to deliver effective and what can be considered as world class provision is essential for the longer-term security and viability of the sector. Without the contractual requirements of Work Choice the sector itself needs to drive standards, improvements and best practice. It is not sufficient for individual SBs or SEs to simply rely on evidencing they meet minimum standards. This cannot be a strategy for the future. We know that quality of provision across SBs varies already, the further we move away from Work Choice and the more SEs join the sector, the greater the risk of inappropriate or substandard provision being identified. This will put at risk funding and support for the whole sector. The SBSG, other SBs and stakeholders have worked hard over the past 3 years to change the perception of Ministers and DWP officers. The sector currently has unprecedented support of key individuals, but there remains much to do. Support is inconsistent across DWP with many perceptions remaining those of the past - sheltered workshops, Remploy, segregation and bad value for money. The sector needs to promote itself and be recognised as Exemplar Employers for disabled people.

These are the reasons why the SBSG has been working closely with the Social Enterprise Mark CiC (SEM) to develop the Social Enterprise Disability Employment Mark (SEDEM) and the Local Authority Disability Employment Mark (LADEM); and why ten SBs have to date applied for and been granted the Mark. 

The SBSG will be working with these SBs and SEM over the EESG PoC period to fully develop the SEM Models to recognise the unique nature of SBs; meet the minimum DWP standards; and also safeguard the future through an externally accredited and nationally recognised standard driven by and for the Sector. 

The SBSG encourage and recommend all SBs to become involved with the SEDEM or LADEM process. Although there is an annual financial investment needed from each SB and SE, it is an investment in the future of your sector, the future of your business, enterprise or charity; the future of thousands of jobs for disabled people; an investment worth making.  



The SBSG will continue to communicate with BASE members through regular updates and will seek to hold quarterly update sessions at BASE regional meetings.

As the sector grows, we will seek to communicate with other relevant stakeholders such as SEUK, Social Firms England, Scotland and Wales.

As from December 2019 members of the SBSG will attempt to contact each SB on a regular basis to promote engagement across the Sector.

Following feedback at the BASE conference SBSG will deliver an awareness raising session for Social Enterprises who may wish to become involved in the sector.


BASE Conference 2019

The SBSG and BASE held back to back workshop sessions at this year’s BASE conference. The sessions summarised developments and achievements over the past year and looked at challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Each session was well attended by both existing SBs and SEs seeking information on TESG and EESG.

Feedback and comment from the workshops

  • What would SBs like to see in the next 3 years and what assistance/support is needed.
    • A viable financial model
    • Promoting progression
    • Greater communications
    • Assistance with AtW 
    • Coordination of issues/developments
    • Flexibility of volumes under EESG (no cap)
    • An involvement in the PoC
    • Clarity of purpose/definition
    • Clarity on eligibility


  • What creates financial viability
    • Essential to generate financial returns
    • Local Authority SBs financial position often includes LA investment budget lines or contractual income for service delivery. Where there is evidence that income lines achieve measurable outcomes, this should be counted as commercial income. Where no evidence is available this places this income at risk and SBs should consider carefully before using it in assessing financial viability. This is particularly important within the EESG PoC.
    • Grant income into SBs and SEs should also be considered in the same way as LA investment.


  • What does ‘good’ look like
    • Recognising the individual’s journey with flexibility to meet this
    • Evidence that the individual really is as important to the provider as their product output.
    • Evidence of progression at the heart of the business.
    • The ability to use partnerships to carry out work such as job coaching/employer engagement without impacting access to funding. 
    • Link to Disability Confident.
    • High percentage of disabled people across the business. 


  • How to change ingrained negative perceptions of SBs.
    • Non-SB contributors expressed confusion as to what SBs provided.
    • Emphasise and celebrate that SB’s deliver - PAID employment and that the philosophy is that any person that is contributing to the generation of income is PAID.
    • Consider changing the name from Supported Business as it has been linked to that of Sheltered Business, which is now viewed negatively since the Sayce Report 2011. This needs to reflect the uniqueness of the organisations in a positive manner, whilst referencing/consulting with DWP to ensure that negative views are changed. Ensuring that SB’s do not give up any existing benefits of the Supported Business designation. 
    • The need to encourage DWP Commercial representative to visit SB’s in order the experience the services that are provided in order the change perceptions.


The future of SBSG

Much has been achieved over the past 2 years, principally down to a number of leading Supported Businesses dedicating time to the work of SBSG. To date 18 Supported Businesses have also contributed financially to the work of the Group. There are sufficient funds available to maintain the current level of activity until February 2020. The Steering Group are therefore seeking additional contributions to cover the remainder of 2020. Supported Businesses are asked to consider contributing to the on-going work of the group. Members of the Steering Group will be contacting SBs to discuss the spending requirements for the coming year and how you might contribute. 


Supported Business Steering Group
November 2019