Social Security Silo

What do you think? • Social security: insurance or investment? • Good social security: supporting people when they fall on hard times or stopping them fall in the first place?

I think that the second option must be right but, as the paper by Will Horwitz explains, the short-term and Departmental-silo approach of Government spending structures has pushed us to the insurance after-the-fall answer.  And the insurance model can mean that benefit payments may simply end up subsidising other parts of the economy without making enough of a positive difference for the claimants:

  • Working Tax Credits subsidise low paying employers to the tune of around £27bn a year;
  • about £24bn goes in Housing Benefits to landlords and their increasing rents;
  • a sizeable proportion of about £26bn disability provision (nearly equally split between DLA/PIP and incapacity benefits –ESA, IB etc)   will be attributable to employers failing to make adjustments for employees who acquire long-term health conditions (and the author later suggests that some £34bn  are spent each year on benefits related to illness and disability).

Child Benefit (£12bn) that can offset the costs of raising the next generation is sizeable enough but just £5bn on JobSeekers Allowance seems paltry!

So what are the solutions?  More housing might reduce rents (but increase the number of landlords), higher wages might reduce the need for WTC (and benefit savings could be passed to employers through the tax system), more preventative health care might reduce disability (with benefit savings transferred to Public Health), better sanctions on employers might improve retention (and funds raised be used for disability employment support).

The paper suggests a social investment approach that builds human capital: “We picture a society which is defined … by reference to its strengths. Its people are ready and able to benefit from opportunity, to learn at primary school, to thrive in secondary, they are job-ready at 17 and when the time comes they are ready and able to be good parents. Because we all experience difficulties at some point in our lives, they are ready and able also to manage adversity – to cope with losing a job or a relationship, to rebuild after illness or bereavement, to adapt to change”.   The investment model would need changes to current Government funding structures: longer-term and recognition that more money/activity in one area will reap benefits elsewhere – a holistic cross-Departmental rather than silo approach.

In contrast, our current social security system seems to be the sticking plaster that attempts to reduce the impact of faults elsewhere in society but often don’t provide a cure, especially when it is late by design or inefficiency. Waiting for social security can make the patient worse: increasing stress, impacting on mental health, breaking down family support systems, compounding financial difficulties, distracting from job search, reducing the likelihood of returning to work after sickness and more.  Sanctions provide an example of how the current system may be counter-productive: most of the recent increase in sanctions is due to claimants just not understanding their conditions rather than deliberately flouting them.   The result is increasing numbers leaving the benefit system but still not finding work.

The final two chapters of the paper are particularly interesting to anyone concerned with practical employment support:

  • Assume willingness – of people to comply, seek work, improve their lives etc.
  • Provide early interventions – ideally before current employment is jeopardised either by sickness or because jobs are low-paid and insecure.
  • Provide rapid access to support before networks, health, motivation etc break down.
  • Provide more universal support – avoiding eligibility criteria, stigmatisation etc (but universal eligibility shouldn’t mean universal delivery methods that don’t cater for individual needs).
  • Sustain and develop individual’s social relationships networks which amplify support and increase employment opportunities.
  • Incentivise sustainable employment.
  • Devolve employment support to Local Authorities with strong links to local employers and providers and incentivise them further with a share of benefit savings.

You can read the whole paper here

Disability Floristry Art

Disability Floristry Art

Bouquet of the week.

To school friend Maggie who took the time to visit me after nearly 27 years.  She is a triumph of survival: ill-health, challenging relationships plus ill and ageing parents.    Still planning for the future, using her talents and nurturing her family – what an example!

Penny Melville-Brown

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

Public health support disability employment

What do you think? • Funding from Public Health is the way to get more disabled people back to work? • Or is strong leadership focused on outcomes for disabled people the real answer to reducing their cost to the State? • Blind design in pewter is OK but the molten metal is probably a step too far!

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has new ideas about using Public Health money to help more disabled people work – it sounds rather like a return to the old DHSS (Department for Health and Social Security for you young ones!).  A key difference is that they suggest that local Councils lead: “holding the budget, brokering or commissioning provision, and being held to account for performance”.

Our Help to Work activities (www.helptowork.org.uk) have already successfully tested the IPPR vision of partnership delivery:  “to draw together a range of services and support – across employment health, housing, skills, substance abuse and so on”.  Our Steps to Success model shows the different types of help that might be needed – and it is clear that no one delivery organisation can do it all.  To succeed, we know that delivery partners often need to adapt their support for disabled clients:

  • Personal.  One-to-one support tailored to individual needs; flexibility about timings, duration and location of support; building in reasonable adjustments and alternative formats from the outset.
  • Holistic.  Able to coordinate a range of different help without clients becoming lost during “hand-offs”.  Reducing “creaming” and “parking” by valuing outcomes other than just jobs/self-employment.
  • Specialist.  Fully trained and experienced staff; case loads planned on client needs rather than the budget.
  • Local.  Recognising that disabled and disadvantaged people can’t or won’t travel; targeting realistic individual travel-to-work labour markets.

This could all look expensive but is far more achievable if cost is spread across the public sector bodies that will reap the benefits.  IPPR suggests funding from DWP, the health sector (about 7% of Public Health funding plus contributions from Clinical Commissioning Groups), European funds plus social investments.  But this may be not ambitious enough.  There is clearly a case for contributions from other parts of the State that will also see benefits from more disabled people in work: From less re-offending, more tax and NI payments, more skills etc.

Localism is core so the IPPR idea of future Combined Authorities taking the lead could be risky: just new levels of bureaucracy amongst Councils covering large areas with little knowledge or experience of employment support across the diversity of disabilities.  Most important is that they don’t waste time and money on re-inventing the wheels that so many of us have been successfully turning for years.  It may be too optimistic to just bolt on new tasks to existing structures that already have long-term priorities.  Instead, many Councils may need new employment support movers and shakers to drive the vision forward.  If all the experience and target-driven culture of Jobcentres, Work Programme and Work Choice have failed, it is going to take more than different funding streams, devolved responsibilities and partnerships to succeed.   Strong leadership focussed on outcomes for disabled people has more chance than simply moving the deckchairs.

The paper’s recommendation to increase the obligations of both employers and employees to return to work is probably overdue but not demanding enough.  Indeed, they seem to suggest that the Equality Act 2010 is failing: “There are also few requirements on employers to make adjustments to work duties or working conditions or to offer an alternative job, to facilitate a return to work”.  Perhaps there needs to be a sanctions regime as tough as that for benefit recipients that is applied to employers’ unlawful behaviour – without having to go to employment tribunals?  A fairer balance of obligations and consequences faced by both employers and employees would be a valuable step forward – but perhaps there is little political appetite for challenging employers when the vulnerable are easier targets.

Click to read the full report

Finally, on the vexed issue of benefit sanctions, surely most of us agree that there need to be some obligations placed on those claiming benefits (“conditionality”) but equally penalties for failing to fulfil such must be fair and just – see the Guardian article

Bouquet of the week.

Disability creativity

Disability creativity

Goes to Fleur for helping me turn my clay models in to useful little pewter objects.  She did all the complicated pouring of molten metal and soldering while I made moulds with Lego.  It was a good start but I’m going to do better.

 

Penny Melville-Brown

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

150216 - Pewter picture with PMB card 2