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Benefit claimants need better back-to-work support

People with disabilities, lone parents and the long-term jobless all need better support to help them back into work, according to a new report published today by national charity Citizens Advice Scotland and Citizens Advice (England and Wales).

In 2009/10 Citizens Advice Bureaux across Scotland, England and Wales dealt with more than half a million enquiries about out-of-work benefits. A joint survey of 845 CAB clients with experience of back-to-work support from Jobcentre Plus or other government-contracted providers found that:

  • Most respondents felt that they needed help and support to move back into work but were unhappy with the support they had been offered.
  • Respondents felt the support offered was not tailored to their needs, limiting the effectiveness of interviews and courses they attended.
  • Respondents felt that the personal advisers assigned to help them needed greater expertise, and in particular needed a much better understanding of disability and sickness issues.

The findings chime with the government’s own research and underline the importance of the personalised support promised by the government as the cornerstone of its ambitious plans to move people off benefits into work. They are published as the government is about to embark on a three year programme to review the cases of all 2.7 million people in the UK claiming incapacity benefit, including 350,000 people in Scotland.

Most benefit claimants now have to attend compulsory ‘work-focused interviews’ intended to help support them back into work and tackle the obstacles preventing them finding a suitable job. But the joint survey found that only a quarter of those who had attended such interviews found them useful, and of those who wanted help to get a job, just 16 per cent said that they had been given information about training that would be helpful.

One respondent said:

“I am deaf …. I was speaking to a Disability Adviser but he was completely clueless about hearing loss and was unable to assist me or to offer help at all. He was aware that I could not hear him but continued to conduct the interview. I left feeling even more depressed than I already am.”

Another respondent said:

“I am on high rate Disability Living Allowance… I have been put on the pathways to work…I am being forced into looking for work, I am confined to a wheelchair in constant pain… I was a chef when I worked and obviously can’t go back into this field, I haven’t been offered any training in any other fields, it is madness.”

Citizens Advice Scotland is urging Jobcentre Plus and other back-to work support providers to make changes to ensure they can deliver a genuinely personalised, tailored service that helps people overcome barriers to work and enables them to find a suitable job where appropriate.

Citizens Advice Scotland spokesperson Matt Lancashire said:

“It would be ambitious at the best of times to try to move millions of people off benefits and into work in the space of three years, but at a time of recession and high unemployment it is an exceptionally challenging target. To stand any chance of succeeding with its welfare to work plans, the Government has to make sure it delivers the high-quality, personalised support it has promised to help people back to work.

“Jobcentre advisers can provide a wide range of support to benefit claimants to help them prepare for and find work, but our survey findings show that claimants are not always offered appropriate help. Back-to-work providers must realise that a tick box approach does not work, and that they have to deal with each person’s individual needs if they are to help them off benefits and into appropriate work. The Coalition Government’s planned new single work programme provides an opportunity for a review of the current back-to-work support regime to ensure it becomes more responsive to individual needs and thus more effective.”

For more information contact:

Matt Lancashire
Social Policy Officer
Tel: 0131 550 1062 or 07788546862