A leading disabled campaigner is to head a new government review of the employment support it offers disabled people.
Liz Sayce, chief executive of RADAR, will review support services such as those provided through the new Work Choice programme, the government’s planned Work Programme – set to launch next summer – and Access to Work.
She will be asked to make recommendations for how the government’s strategy could be improved, including within Work Choice and the Work Programme.
Both programmes are set to play crucial roles in the coalition government’s plans to cut the number of disabled people claiming incapacity benefits.
Chris Grayling, the employment minister, told the Conservative conference in October that the Work Programme would be “one of the biggest employment and back to work programmes the world has ever seen”.
He said the programme would “create a whole new world for benefit claimants” with “no more sitting at home on benefits doing nothing”, while those who refused to cooperate would lose their benefits.
Sayce said at the time that she wanted to know that the government would take account of those people – such as those with fluctuating, serious mental health conditions – who do not respond to elements of the Work Programme because of their impairment. And she said it was vital that the support provided through the Work Programme was accessible.
Sayce will also examine support provided by the government through the nine residential training colleges and through Remploy, which provides specialist employment services – including some Work Choice contracts – and runs 54 sheltered factories.
In July, RADAR published a report – written by Sayce and funded by Remploy – which suggested that most disabled people were better off being supported to find mainstream employment rather than “special” jobs in separate, sheltered workplaces.
In a statement, Sayce said she hoped the review would help the government make “real improvements to the services that support disabled people who want to develop fulfilling careers”.
She added: “I hope that by starting from disabled people’s experience and aspirations, and reviewing evidence from research and from practice, we will understand the most effective approaches to supporting satisfying, sustainable employment.”
Maria Miller, minister for disabled people, said:
“Too often in the past disabled people have been failed by the programmes that were meant to help them, and that has to stop.”
She said the government expected that the Work Programme and Work Choice would support more disabled people into work every year than “any of its predecessor government programmes”.
The review should be published next summer.