Health and disability White Paper published
Government has set out proposals to help retain those with disabilities and health conditions in work.
In July 2019 the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health and Social Care published a joint consultation called ‘Health is everyone’s business: proposals for reducing ill health-related job loss’.
Our article covering the paper can be found on our website (here), where we invited employers to provide their input and collated this for the purpose of the consultation.
The consultation sought views on proposals to reduce the costs of occupational health services to Small and Medium Enterprises via a subsidy or voucher system and whether this may improve engagement and retention of those with disabilities in the workplace.
The DWP and DHSC published a joint response to the consultation in July 2021, highlighting how the COVID pandemic further created a need for reforming access to OH services.
In July 2021 DWP also published its ‘Shaping future support: the health and disability Green Paper’ setting out proposals to improve outcomes for people with disabilities or health conditions through the work and benefits system.
On 15 March 2023 the DWP published ‘Transforming support: the health and disability White Paper’ which sets out the government’s aims to support unemployed disabled people and those with long-term health conditions back to work.
The central methods of delivery of these aims are:
- Increasing employment support for those with disabilities or health conditions; and
- Reforming the benefits system to make it easier for disabled people to access support when applying for and receiving health and disability benefits and to work while retaining health-related benefits.
‘Start, stay and succeed in work’
In the white paper, the government has set out the following measures to help people with disabilities or health conditions to “start, stay and succeed in work”, including:
Working with the occupational health sector and employers to reform and improve access to OH services. DWP is piloting a financial incentive and support model to help SMEs and the self-employed overcome affordability barriers to OH services. If successful, the pilot may be expanded nationally.
A new digital advice and information service is being developed for employers to help with the management of health and disability in the workplace. The service is reportedly in national live testing and is designed to help employers ‘self-serve’ by taking them through common scenarios and signposting them to more detailed guidance.
Allowing remote and in-person access to the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service to employees. The service provides tailored support for up to nine months and includes support for employers to enable them to fully understand an employee’s health condition.
Creating a new Access to Work initiative which provides, amongst other things:
an application for disabled contractors and freelancers, which removes the requirement for applicants to reapply under the Access to Work scheme every time they begin a new period of work;
the introduction of ‘adjustment passports’, which contain a person’s workplace adjustments and general working requirements, which can be shared with employers to provide information of an employee’s particular needs and remove the need for an Access to Work assessment where in-work support needs remain the same;
an enhanced package for those needing support, including support from a work coach;
Introducing a new health element for those in receipt of both Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) in order to remove the need to be found to have limited capability for work and work-related activity, removing barriers that prevent people from entering or remaining in employment.
Developing a Disability Action Plan in 2023. A consultation is expected to be launched later in the year to assist with this.
The announcement of the White Paper has broadly been welcomed by charities and groups that promote the interests of those with disabilities and health conditions. In particular, the change in emphasis towards what people can do as opposed to can’t do has been seen as a positive step.
Some have flagged that the White Paper has omitted reference to the role of assistive technologies in supporting jobseekers with disabilities, and are cautious about welcoming initiatives such as the adjustments passport, highlighting that workplace attitudes to adjustments and the flexibility sometimes required around disability and health conditions needs to be advanced further if this measure is not to have the unintended consequence of further excluding those it is designed to help.
In addition, concerns have been raised at the lack of engagement by the DWP with mental health groups and the potential impact of the White Paper on those with mental health issues. The mental health charity Mind have highlighted concerns in a recent article with the i newspaper that the scrapping of the Work Capability Assessment and replacing it with PIP risks making support harder to obtain for those with mental health conditions, on the basis that the threshold for PIP is more rigid and generally applies to those who struggle with physical mobility issues.
It should be noted that the details of the changes to the benefits system-related assessments outlined in the White Paper have not been set out yet.