Headlines: February 11th, 2005

A charity that helps people with disabilities to find employment wants the chance to play a leading role in a government initiative designed to get people off incapacity benefit and into work.With the Pathways To Work programme now being rolled out across the country, after successful pilots, the Shaw Trust, the UK’s largest provider of employment services for disabled people has called for its experts to play a leading role.

The Trust believes Pathways to Work is a well thought out and innovative strategy that is already making an impact in the areas in which it is operating. At the same time it is claiming that it and other voluntary and private sector groups are best placed to deliver the programme. This, the Trust says is due in part to the fact that there is evidence that claimants prefer to deal with organisations that are independent of the Government. Ian Charlesworth managing director of the Shaw Trust says bodies like his can operate more effectively and achieve better results.

The Trust claims it is outperforming the Government’s own targets in all areas and says that in three areas where it also operates a job-broking service, there has been a marked increase in referrals from Jobcentre Plus. “As always we are hampered because we are not allowed to access claimants directly,” Mr. Charlesworth said. He believed that if his organisation were running the Pathways programme the welfare to work success rates would soar. “Claimants tend to be suspicious of government-led support and we are the experts in helping people to make the break from benefits,” he added.

He welcomed plans to reform the benefit system but refuted suggestions that people made false claims to milk the system and said anyone who looked on Incapacity Benefit as a road to riches had clearly never tried to live on it.

Figures show only about half of disabled people of working age are actually in work compared to 80 per cent of non-disabled people. More than a third of people with disabilities who are not in employment say they would like to work.