With millions at risk of losing their jobs and people with disabilities and health conditions in long-term unemployment, New Local is calling for people to be supported locally, removing this responsibility from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Research by New Local (formerly New Local Government Network) says local community-led approaches can give far better support to job seekers who face complex disadvantages related to disabilities and health conditions.
Out of this group of 2.3m people, only 4% move into employment each year.
The research features examples from across the UK where local services have helped people into work, some of whom had been jobless for decades because of issues such as mental health problems, social isolation, drug and alcohol misuse, and contact with the criminal justice system.
In future, says New Local, DWP should be responsible only for providing benefits for this group. Meanwhile, local government, the NHS and voluntary organisations should be resourced to provide personalised, trusted employment support for local residents.
Report author Tom Pollard, a social worker who previously advised DWP on mental health said he found DWP was unfit to support disabled people and people with long-term health conditions.
Tom Pollard said: ‘The DWP’s approach has proven not only ineffective but deeply damaging to millions of people facing complex disadvantage. With its narrow focus on the cost of benefits, people become simply numbers.
‘They are pushed towards inappropriate support, designed in Whitehall without real understanding of the complexity of the challenges people face.’
With DWP focused on those who have fallen out of work because of the pandemic, it is now even less likely that people experiencing longer-term unemployment because of disabilities and health conditions will get the support they need.
Adam Lent, New Local Chief Executive, said: ‘Rishi Sunak has said he wants to ‘get creative’ with solving the pending jobs crisis, and this is a way to do just that.
‘Empowering local organisations could help millions of people to take more control over their lives with the support of services rooted in their communities. Under the current system, this group will find themselves ‘at the back of the queue’ for work as unemployment rises.”
Disability rights campaigner Kaliya Franklin wrote the forward of the report, she said: ‘At a time when so many people are newly unemployed and the attention of policymakers turns once again to lowering the ‘claimant count’, it is essential that disabled people, and others facing long-term barriers to employment, are not left behind.
‘This timely report by New Local is very welcome as it focuses on the issues that disabled people themselves say are barriers to employment.
‘This would contrast sharply with the top-down system which for decades has had little impact on reducing the disability employment gap – but has had an enormous, negative impact upon the lives of those subject to such policies.’
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