discussion forum

If you haven't already done so, please log in or register to use the discussion forum.

Work Programme. Information needed

Tony Bowman
forum member

Senior Welfare Rights Adviser, Reading Community WRU, Reading.

Total Posts: 2082

Joined: 16 Jun 2010

Are there any exemptions or get out clauses, Robby?

     
Robby
forum member

Disability Rights UK

Total Posts: 94

Joined: 14 Jul 2010

Tony Bowman - 10 June 2011 03:41 PM

Are there any exemptions or get out clauses?

Hi Tony
I don’t know of specific or new exemptions or get out clauses. I have asked about sanctions at two recent events: the DWP stakeholder forum on 31 May and a conference last Thursday by Westminster Briefing. I learned that
o   Jobcentre Plus advisers, not Work Programme providers, must decide on sanctions – in many cases they’ll no doubt rubber stamp recommendations from the latter
o   many job candidates – those most easy-to-place in jobs perhaps? - will be dealt with by Jobcentre Plus advisers without being referred to the WP at all
o   DWP high-up officials assure us that mandatory work activity is only for the hardcore – and my colleagues add that only 10,000 people nationally are in its sights
o   there is a new important category of Work Preparation – this is mainly for the ESA WRAG group – it is more demanding than WFIs
Other than that, I assume all the regs that apply to jobseekers or people who fail to comply with WFIs etc are the same. Tho I haven’t directly answered your question I hope this helps.
Robbie

     
Paul Treloar
forum member

Head of Policy, LASA

Total Posts: 857

Joined: 6 Jan 2011

Robby - 10 June 2011 11:45 AM
Tony Bowman - 09 June 2011 01:58 PM

Update…

As far as I can tell, the ‘work programme’ is a generic term for both:

- employment skills and enterprise scheme (SI 2011/917)
- mandatory work activity scheme (SI 2011/688)

To clarify, The Work Programme, official launch date today, will replace the Flexible New Deal and other New Deal and other welfare to work programmes.  Key features are that it will
?  run for 4 years
?  take on 500,000 ‘job candidates’ a year
?  be delivered by private and voluntary sector contractors as well as by Jobcentre Plus
?  be paid on the basis of sustained job outcomes, that is, only where a job candidate is still in a job after (usually) one year
?  be funded out of future benefit savings

NB – there is a crossover period while Flexible New Deal is winding down. FND won’t be taking on any new job candidates after end of June and the FND contractors have till end of August to continue working with their existing job candidates. Also, Work Programme is not to be confused with Work Choice, an employment programme launched on 25 October 2010, to replace Workstep and two lesser-known schemes for disabled people. which will support disabled people with “more complex” needs than those who will find themselves subject to Work Programme.

Thanks Robby - I hoped to make that conference last Thursday as well but unfortunately had to cancel at last minute, was it any good?

Also, epolitix website is reporting that Work Programme contracts will run for 7 years.

Welfare to work scheme launched

     
rwils
forum member

Newcastle Welfare Rights Service, Newcastle City Council

Total Posts: 24

Joined: 21 Jun 2010

I’m interested in “there is a new important category of Work Preparation – this is mainly for the ESA WRAG group”. I assume this relates to the new regulations allowing WRAG claimants to be required to undertake work related activity.

At the NAWRA meeting last week the man from A4E who ran the workshop on the Work Programme (WP) was absolutely insistent that any ESA claimants who are referred to it are expected to look for full time paid employment. And can be sanctioned if they don’t comply. When I queried this, he suggested I was confusing the law with what happens in practice..  I think.  I also think I am clear that until a decision that a person with limited capability for work is revised or superseded by a new decision embodying a determination that they do not have limited capability, they remain a person with LCW and the conditionality and sanctions regime is that which applies to ESA. That is, an obligation to attend and take part in work focused interviews and potentially to fulfill a requirement to undertake work related activity.  With potential sanctions for failure without good cause in both cases.  If I have got this horribly wrong please tell me.

The A4E person also seemed to suggest that a person in the ESA support group who opts for a voluntary referral to the WP would be expected to look for full time paid employment.  It was an interesting workshop.

     
Robby
forum member

Disability Rights UK

Total Posts: 94

Joined: 14 Jul 2010

RE Paul’s question on the conference last Thursday by Westminster Briefing I did learn a couple of things:
The Work Programme has been designed with the current JSA/ESA system in mind, not the Universal Credit. For example, UC is intended to “make work pay” partly through minijobs (<16hrs pw) as well as full-time jobs (16+ hrs pw) but WP providers are to be paid by results ONLY if they place job candidates in sustained full-time jobs. They’ll have no incentive to place people in minijobs.
Also, while the WP is BIG, it is only part of ‘Get Britain Working’ - the umbrella title for back to work support that Ministers have tasked DWP with developing.
Robbie

     
Robby
forum member

Disability Rights UK

Total Posts: 94

Joined: 14 Jul 2010

rwils - 14 June 2011 10:03 AM

I’m interested in “there is a new important category of Work Preparation – this is mainly for the ESA WRAG group”. I assume this relates to the new regulations allowing WRAG claimants to be required to undertake work related activity.

There is a note about the latest relevant regs at http://www.disabilityalliance.org/wra.htm saying:
Claimants cannot be required, as part of work related activity, to:
•  apply for a job
•  undertake work
•  undergo medical treatment
Other than that the regulations provide no detail as to what constitutes a work related activity, leaving this to the personal adviser.
When I said “there is a new important category of Work Preparation – this is mainly for the ESA WRAG group”, I should have made clear that I got this from the CPAG Factsheet on UC which came with the April WR Bulletin. It’s an excellent Factsheet by the way. It is based on the proposals in the UC White Paper. None of this is law yet, clearly. I should rephrase to say “the plan is that there will be a new important category of Work Preparation – this is mainly for those who would now be in the ESA WRAG group”.
hope that’s clearer - Robbie
PS just read latest on rightsnet news - http://www.rightsnet.org.uk/news/story/requiring-esa-claimants-to-undertake-work-related-activity1/ - which adds that, yes, there are new powers which enable the Secretary of State to require ESA claimants who are in the Work-Related Activity Group to undertake work-related activity, defined as ‘activity that makes it more likely that the person will obtain or remain in work or be able to do so’

      [ Edited: 15 Jun 2011 at 05:27 pm by Robby ]
rwils
forum member

Newcastle Welfare Rights Service, Newcastle City Council

Total Posts: 24

Joined: 21 Jun 2010

I have now had a reply from DWP about the ESA conditionality issue and the A4E person’s misunderstanding. It is indeed a misunderstanding. As is entirely clear from the regs, ESA claimants cannot be required to apply for or take up paid employment. Hopefully A4E who hold a significant number of the prime contracts will not carry that misunderstanding through into practice, or their sub contracting organisations will actually understand the rules. Could be something to watch out for though.

     
rwils
forum member

Newcastle Welfare Rights Service, Newcastle City Council

Total Posts: 24

Joined: 21 Jun 2010

Hmm, getting really quite confused about this now. Apparently ESA claimants in the work related activity group who get income related ESA will be “mandated” (which I take to mean a compulsory referral) to the WP when “they are expected to be fit for work within 3 months”. Where does that information come from? Will it be the HCP opinion on the ESA85? And what happens if they are still on ESA at the end of the 3 months, because they have either been reassessed under the WCA and passed (!) or failed, appealed and gone onto assessment phase rate pending the appeal. Are they then returned to JC+? I can’t see the WP providers being very keen to take on such people as they are not going to make much money out of them. And why only those on income related ESA? Why make a distinction between the two types of ESA for mandatory referral to the WP?

Other ESA claimants can “volunteer” for the WP. Most of the money available to providers I think comes from getting people off benefit and into work. But my understanding is still that even if they volunteer for the WP, however much the provider might have an expectation of them going into paid work, if they refuse, they cannot be sanctioned. Because the work related activity regs only provide for some ESA claimants (and by no means all) to be required to undertake work related activity.

Am I missing something here?

     
rwils
forum member

Newcastle Welfare Rights Service, Newcastle City Council

Total Posts: 24

Joined: 21 Jun 2010

Here are the questions I put and the DWP reply, I hope it’s clear which is which, I’ve put the DWP answers in speech marks:

Mandating ESA claimants to the Work Programme if they are expected to be fit for work within 3 months refers only to ESA (income related) claimants. Does this mean people getting contribution based ESA expected to be fit for work in 3 months are not referred to the Work Programme?

“Yes.”

And if not, why the distinction?

“The reasons are primarily around the need for, and value of, the WP for those on ESA C. But ESA (C) claimants can volunteer to join the Work Programme at any time after their WCA.”

The point about ESA claimants expected to be fit for work within 3 months being referred to the Work Programme - where will that information come from?

“This comes from the WCA.”

And if in fact a claimant is then still unfit for work after that 3 month period do they remain in the Work Programme?

“They’d stay on the Work Programme. All customers referred to the Work Programme will remain attached to the Work Programme for two years, whether they get a job or not. During this period of attachment, if they leave benefit and then make a new claim, they will return to the Work Programme. Their conditionality would change if they move to the Support Group, so doing any actual activity might become optional. A claimant would have a repeat WCA as close as possible to the end prognosis date. The outcome of the prognosis would determine benefit entitlement and any associated ‘to be fit for work’ period that would need to be considered. If appealing a WCA decision, the claimant would not be required to undertake Work Focused Interviews or Work Related Activity until the appeal outcome is known.”

And if so, what might the Work Programme offer, given that they can’t (as we have established) be expected to look for or take up full time paid employment? 

“At the point where participation becomes optional, while a provider can’t require the individual to do anything, they can still offer support. It will be up to them to make it attractive”

And, a similar point, what can the Work Programme expect from and offer to ESA, IS and IB claimants who volunteer for it?

“What is available from WP does not depend on whether a person is mandated to it or not? It is a flexible programme of support, tailored to meet individual work-related need. We don’t expect people to volunteer and then refuse to take up offers of support from their provider. The provider will agree with them the best course of action”

One more query concerning the Work Related Activity Regs - I believe they amend the ESA Regs covering notification of work focused interviews to say no written notification is required if the claimant is not required to attend in person. I am probably missing something really obvious here, but I can’t work out how a WFI can take place without the claimant being there in person.

“Reg 56 (Notification of Interview) of the ESA (WRA, Action Plans and Directions) 2011 amends the need for a claimant from having to attend a WFI to having to take part in a WFI. This is to afford opportunities such as interview by phone. The notification of this WFI has not altered; it may still be in writing or otherwise. Reg 57 (Taking part in a WFI) has been amended to read (re the claimant) ‘if not required to attend in person, is available and responds at the time notified in accordance with Reg 56 to any contact made at that time for the purpose of carrying out the interview’. Hence, a prearranged interview by phone may take place.”

     
nevip
forum member

welfare rights adviser, sefton council, liverpool

Total Posts: 2484

Joined: 16 Jun 2010

Reg 3 of the ESA(WRA) Regs 2011 is in the following terms:

“Requirement to undertake work-related activity

3.—(1) The Secretary of State may require a person who satisfies the requirements in paragraph (2) to undertake work-related activity as a condition of continuing to be entitled to the full amount of employment and support allowance payable to that person.
(2) The requirements referred to in paragraph (1) are that the person—

(a)is required to take part in, or has taken part in, one or more work-focused interviews pursuant to regulation 54 of the ESA Regulations;
(b)is not a lone parent who is responsible for and a member of the same household as a child under the age of 5;
(c)is not entitled to a carer’s allowance; and
(d)is not entitled to a carer premium under paragraph 8 of Schedule 4 to the ESA Regulations.

(3) A requirement to undertake work-related activity ceases to have effect if the person becomes a member of the support group.

(4) A requirement imposed under paragraph (1)—
(a)must be reasonable in the view of the Secretary of State, having regard to the person’s circumstances; and
(b)may not require the person to—
(i)apply for a job or undertake work, whether as an employee or otherwise; or
(ii)undergo medical treatment.”

In my view the use of the word “not” after the word “may” in para 3(4)(b)(i) and within the context of the reg as a whole renders the word “may” in that limb mandatory rather than mere permissive.  So A4e cannot make the claimant look for work at all if that involves actually applying for a job.  So any commitment a claimant makes to be available for full time work (or even actively seeking full time work for that matter) is simply an empty gesture, unenfoeceable by anyone, and no more than a pyrrhic victory for A4e.

And as for the implcation from A4e that somehow the law was subservient to practice: it is so risible that it’s hardly worth commenting on anymore.

      [ Edited: 20 Jun 2011 at 04:57 pm by nevip ]
Paul Treloar
forum member

Head of Policy, LASA

Total Posts: 857

Joined: 6 Jan 2011

New glossy brochure from DWP about the Work Programme has just been published.

It includes information about participant groups according to different benefits claimed p.6 as well as “financial incentives per participant” p.7

     
Craven CAB welfare benefits
forum member

Welfare Benefits, Craven CAB, N Yorks

Total Posts: 463

Joined: 16 Jun 2010

Slightly esoteric question:

A Work Programme provider asks a customer to sign forms giving consent for: the provider; any employer; and the DWP; to exchange information (presumably to verify whether someone has been successfully placed, thus allowing provider fees to be paid?). The form says that entitlement to benefit, placement on the programme, and offers of employment, do not depend on the customer giving this consent. In practice, the customer reports considerable pressure to sign, or else not be allowed on the programme.

Are there any practical steps that might protect the client from a sanction or refusal of benefit (I know the obvious one is: just sign the forms ...).

     
Craven CAB welfare benefits
forum member

Welfare Benefits, Craven CAB, N Yorks

Total Posts: 463

Joined: 16 Jun 2010

Further to my last post, on doing a bit of digging, I can’t see detailed guidance for Work Programme providers, but the DWP guidance for ‘Work Choice’ is here:
http://base-uk.org/sites/base-uk.org/files/[user-raw]/10-10/pg-part-i.pdf (copy and paste the full link)

It links to a sample consent form very similar to the Work Programme one, which likewise says above the place where the customer signs:

“If you do not give consent, this will not affect your entitlement to participate in the programme, or any job offer or employment obtained.  You can write to [Provider] at any time to withdraw your consent and this will not affect your placement on the programme or any employment or offer of employment made.”

The guidance itself says (DWP’s bolding):

“A2.15 Because DWP carry out validation checks of Job Outcome payments made to Providers, a customer consent form is provided which must be completed by all customers who start on DWP Employment Programmes.
A2.16 Please ensure you customise this form with your organisation’s details and obtain your participants’ written consent to share their information at the earliest appropriate moment in Module One. You must store this form securely and retain it for inspection, when required, by DWP validators.”

I do not see how these two documents are reconcilable, unless the assurance that consent is optional is an empty set of words. I can see no mention in the guidance of the possibility that a ‘customer’ would refuse to give consent for their data to be shared.

     

| more