No-one Written Off: DWP reforms

About the respondent
Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF) is a national non-government drugs policy and
information agency.
It is a membership-based organisation that works in
partnership with others to co-ordinate effective responses to drug use in
Scotland.1 SDF believes that there is a need for the provision of high quality drug
treatment services and that the vast majority of Scotland’s high levels of
damaging drug use have their roots in, and is perpetuated by, a range of
inequalities that must be addressed.
The SDF membership views expressed within this consultation response were
assembled by inviting the membership to attend a briefing session and/or submit
written comments.
Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF) is a company limited by guarantee,
registration no. 106295 with charitable status and is also a registered Scottish
charity. registered SC 008075.
Registered Office: 91 Mitchell Street, Glasgow, G1 3LN.
Name of consultation document
No one written
welfare to reward
consultation, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Deadline for response
22 October 2008
SDF has 300 members consisting of a mix of individuals and organisations, primarily from the
voluntary and public sectors (
1 Scottish Drugs Forum is strongly opposed to the Green Paper proposals for
compulsory treatment for drug users applying for welfare benefit.
We applaud the Government’s mission to eradicate child poverty, which is
strongly linked to the development and perpetuation of damaging drug use in
young people and adults.
However, we believe that the Green Paper’s proposal to achieve an end to child
poverty through improving employment rates among welfare-dependent
problematic drug users - by forcing them to attend drug treatment to overcome
their problem – is unacceptable and fundamentally defective on the grounds that:
It will increase - not reduce - damaging drug use and the wide-ranging
costs of drug-related harm to families and society
It will increase – not reduce – child, family and pensioner poverty
It is unworkable, especially in light of the current UK and global economic
It disregards the nature of, and highly individualised processes crucial to,
sustainable recovery from problematic drug use.
1.1 Moreover, we are greatly concerned that the language and policy details are
a deliberate and reprehensible effort to characterise people with drugs problems
as feckless, who require to be dealt with by means of the threat and application
of sanctions.
This is in marked contrast to the tone of understanding and encouragement
applied in references to the wider disabled in other sections of the document.
This is despite the fact that people with drug problems are also disabled through
their life circumstances, often combined with – or having resulted from - suffering
from serious and life-diminishing mental health or physical problems; examples
include long-standing depression linked to past trauma or advanced liver disease
through contraction of a bloodborne virus such as Hepatitis C
The Green Paper’s approach is also grossly offensive to thousands of drug users
who want help to begin the long process of moving away from harmful drug use
but have little or no access to the publicly-funded good quality and wide-ranging
treatment, rehabilitation and support necessary to help them prepare for
sustainable re-integration with society.
We also are also concerned about ethical issues surrounding the intention to force
people to self-declare that they are “addicted” into the application process for
benefits. Information-sharing between Jobcentre plus and the criminal justice
system is also not suggested for other health groups, such as people with mental
1.2 We therefore question why this particular population is being specifically
targeted for this sanction-laden approach with current welfare reform, when they
make up only 7 percent of those claiming benefit and there is no international
evidence base for the success of such measures.
We can only assume that problem drug users are being targeted in such a
punitive way because:
Lack of apparent public sympathy for this population will play well with the
wider electorate
Problem drug users provide a vehicle to test proposals which can then be
extended to other groups on benefit at a later date.
1.3 Such crass diversionary tactics appear to seek to lay the greater part of
responsibility for the UK’s damaging drug problem at the door of our most
disadvantaged and disenfranchised individuals.
However, they cynically and conveniently overlook the role of high-level factors
which strongly influence the development and perpetuation of health and social
inequalities leading to child poverty and problematic drug use.
It is unfair and quite incredible that we find the “human collateral damage” of the
UK’s hitherto post-industrial golden age are being further penalised for
behaviours and activities which arise from being overwhelmed by the pressures
of, as the Green Paper puts it, our “increasingly competitive and globalised
1.4 Our view is that we need to recognise that a coercive sanctioning approach
on welfare benefits to people with drug problems – and therefore into work - will
not be successful and indeed, will be gravely counter-productive.
1.5 We are deeply concerned that instead of improving the quality of life for
some of the most disadvantaged children and adult members of our society, the
proposed reforms within this Green Paper could:
increase the potential for chaotic drug use, increased drug deaths and
harm to families - including children - through non-compliance with
enforced drug treatment
discourage people with drug problems from applying for welfare benefit
- thus increasing knock-on hardship for people with drug problems and
their families, including children and pensioners
lead to increases in acquisitive and other crimes to compensate for income
increase pressure on and costs for public services to deal with the fall-out
from all the above.
1.6 By contrast, a holistic approach which addresses the full range of the
complex and deep-rooted issues affecting people with drug problems offers the
best prospects of success.
This would be achieved through access to appropriate and good quality drug
treatment – entered voluntarily when treatment has the best chance of success –
supported by high quality rehabilitation and sustained psycho-social support
including adequately-resourced, meaningful and supported employment and preemployment opportunities.
These opportunities would:
Offset the lack of appropriate job opportunity in a contracting mainstream
labour market linked to widespread employer discrimination
Allow individuals to gain the confidence and skills while being assured of
the “safety-net” of welfare benefit during transitional stages prior to
moving on
Enable people to acquire skills with greater prospects of meaningful and
sustainable employment, lessening the likelihood of returning to in/out of
work poverty and/or problematic drug use.
1.7 Nevertheless, the intense complexity of problematic drug use cannot be
underestimated and it must be fully acknowledged by Government that relapse –
and recurring relapse – is a universally recognised feature in the pathway of
recovery which for some can last many years. This is why a sanctions-based
approach is unfair, unrealistic and counter-productive to the overall objectives of
this exercise.
Furthermore, a minority of people may never be able to overcome their
problematic drug use because multiple overwhelming forces combine to work
against the best efforts of an individual and the support services available (or
not) to him/her, particularly over time.
1.8 Finally, and crucially, it should be noted that key components of the Green
Paper proposals in Scotland are subject to political and legal imperatives in the
devolved areas of health, criminal justice and social work north of the border.
It is essential that people with drug problems in Scotland are not further
disadvantaged by a lack of coherence between UK and Scottish Government
1.9 Before commenting on the specific consultation questions, there are three
important and linked areas that we would like to comment on:
Broader welfare policy concerns
Specific delivery concerns
Specific drug policy concerns
Links between the UK and Scottish Governments
Broader welfare policy concerns
As previously mentioned, there is no robust international evidence base
for these DWP reforms.
Indeed, the DWP commissioned ‘Freud Report’
(2007) noted that: “there is no conclusive evidence that the private sector
outperforms the public sector on current programmes”.
although a work-first approach may effectively reduce the number of
welfare receipts, it is heavily dependent on local circumstances such as
favourable economic and labour market conditions – not a likely prospect
with a looming recession.
It is also worth noting that the perceived
efficiency gains and cost-savings (driving the introduction of similar quasimarkets in countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia) are
still largely unknown and undocumented.
The size of the UK Government’s financial plan to address the
current banking crisis not only overshadows the government’s
social protection yearly budget of £169 billion, but also these DWP
Green Paper proposals.
However, if the Green Paper proposals are
rolled out then there could be a range of serous unintended negative
policy outcomes that require attention:
2.1.1 We are facing a record quarterly rise in unemployment levels - the
biggest jump for 17 years taking the total to 1.79 million - and tighter
public spending, both linked to the current economic crisis. With rising
food and fuel costs, a 25 year old single man will need to get by on a
Jobseeker’s payment of £60.50 per week - nearly half the UK poverty
level threshold for an adult with no children, £122 per week.
Therefore, those furthest from the labour market (i.e. problem
insufficient welfare payments.
2.1.2 It must be seriously questioned that £60-a-week Jobseeker’s
Allowance can provide anything approximating an acceptable
standard of living for someone with limited assets resident in
the sixth largest economy in the world and trying to a) recover
from a drug problem and past personal trauma b) seek and hold down
discrimination and a new regime of severe benefit sanctions.
2.1.3 Single unemployed adults without children are one of the biggest rising
poverty groups in the UK and a significant group seeking help for a
drug problem in Scotland.
Therefore, if we enter a recession with
further increases in unemployment levels, this group of drug users
emergence of welfare-related crime, as opposed to drug-related
crime, in order to survive.
Any emerging welfare-related crime
would fuel local grey economies that would result in an
increased and displaced cost to the public purse i.e. putting more
pressures on a criminal justice system already beset with serious
difficulties such as overcrowded prisons.
2.1.4 There could also be increased and displaced public expenditure
for social and health care budgets which may have to cope with a
further rise in mental health problems if we move large groups of drug
users - not able to move to sustainable work – from higher benefits to
lower jobseeker payments. This may exacerbate an already shocking
national statistic - nearly 1 in 5 of all Scotland’s adult suicides occurred
in the east end of Glasgow which already has high levels of socioeconomic deprivation.
Other NHS resource implications may
include an increase in ill-health related to poor nutrition, which
has significant implications on people’s ability to sustain employment
particularly in manual jobs.
2.1.5 Another significant consequence of drug users facing benefit
sanctions or withdrawal could be an exacerbation of child and
pensioner poverty levels. About eight out of 10 drug users seeking
help in Scotland are unemployed, many long-term, and there are an
estimated 40,000 – 60,000 children affected by their parental drug
use. Moreover, there has also been a rise in levels of kinship carers (a
relative or friend but often a grandparent) looking after a child when
the parents cannot do so, often due to alcohol/drug problems.
Scotland, the numbers of kinship children has risen to just over 14,000
with the majority being looked after informally by grandparents that
often receive very little financial support. We are concerned that in
these financially difficult situations, kinship-grandparents may
end up having to offer extra financial help and support to
vulnerable adult sons/daughters who are suddenly moved
forced from sickness benefits to lower Jobseeker payments or
face benefit sanctions or withdrawal. This scenario that could also
apply to grandparents of people with drug problems but not looking
after their grandchildren.
2.1.6 We are also concerned about the impact and costs to employers
of employing coerced drug users unable to progress to work.
We believe this will only add to the existing employer discrimination.
Moreover, it seems highly likely that in a contracting jobs market,
employers are likely to exercise greater choice in selection, further
distancing the target group from appropriate and sustainable work.
2.1.7 However, even if UK full employment rates remain buoyant, there is a
risk that the majority of welfare claimants will move back and forth
from severe out-of-work poverty towards temporary in-work poverty,
thus preventing social mobility.
The latest UK poverty figures
reveal that among working-age adults in poverty, half live in
families where someone is in paid work i.e. work for these
families is not a route out of poverty.
The Green Paper discourse reveals a use of language that is stigmatising
with a focus on individual blame. The document refers to tackling fraud by
using Voice Risk Analysis (i.e. a ‘lie detector’) and points out that, “Benefit
fraud is theft of honest taxpayers’ money.” Pg.45.
This tone not only
reveals a lack of compassion for some of our most vulnerable
members of society but presents a disingenuous and damaging
picture of “thieving benefit claimants” draining the resources of
“hard working” tax payers.
National Audit figures challenging this received view – they reveal that UK
benefit fraud is at record low levels of £0.8 billion. However, in stark
contrast, a recent report on the UK Tax Gap noted that the
combined cost of tax fraud and avoidance is £35 billion. Although
tax avoidance is certainly not illegal it is also not a socially and
economically cohesive gesture.
Specific delivery concerns
We note that the Green Paper points out that: “Jobcentre Plus is
recognised as one of the best back-to-work agencies in the world. Its staff
have unrivalled knowledge of their customers and their needs; and have a
superb record of delivering core back-to-work support.”
Despite such
fulsome praise we have serious concerns about the proposed
Green Paper delivery role for the voluntary sector and the
introduction of a free market competitive culture which is at odds
with many drug users requiring long term support. Here, as
elsewhere in the Green Paper, the impact of drug users lapsing and
relapsing receives no consideration.
In the last 10 years, the Australian voluntary sector has gained
extensive experience of these market welfare reforms which may
offer valuable lessons for the UK sector.
Australian voluntary
organisations holding a welfare-to-work contract described feeling highly
constrained and dependent on government funding – impacting on their
ability to be critical and to ascertain how far their organisation was
prepared to go with these market reforms. They also described a process
that was highly regulated, involved a sophisticated level of IT system
surveillance of customers and providers, was considered a low cost-benefit
activity and involved managerial/contractual requirements that led to a
miserable experience for service users.
Creating a miserable experience for service users will not result in
positive outcomes.
Therefore, it is important that voluntary sector
agencies consider the implications of these new contracts. For instance, a
new culture of staff playing a role in benefit sanctions and meeting hard
job outcomes with long-term unemployed drug users facing a range of
major barriers may challenge not only their organisation’s philosophy and
values, but also established therapeutic working relationship with clients.
Critically, such inhibitors may discourage vulnerable individuals in
We need to also ensure that this new market culture does not
continue to create substantial rewards at the expense of our most
disadvantaged members of society facing severe hardship.
employment services are deriving very substantial benefits. One company
director received over £580,000 while a founding member of another
company collected over £1.1 million in dividends alone in 2005. Amongst
non-commercial organisations, the salaries of some senior officials are also
rising to over £100,000 per annum. It is difficult to see how we can justify
these significant financial rewards at the top-end when set against some of
their clients receiving a welfare payment of just over £60 per week.
Moreover, in a new right to bid culture that rewards hard job outcomes,
we may see employment services ‘cherry picking’ those nearer the job
market over those with more complex needs who could benefit from softer
employability approaches e.g. confidence building and developing literacy
and numeracy skills.
the UK
becomes less gloomy
employment levels were to recur, there are more constructive delivery
solutions that would involve moving away from focussing on individuals to
look at creating sustainable, decently paid jobs in areas facing high levels
of unemployment and disadvantage.
We have argued, in a recent
Scottish Government consultation response, for the need to extend
“community benefit clauses".
These are legally binding clauses that
ensure that those who win construction contracts must employ a certain
percentage of local people, such as the unemployed, to renew the area.2
We also believe that there is a need to ensure that public sector
organisations take the lead by increasing the use of community benefits
clauses in their contracting processes.
These legally binding “community benefit clauses" could also help
overcome widespread employer discrimination towards disadvantaged
areas and groups.
The clauses also offering dynamic structural
opportunities to link local regeneration and DWP policies to
There are vulnerable groups for whom the hard outcome of getting a job is
not a realistic one - due to barriers including issues of personal capacity of
a temporary or longer lasting nature – and we need to revisit initiatives
with a proven track record.
In Scotland, positive outcomes have been
achieved through the New Futures Fund (NFF).
Hailed as a successful
employability initiative that guided the development of the Progress-2Work initiative, the NFF aims were to engage and work with those furthest
from the labour market, such as drug users.
Positive NFF outcomes
employed/self-employed, 12% went into education, 14% went
into government programmes and 10% were involved in voluntary
Scottish Government Discussion Paper: Taking forward the government Economic Strategy: A
Discussion Paper on Tackling Poverty, Inequality and Deprivation in Scotland - Scottish Drugs Forum,
Alcohol Focus Scotland and the Scottish Poverty Information Unit, June 2008.
Financial debt, such as council tax and rent arrears, is an established and
ever-present reality for many drug users which exacerbates income
inequality and seriously hampers the ability to move on from a serious
drug problem.
A past SDF study involving 115 people stabilised on
methadone revealed that one in five owed more than £4,000, with 38%
owing between £500 and £4,000. Most of these unavoidable debts were
for council tax or owed to mainstream financial institutions and were often
linked to poor literacy skills in completing forms. Therefore, if we are to
important that we extend and develop welfare advice, money
management and advocacy services to this marginalised group.
Specific drug policy concerns
We have major concerns about the DWP Green Paper’s silence on
the “unfit-for-work” implications of the Hepatitis C epidemic. With
an estimated 50,000 people infected by the virus in Scotland, mainly
through injecting drugs, about six out of 10 are unaware of their diagnosis
and nearly eight out of 10 are chronically infected.
Many chronically
infected, undiagnosed people may experience a range of real and
debilitating health problems – especially ongoing severe fatigue – that
may affect their fitness for work.
It is important that this hidden Hepatitis C epidemic is not
overlooked during the new process of Work Capability Assessment
(WCA) and that we avoid labelling people with chronic Hepatitis C
infection and debilitating health problems as malingerers. We must
afford them the same rights and dignity as any other health population
groups with disabilities.
In terms of social protection, we must not
overlook the fact that an increasing number will enter Hepatitis C
treatment (which can be seriously incapacitating) and may have to move
on to the higher Employment Support Allowance because of their condition
and to ensure successful treatment outcomes.
Asking people to self declare that they are “addicted to heroin or
crack cocaine” is a highly questionable departure from commonly
International Classification of Diseases (ICD). The ICD is a complex
system involving various diagnostic categories and sub categories.
categories linked to substance use are harmful use, psychotic disorder or
dependence syndrome, to name but a few.
Those who self declare an “addiction” or dependency syndrome need to
ensure that they have three cardinal features from the ICD list present for
a least a year - a difficult task if personal denial is part of the problem!
This approach is discriminating and would not be applied to any other
health population group.
For instance, it would be considered offensive to ask people with mental
health problems not in treatment to self declare any hidden condition or
face future sanctions.
Linked to this proposed approach, we are also
concerned that there are already some punitive working practices
emerging when it comes to engaging drug users and that this new
proposal would only strengthen this punitive climate.
The introduction of a treatment allowance for drug users entering
treatment may be counter productive. It may act as an incentive for
those on inadequate welfare payments but not “addicted” to drugs to seek
the additional payment. There is also the concern that the drive to
move more people into drug treatment will cause problems in
areas where people are already waiting to access treatment - in
some areas for one year or more.
It is difficult to see how front line employment staff will be
adequately equipped to respond to the inherent challenges of a
lapsing-relapsing drug problem, ‘hidden’ Hepatitis C challenges or
drug users with complex mental and physical health problems.
Finally, with stigma considered an important block to personal recovery for
drug users, it is difficult to see how this can be overcome if welfare
claimants are feeling harassed and have to constantly justify their
Links between the UK and Scottish Governments
There are crossover policy areas, covering criminal justice, health and
social care, devolved to the Scottish Government that may require further
The Green Paper proposal that welfare and criminal justice
information exchange should occur is problematic and undesirable
within a Scottish context.
In Scotland, local authorities remain the
statutory authority for probation function, child protection and some
drug/alcohol services.
They also have a general statutory duty for the
promotion of social welfare of individuals. To share information on the
basis suggested in the Green Paper, with the explicit intention to
fundamental conflict with their statutory duties which are much
wider than the equivalent bodies in England and Wales.
On the issue of enabling disabled people to access an individual budget if
they want one, the Green Paper fails to acknowledge that social care
policies are devolved to the Scottish Government. Similarly, although the
paper refers to the Carers’ Strategy, this strategy does not apply to
Furthermore, the new Concordat arrangements between the
opportunities and significant challenges for carers and kinship carers in
Scotland that are largely absent from this Green Paper.
Consultation Questions
Please note that in response to these consultation questions, we will make
reference to the detailed themes in the first part of this document (points 1 – 5).
Question 1: How long should ‘work for your benefit’ last at different
stages in the claim?
Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF) is deeply opposed to the concept of compelling some
of our most disadvantaged members of society to work for insufficient welfare
This is a harsh and punitive measure that transforms individual
support into punishment.
It also serves as a distraction from addressing the
more important structural policy areas, highlighted at the outset, that need
attention such as in-work poverty, insufficient social protection, employer
discrimination and a lack of suitable support for carers and children.
We are also concerned that the ongoing stigmatisation of people with drug
problems will result in many of them with genuine undiagnosed disabilities - e.g.
severe depression or liver disease - being denied additional support and moved
into ‘work for your benefit’ (points 4 and 4.1).
Question 2: How could capacity and capability to provide full-time work
experience in the community sector be provided and incentivised to
produce the best employment outcomes for participants?
SDF is concerned that this reform could seriously undermine the community
sector’s value system and aims. Many of the values that attract people to work
within the community sector – fairness, equity and social justice to name but a
few – could be seriously undermined by a culture of compulsion that could also be
viewed as exploitative, cheap unpaid labour.
Question 3: Is full-time ‘work for your benefit’ as an alternative to a
sanction of loss of benefit for repeated non-compliance with work search
requirements an effective option for some jobseekers? How should it be
No. We are opposed to both approaches - ‘work for your benefit’ and
Question 4: What penalties do you think would be most effective to deter
more people from committing benefit fraud?
As outlined in points 2.2 and 2.3 covering welfare policy concerns, we believe
that this Green Paper presents a skewed and disingenuous picture of “thieving
benefit claimants” draining the resources of “hard working” tax payers.
With the National Audit revealing record low levels of UK benefit fraud (£0.8
billion), we believe that the UK Government should address the much larger and
pressing problem of tax avoidance and tax fraud.
As previously noted, the
combined UK cost of tax fraud and avoidance is £35 billion and although tax
avoidance is not illegal, we do not consider it a socially and economically cohesive
gesture (point 2.3).
We believe the UK government should move away from “benefit cheat” media
campaigns and the increasing use of technology on benefit claimants (i.e. lie
detectors) towards addressing the more significant problems of tax fraud and
Question 5: Do you think it would be appropriate to reduce or withdraw
entitlement to benefit after a first offence? How long should the sanction
period be?
No. As stated in question 4, we should address the more serious UK problems of
tax avoidance and fraud.
Question 6: Do you agree with the proposed approach for identifying
problem drug use? How should it be implemented? Do you think that
everyone claiming a working-age benefit should be required to make a
declaration of whether or not they use certain specified drugs?
No. We are strongly opposed to the proposed approach for identifying problem
drug use.
We believe that it is a further example of stigmatising some of the
most disadvantaged members of our society. It is also another example of our
surveillance culture that abandons the notion of any right to privacy, respect or
There is also a serous risk that this stigmatising approach would drive some of
our most disadvantaged members of society from seeking mainstream help and
into severe economic hardships.
This could result in the emergence of welfare-related crime and fuel local grey
economies with an increased and displaced cost to the public purse i.e. criminal
justice, health and social care systems having to deal with the displaced effects.
These reforms could also unintentionally exacerbate child and pensioner poverty
levels (points 2.1.2 – 2.1.6).
We also believe that asking people to self declare that they are “addicted” is a
highly questionable approach that would not be applied to other health groups,
such as people with mental health problems (point 4.2).
At a logistic level, we cannot see how the DWP would have adequate resources to
extend further identification within Jobcentre Plus for those dependent on
cannabis, powder cocaine or alcohol.
There would also be serious resource concerns for drug services having to
respond to these additional groups.
Finally, we would urge caution about
adopting a wholesale approach (i.e. everyone must be in treatment) that
devalues the (more successful) processes of natural self change from substance
use problems that may occur among some subgroups.
Question 7: What elements should an integrated system of drug
treatment and employment support include? Do you agree that a
rehabilitation plan would help recovering drug users to manage their
condition and move towards employment?
We agree that there is a need for an integrated system of drug treatment and
employment support that involves a rehabilitation plan.
However, we do not
believe that the proposed framework within this DWP Green paper – focussing on
hard job outcomes - is a productive way forward. We have already highlighted
alternative approaches, such as:
Using legal binding “community benefit clauses" to create meaningful and
sustainable jobs for disadvantaged groups and areas (point 3.5)
Re-visiting the successful work of the New Futures Fund (NFF) in Scotland
which achieved a range of positive outcomes without resorting to sanctions
(point 3.6)
Extending and developing welfare advice, money management and advocacy
services to this marginalised group (point 3.7).
Question 8: When is the right time to require ESA claimants to take a
skills health check?
We believe that there is no ‘right time’ for claimants to take a skills health check
and we are concerned that it could result in a cursory tick box approach to
support. Any new approach to a skills health check needs to be relevant for the
person involved and not part of a rigid timetable. It should be a bespoke service
that responds to the claimant’s specific needs and concerns. This new approach
will require personal advisers to undergo additional training to meet these needs.
Question 9: Should ESA customers be required to attend training in order
to gain the identified skills they need to enter work?
We believe that it is morally questionable to compel people to undertake training
that could result in setting them up to fail or be penalised for not achieving
unrealistic goals that may lead to an exacerbation of a health condition.
For example, a drug user with marked liver disease could face deterioration in
their health if required to undertake demanding or stressful work. This situation
could be exacerbated further if the person has to undergo hepatitis c treatment
which in itself can be a very exhausting and demanding process.
The above
health risks are compounded by the fact that the person requiring them to
undertake such activities will not have specialist expertise e.g. drug/alcohol,
blood borne virus or occupational health.
A lack of awareness could lead to
serious health set backs occurring for the ESA customer/claimant.
Question 10: In view of the need to help lone parents develop the skills
they need to find work, are we right to require lone parents to have a
skills health check and training as a condition of receiving benefit?
It is important that any support offered to lone parents is offered on a voluntary –
not mandatory – basis with skills-related activity that is flexible to meet their
needs e.g. taking account of school hours and offering financial support to those
requiring childcare facilities.
We recognise that many lone parents not in the labour market often have low
skill levels – 1 in 4 does not have qualifications.
Therefore, it is important to
increase the support available to those lone parents wanting to prepare for work
and move closer to the labour market.
However, the majority of lone parents
want to undertake work at a time that they feel is right for their family.
Question 11: Should we pilot extra benefit payments for lone parents in
return for training, and if so, when the youngest child is what age?
See answer to Question 10. We do agree with piloting extra benefit payments for
lone parents but it must be within the context of a framework that is a)
voluntary, not mandatory and b) occurs when the lone parent feels they are
ready or prepared for work or moving closer to the labour market.
We also believe that the age of the youngest child is less important than ensuring
that the lone parent has control and choice over the decision and receives
adequate support e.g. financial and childcare.
Question 12: Are there any other circumstances where customers cannot
get the skills they need to enter employment under present and planned
Yes. We have concerns that the proposed quasi-market reforms - focusing on
hard job outcomes - will create a culture that devalues positive employability
outcomes for those furthest from the labour market (see comments on the New
Futures Fund successful outcomes which were achieved without resorting to
sanctions – point 3.6).
In other countries, a market-driven approach has been found to be ineffective
and promotes a culture of ‘cherry picking’ those nearest the labour market and
‘parking’ of jobseekers, particularly those who have complex, multiple and longterm needs. Therefore, we believe that learning from past initiatives like the New
Futures Fund could prevent this situation of ‘cherry picking’ and long-term
‘parking’ and neglect of jobseekers with complex and multiple needs from
Question 13: How might we build on the foundations of the current rules
so that they do not discourage unemployed people from volunteering as
a deliberate back-to-work strategy, while retaining a clear focus on
moving off welfare into paid employment?
We have concerns that the almost exclusive focus on the societal value of paid
work continues to devalue other forms of contribution outside the labour market,
such as caring or volunteering.
Volunteering is increasingly being recognised as an important resource for people
with drug problems – serving as a useful therapeutic tool in itself, helping them
acquire important skills and confidence, or aid the person towards education,
training or indeed employment opportunities.
Therefore, we believe that this expanding work-first climate will heighten the
sense of marginalisation and insecurity that many drug users with chronic health
problems face. Sadly, paid employment is not currently, and might never be, a
realistic option for some drug users. Therefore, they may perceive other doors as
being closed for fear of losing their benefits in this work-first climate e.g. they
may withdraw from thinking about or carrying on volunteering.
Question 14: Do you agree that the WCA and WFHRA should be refocused to increase work-related support?
On an international level, the Personal Capability Assessment is already
considered a very rigorous process and we are concerned that the new WCA is an
even tougher test that will lead to some of the most vulnerable members of our
society failing it and ending up not being able to comply with the conditionality
and sanctions regime of lower jobseeker payments.
We have already highlighted that large scale ‘parking’ of a vulnerable population
on to insufficient Jobseeker’s payments during a period of looming recession,
rising unemployment levels and soaring food and fuel costs will lead to increased
and displaced costs to the public purse i.e. towards criminal justice, health and
social care systems with also a potential negative impact on child and pensioner
poverty levels (points 2.1.2 – 2.1.6).
Other concerns are a potential future conflict between two different aims: the
WCA aim of providing an objective medical assessment for claimants; and, the
expressed UK government aim of moving one million people off sickness benefits
by 2015.
A specific concern previously raised is the importance of not overlooking the
hidden Hepatitis C epidemic. The WCA staff must avoid labelling ex and current
drug users with undiagnosed chronic Hepatitis C infection and debilitating health
problems as malingerers. They must also be aware that ex and current drug
users entering Hepatitis C treatment may have to move on to the higher
Employment Support Allowance because of their condition and to ensure
successful treatment outcomes (point 4.1)
Question 15: What expectations should there be of people undertaking
the personalised support we will now be offering in the Work Related
Activity Group? Could this include specific job search?
The proposed level of conditionality for the work-related activity ESA group
should not include job search activity.
Compelling people who are sick or
disabled to seek employment before they are ready – through conditionality or
employment. As previously noted it will be counter-productive - worsening their
health and delaying any chance of a successful transition into work.
Question 16: How can we make Access to Work more responsive to the
needs of claimants with fluctuating conditions – including mental health
We believe that there is a need to revisit some of the assumptions made explicit
in the Green Paper foreword that demarcates between ‘real help for disabled
people’ and “treatment for drug misusers coupled with clear consequences for
those who fail to take it up”.
Some people with drug problems face real
disabilities (such as severe depression and anxiety often linked to past personal
trauma or chronic hepatitis c infection) and may benefit from Access to Work
On the grounds of equality, the DWP desire to make Access to Work more
responsive to the needs of people with fluctuating conditions, including mental
health conditions, should also be extended to people with drug and alcohol
problems also experiencing real disabilities.
It is also important that more employers are made aware of the Access to Work
scheme and its changing remit.
Question 17: What additional flexibilities in the system or forms of
support would claimants with multiple and complex problems need to
enable them to meet the new work-focused requirements proposed in
this Green Paper?
It is important that the key themes already outlined in this response are attended
to as follows:
Recognition that many people with drug problems also face a range of
serious physical and mental disabilities and should be accorded the same
equality, support and respect offered to others experiencing disabilities.
These DWP proposals also need to consider specific health challenges, such
as the ‘silent’ Hepatitis C epidemic among ex and current drug users and
those experiencing co-existing mental health problems.
As previously stated, it is also worth reiterating the negative impact these welfare
reforms may have on individuals if we witness other displaced policy effects e.g.
additional work for criminal justice, health and social care systems and an
unintentional impact on kinship carers that exacerbates child and pensioner
poverty levels.
Question 18: What are the key features of an action planning approach
that would best support employees and employers to take the steps for
the employee to make a swifter return to work?
We do not have comments on this specific question.
Question 19:
There is no Question 19.
Question 20: What approach might be suitable to assist partners of
benefit claimants who can work into employment?
As previously noted in Question 13 (on volunteering), we have serious concerns
that the almost exclusive valuing of paid work has been at the expense of
devaluing other forms of socially and economically viable work outside the labour
market, such as caring. It is worth revisiting a UNICEF report finding from last
year - children in the UK came bottom of a league table for child well-being
across 21 industrialised countries, with one of the lead authors commenting on
our "dog-eat-dog" society.
We believe that unpaid work such as caring is a vital social activity that needs to
be valued and respected if we are going to address the serious social problems
such as disaffected young people, under-attainment in education, truancy, street
drinking etc.
We cannot address these challenges if we create a situation
whereby all parents have to work long hours, try to avoid in-work poverty, and
also ensure they have enough time and energy to play with their children and
help socialise them.
Question 21: What are the next steps in enabling disabled people,
reliably and easily, to access an individual budget if they want one?
Should they include legislation to give people a right to ask for a budget
or will the other levers the Government has got prove sufficient? What
are the safeguards that should be built in? How can this be done?
We welcomes that disabled people should be provided with the support they need
to live independently and to take control of their own lives.
However, the
proposals are not very detailed which makes comment difficult and there are
additional devolved areas requiring attention.
The Green Paper does not acknowledge that social care policies are devolved to
the Scottish Government and like other devolved areas already mentioned in this
response, requires further clarification.
A specific area we believe that need to be clarified relates to an equality theme.
As previously noted, ex and current drug users also face real disabilities and
should be offered the option of an individual budget.
This will become a more
pressing area of concern when the long-term effects of the Hepatitis C epidemic
unfold e.g. home support and day care required for a stable drug user, with
children, suffering from advanced liver cancer.
Question 22: Is a system based on a single overarching benefit the right
long-term aspiration? How could a simpler system be structured so as to
meet varying needs and responsibilities?
We have concerns that a work-first climate, below-poverty level benefit payments
and high levels of in-work poverty are much more pressing challenges needing to
addressed, than streamlining a simpler benefits system.
Furthermore, we cannot see how the benefit system can be streamlined when we
could be witnessing a conflation of various complex roles (health, social care and
criminal justice) with differing aims and objectives within Jobcentre Plus.
Question 23: Would moving carers currently on IS onto JSA be a suitable
way of helping them to access the support available to help combine
caring with paid work or preparing for paid work?
conditionality, will not create a simpler benefits system but a confusing two-tier
Although Jobseeker’s Allowance is a benefit designed specifically for
people seeking jobs it might, nevertheless, result in carers feeling pressurised to
seek work despite not feeling able to combine work with caring.
Although the DWP Green Paper acknowledges the Carers’ Strategy, this strategy
does not apply to Scotland.
Furthermore, the new concordat arrangements
between the Scottish Government and local authorities will present emerging
opportunities and challenges for carers and kinship carers in Scotland. Despite
these new arrangements significantly impacting on carers and kinship carers in
Scotland, any discussion is absent from this Green Paper.
Question 24: How might we reform Bereavement Benefit and IIDB to
provide better support to help people adjust to their new circumstances
while maintaining the work focus of the modern welfare state?
We do not have any comments on this question.
Question 25: Are lump sum payments a good way of meeting people’s
needs? Do they give people more choice and control? Could we make
more use of them?
It will depend on personal circumstances. For example, if a lump sum payment
was made and the person had a range of complex needs, which may include the
need for money management advice, then there is a risk that they could go into
further debt due to a lack of skills in this area.
Question 27: What would the processes around contributing to
commissioning and performance management look like in a range of
different partnership areas? How might they best be managed to achieve
the desired outcomes?
We are opposed to the right bid and have made detailed comments and provided
alternative solutions to this suggested approach e.g. Community Benefit Clauses
and the New Futures Fund. See points 3 – 3.7.
Question 28: How could a link be made to the radical proposals for the
pilots set out in Chapter 3, which seek to reward providers for outcomes
out of the benefit savings they achieve?
See previous answer: detailed comments and alternative solutions can be found
in points 3 – 3.7.
Question 29: How effective are current monitoring and evaluation
arrangements for City Strategies?
We do not have any comments on this question.
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