Supported Business policy development

Supported Business policy development

A number of our members manage supported businesses. These pages will offer an update on the activity that BASE engages in to promote their work. Many receive DWP funding through the Protected Places scheme that has operated under the Work Choice programme. 


Setting the scene

Each Supported Business entered Work Choice, a DWP funded programme from the previous Workstep programme with an allocated volume of Protected Places. There was agreement for the funding of some unoccupied places on condition that at 26-weeks, if still unoccupied, they would return to the DWP for re-distribution to other Supported Businesses who could recruit and fill the places via Work Choice. 

Work Choice is now being closed down and will be replaced by the Work and Health Programme. In Scotland, Work First is the current bridging programme between Work Choice and the Scottish Government’s new provision ‘Fair Start Scotland’ which commences in April 2018.  Neither programme includes Supported Businesses and Protected Place funding. Prime contractors have recently been named for both programmes and details are in the BASE news pages.
In England and Wales, Module One Work Choice referrals are planned to cease in December 2017, Supported Businesses will only be able to employ this group on to a Protected Place. To note, a Module One Work Choice client is entitled to 6-months pre-employment support and there is an expectation that you will be able to recruit from this cohort during the support period, but numbers will reduce moving into March/April 2018 as clients secure employment and move off the provision.

Work Choice Supported Business Protected Place contracts are being extended to March 2019 across the UK (Scotland, England and Wales).  Access to Work could have a new steam of funding added for longer servicing Protected Place employees; assessments for those who want them will commence next year. 

BASE has been working with DWP and the Supported Business Alliance (SBA) through a Supported Business Steering Group to address issues of concern to Supported Businesses. BASE has established a Supported Business Focus Group to advise us. The group is chaired by Mel Walls and members include MTIB, Industrial Services Group, Pluss, Swindon Borough Council, GIS Healthcare, and County Print Finishers.


The Supported Business steering group

The group meets regularly and current membership is:

  • Jeremy Robinson (SBA and Clarity)
  • Richard Wellfoot (SBA and MTIB)
  • Melanie Walls (BASE)
  • Geoff Streetley (SBA and RBLi)
  • Gemma Hope (Shaw Trust)
  • Jenny Brick (SBA and Realise Futures)
  • Sarah Knights (Realise Futures)
  • Stuart Edwards (DWP Access to Work)
  • Avril Montgomery (DWP)
  • Martin Davies (Independent Advisor and meeting chair)



BASE and the SBA have been looking at the viability of supported businesses receiving direct referrals or being commissioned through Jobcentre Plus' Dynamic Procurement System to offer the following services:

  • Assessment placements
  • Work experience placements
  • Intermediate labour market

Any ongoing support is planned to be secured through Access to Work recognising the unique specialist support provided within Supported Businesses through a new category of funding.

This activity will allow Supported Businesses to be able to replace staff when they leave, by having a mechanism to provide another disabled client the opportunity of employment, as well as providing further opportunities when business grows. Consequently, Supported Businesses will be able to generate the required funds to continue to provide sustained employment opportunities for people with disabilities and health conditions and continue to be an integral part of DWP’s aim to halve the Disability Employment Gap.


Work to date

The Supported Business Steering Group met with DWP on 13 December and BASE was represented by Mel Walls. Here's the highlights of progress to date:

  • DWP and the Minister (Penny Mordaunt) have confirmed that Supported Business are included in strategic plans for delivering the Government Agenda for moving 1 million people with disabilities into work.
  • Protected Places funding has been extended to March 2019.
  • DWP is exploring the potential of a new Access to Work ‘grant’ to replace protected place funding for existing and new employees with complex support needs. Traditional AtW claims will be applicable for other employees. New funding arrangements are expected to be agreed by March 2018.
  • The new arrangements are to be extended to other social enterprises.
  • DWP is committed to finding new referral routes and this will include looking at a work-based assessment and work experience offer to JCP, together with an intermediate labour market solution. Other routes may include Work & Health Programme (WHP) and Specialist Employability Support (SES).
  • Any new provision will need to have a Quality Assurance Framework.
  • DWP are arranging for the Steering Group to meet the new Minister, Sarah Newton, in early January

The Support Business Steering Group has been working closely with DWP to resolve the issues coming out of the end of Work Choice.

This has included a series of meetings with DWP officers and culminating in a meeting with Penny Mordaunt, the previous Minister for People with Disabilities, on 30th Oct. Due to the nature of DWP’s decision making process these discussions have until this point been considered confidential.

Ministerial sign off was gained following the meeting of 30th which allowed the proposals to be shared at the BASE conference on 8th November 2017 in the Ministers Keynote speech and during the supported business workshop. Unfortunately, the Minister was unable to deliver the speech personally as she was recalled from the conference to Downing Street following her appointment as Secretary of State for International Development.

Although it is frustrating to have to rebuild relationships with a new Minister (Sarah Newton), it is reassuring that Supported Businesses as part of a wider Social Enterprise network are now formally considered a strategic necessity.

An extension of protected places until March 2019 is aimed to provide Supported Businesses with certainty of funding for a complete financial year to assist with budgeting and business planning.

The commitment to establish a new funding mechanism post protected placement is welcomed. It is likely to be incorporated within the Access to Work provision which may include a standard Grant for employees with complex support needs, support that can’t be delivered through existing standard AtW provision.

DWP are proposing to offer all Supported Business employees an AtW assessment between April 2018 and March 2019. Following the assessment, the employees are likely to be offered either a new AtW ‘grant’ or standard AtW support.  These proposals will be finalised by March 2018. DWP are currently briefing the new Minister on the range of proposals and are hopeful they will be able to proceed in January.

Clarity, Realise Futures, MTIB and RBLI have developed detailed proposals for work-based assessments, work experience and paid internships (ILM) that can be offered by Supported Businesses. DWP have agreed to explore mechanisms to test these proposals, initially in Merthyr. It is considered that this will form a new funded routeway into Supported Business. Other routeways may include WHP and SES.

The Steering Group has engaged with the Social Enterprise Mark and Business Disability Forum to consider a workable Quality Assurance Framework and interface with wider industry.

The on-going priorities for the Supported Business Steering Group

  • Meet and engage with the new Minister – Jan 2018
  • New funding mechanisms – by April 2018
  • New funding levels – by April 2018
  • Referral routes – by April 2018
  • Test new Work Based Assessment, Work Experience and Paid Internship models – Jan 2018
  • Establish a Supported Business Advisory Group for England and Wales (as currently exists in Scotland) - asap
  • A Quality Assessment Framework – March 2019
  • Links to wider Social Enterprise Sector - 2018
  • Links to wider Industry and Commerce - 2018
  • Links to Parent Carers Network as ‘critical friends’ – by April 2018

The Steering Group is currently considering how to resource these critical items of work.