Thinktank Demos has published a report in which they say the Government should consider abolishing the Department for Work and Pensions due to its inability to help ill and disabled people get out of poverty, saying the work could be more effectively undertaken by other departments.
Written by Tom Pollard in time on secondment from mental health charity Mind, the paper notes that the DWP only manages to move 4% of people on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) into work each year, concluding: “DWP is institutionally and culturally incapable of making the reforms needed to achieve such a shift in outcomes for ill and disabled people, or for ‘harder-to-help’ groups more widely”.
Pollard notes that the approach used on claimants with difficulties getting into employment is ineffective when applied to “people with more complex needs,” like those who are ill, disabled, older, with addiction issues, ex-prisoners or homeless people.
Instead, it recommends that for disabled people, help with employment issues should be handed to the Department for Health and Social Care, NHS England, and the Department for Education over the DWP, who would in this scenario do no more than pay their benefits, instead of “bullying” them into employment.
Pollard writes: “If the removal of these functions from the DWP proves to be a success, a more comprehensive approach could see the department abolished altogether.
“If the department as it stands remains at the heart of employment support for ‘harder-to-help’ groups, we will face further years of well-intentioned reforms and programmes yielding disappointing outcomes, because of how they will be formulated and how they will be received.”
The DWP has faced significant criticism during the rollout of its Universal Credit scheme, which was branded “cruel and inhuman” by the UN’s special rapporteur Philip Alston. Since her promotion to head of the Department, Amber Rudd has been attempting to restore its reputation by making changes to the system.
Speaking to the Guardian, 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. 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.”Get your copy of UNITE Magazine