Responsibility for providing back-to-work support for sick and disabled people should be taken out of the hands of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and handed to local authorities and NHS trusts, a non-partisan think thank has recommended.
A major new report from Demos warns that sick and disabled benefit claimants have lost faith in the DWP, and calls for “radical institutional reform” to restore public trust in the welfare system.
The report finds the DWP “suffers a chronic lack of trust amongst both the general public and ill and disabled people, making it impossible for the department to ever meaningfully engage with these groups and provide successful employment support.”
According to the report’s findings, “only 27% of the public would trust Jobcentres to help them find work and understand their personal situation, falling to just 18% of disabled people.”
Demos also discovered that “60% of disabled people do not believe the DWP understand their concerns, with only 19% trusting Jobcentre staff to treat them fairly.”
The ground-breaking research, which has been rejected by the UK government, says local authorities and NHS professionals are better suited to helping ill and disabled people into work, with 55% of the public believing this responsibility should be taken away from the DWP and Jobcentres.
This figures rises to 62% amongst disabled people and 60% amongst those who have experienced mental health conditions or a serious illness.
Demos argues the government “should take practical steps to look beyond the DWP to provide employment support for ill and disabled people”, and offer local authorities and NHS trusts the option of delivering welfare-to-work programmes for ill and disabled people.
Commenting on the findings of the report, Demos researcher Ben Glover said: “Our research shows that Britain’s ill and disabled people have lost all faith in the DWP.
“This demands a radical rethink of the department’s responsibilities.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “This report is completely misguided and we have no plans to reduce functionality at a time when unemployment is at its lowest, welfare reforms are rolling out across the country and millions are saving for a private pension for the first time.
“Jobcentres are a local presence yet benefit from a national framework. The DWP supports around 20 million people to get into work and save for their retirement, as well as giving stability to those who cannot work, and will continue to do so as one responsible organisation.”