Glasgow Central CAB's social policy team has recently finished working on a project with local student, Aisling Clark, to produce a report looking at the experiences of clients who have been perceived as 'fit to work'.
Aisling is in the 3rd year of her studies at Glasgow Caledonian University and was paired with GCCAB during her Community Links module. Social policy co-ordinator and volunteer adviser based at the bureau, Jim McAleese, supervised the project. She conducted an in-depth literature review analysing secondary data relating to ESA, including research already conducted by CAS, Malcolm Harrington reports and Poverty Alliance Briefing (2012). She then went on to conduct 5 telephone interviews with clients from the bureau.
Aisling speaks of her experiences and conclusions from the project:
"The project was initially put together in the hope of finding out if claimants going through the process of ESA are made fit for work. However the conclusion of the report found that many of claimants are not fit for work and will not be in the near future. The assessment process is not fit for purpose and is leaving some of the most vulnerable people in society in a state of anxiety with no coherent work programme to let them enter the employment market. There has also been a complete failure to utilize the services and expertise of disability charities many of whom have Job Support Workers. Volunteer centres could also be used to find volunteering placements in the community to provide a sense of belonging for many of these individuals and remove their virtual isolation from society."
Aisling has since received great feedback from the university and was rewarded a high grade for the work produced. She speaks of the benefits of working with GCCAB:
"The project has benefited my future studies as it has given me experience to carry out literature reviews, analyse secondary data, and conduct interviews. The project also gave me an insight into, and experience of a work related environment. It is all invaluable knowledge which will contribute to my dissertation project next year and work in the future. I would recommend that other bureaux try to get students involved from local colleges and universities as much can be learnt and gained from the experience."
Off the back of this report, the social policy team at GCCAB are keen to do further research into the experiences of those in the ESA Work Related Activity Group and on the Work Programme and are currently in the process of getting back in touch with the interviewees to see how they have progressed.
If any other bureaux have had experiences of ex-ESA/IB clients deemed fit for work or they have had experiences of the Work Programme (even personal experience) and the advisers would like to share their info, then it would be greatly appreciated if they got in touch with Lynn Pilkington Lynn.Pilkington@GlasgowCentralCAB.casonline.org.uk