March 2017: Touchbase edition 119

Updated 25 April 2017

1. Welcome to Touchbase edition 119

This month’s Touchbase focusses on the Personal Support Package initiative. The initiative offers tailored employment support which Jobcentre Plus work coaches will help disabled people or people with health conditions to access.

Further information on the Personal Support Package can be found in the Work, health and disability green paper consultation.

This month’s edition also includes information on:

  • Work Programme referrals
  • the Disability Employment Adviser role in jobcentres
  • changes to Employment and Support Allowance work-related activity payments
  • the defined benefit pension schemes green paper
  • the May 2017 local and mayoral elections

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2. Employment

The Personal Support Package – Community Partners

Community Partners will be introduced to Jobcentres in a phased approach from April to August 2017. They will:

  • provide expert knowledge of disability to enhance the support we provide to claimants
  • give advice and support to work coaches and Disability Employment Advisers in all areas of disability
  • raise awareness of the effect a person’s disability can have on finding and keeping a job

The Community Partner role will vary to ensure that the support provided in each district can meet the needs of the claimants there.

The Personal Support Package – Small Employer Offer

The Small Employer Offer gives Jobcentre Plus the opportunity to raise awareness with small employers of the support available to them when employing a person with a long-term health condition or disability.

102 new Small Employer Advisers (3 per district) will work with local small employers and work coaches to provide support for small employers and their new employees.

The advisers will:

  • work with small employers to develop and maintain relationships
  • ensure the correct person is referred to a vacancy or work experience opportunity
  • support employers and their employees when completing Access to Work applications

The Personal Support Package – Access to Work

Access to Work gives financial support to help eligible people with a health condition or disability to:

  • take up a job offer
  • retain employment

Currently, people with a mental health condition can receive 6 months of support via the Mental Health Support Service to start a new job.

As part of the Personal Support Package, there will be 1,000 extra Mental Health Support Service places for:

  • new Employment and Support Allowance claimants from 3 April 2017 in the work-related activity group
  • those with limited capability for work in Universal Credit, who have a job start date

Approximately 50% of people in these groups have a mental health condition and referring candidates who obtain a job offer can help make their transition more sustainable.

The Personal Support Package – Work Choice

Work Choice is a voluntary employment programme for people living in England and Wales who, due to their disability, may find it difficult to find or keep a job.

Work Choice is delivered for DWP by external contractors and has effectively provided support, with job outcome rates seeing a steady improvement since the programme was introduced.

From 3 April 2017, extra places on Work Choice are being funded for people who have limited capability for work and are not eligible for:

  • the work-related activity component in Employment and Support Allowance
  • the additional payment for having limited capability for work in Universal Credit, but who will be work ready within 12 months

Referrals to Work Choice will end when the new Work and Health programme starts in November 2017.

Final Work Programme referrals

The Work Programme has been DWP’s largest contracted employment programme. It transformed the lives of those furthest from the labour market, and has helped over 550,000 people into sustained employment.

Alongside existing programmes, the new Work and Health Programme is designed to help customers with health and disability issues and the long-term unemployed. As a result, Jobcentre Plus will make final referrals to the Work Programme on 31 March 2017. Participants referred by that date will receive personalised support from their Work Programme provider for up to 2 years.

The Disability Employment Adviser (DEA) role in Jobcentres is changing

We are recruiting up to 300 more Jobcentre DEAs, taking the total to over 500 by 31 March 2017.

DEAs will further support work coaches by:

  • raising disability awareness
  • providing tailored support to help them with individual cases

This will ensure that Jobcentre work coaches benefit from the expertise of the DEA as the role is re-launched.

DEAs will be the Jobcentre link to other organisations such as health professionals and local charities. By building and maintaining strong relationships with these organisations, DEAs can ensure Jobcentre colleagues have up to date information about local and national courses and programmes to help people with a complex health condition or disability.

The new DEA role forms part of a wider initiative to improve the lives of people with a disability or long-term health condition.

3. Welfare

From 3 April 2017 there will be changes to ESA work-related activity payments for all new ESA claimants who are placed in the WRAG. Claimants who apply for ESA before 3 April will not be affected by the changes.

Find out more about ESA changes from 3 April 2017.

The change to ESA WRAG payments is being mirrored by a similar change to the limited capability for work payments in Universal Credit, for claimants with a disability or health condition.

Find out more about Universal Credit: changes to limited capability for work payments.

4. Pensions

Join the debate

DWP has launched a green paper looking at the security and sustainability of defined benefit (DB) pension schemes.

Currently around 11 million current and future pensioners in the UK will rely on a DB scheme for all or part of their retirement.

The paper considers:

  • scheme funding and investment
  • employer contributions and affordability
  • member protection
  • scheme consolidation

We want to encourage the debate around striking the right balance between the needs and aspirations of scheme members, sponsoring employers and the wider economy to ensure that no one group is unfairly disadvantaged.

We are keen to hear from:

  • members of DB schemes
  • employers
  • trustees
  • pensions professionals

Find out more about the defined benefit pension schemes: security and sustainability green paper.

5. Elections

May 2017 local and mayoral elections

Want to have your say in the local and mayoral elections on 4 May 2017? You must register to vote by:

  • 13 April in England and Wales
  • 17 April in Scotland

6. Round Up

News from across government about skills, pensions, work support and support for people claiming benefits

31 Mar 100,000 new businesses launched thanks to employment scheme
31 Mar Welfare reforms and £330 million employment package start from April 2017
30 Mar Paul Gray publishes second review of Personal Independence Payment
27 Mar New chair appointed to The Pensions Advisory Service
23 Mar John Cridland CBE and the Government Actuary’s Department release reports into the future State Pension age
22 Mar UK families will soon see bills cut as date announced for the launch of Tax-Free Childcare
16 Mar Household incomes remain highest on record
16 Mar New chair appointed to The Pensions Advisory Service
15 Mar Unemployment rate falls to lowest since 2005
1 Mar Children living in workless households at lowest level since records began