The DWP-funded trial in Greater Manchester is supporting hundreds of disabled adults in employment

A radical employment trial taking place in Greater Manchester has helped almost 200 disabled people into gainful employment amid a government crackdown on the long-term sick. Called Working Well, the scheme aims to help disabled people not only to find work, but also to keep it.

Since September 2023, Working Well has supported 600 people living with a disability through tailored employment training, with 188 now participating in the workplace. The scheme is delivered by the charity Growth Company in partnership with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, with funding for the study coming from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Disability has become a major barrier to employment for many following the pandemic, with 2.6 million people now out of the workforce due to a long-term illness or disability. This prompted Rishi Sunak to announce a crackdown on disability benefits last month amid a sharp rise in personal independence payment claimants, which could see the taxpayer foot a £27.4bn bill for the benefits of disability by the end of the decade.

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It works well: One-to-one placement and support in primary care, to give the trial its full name, follows a ‘placement, training and maintenance’ model that offers participants flexible one-to-one support to find work, as well as other CV and advice in the career. The important thing is that when someone is employed, they continue to receive support to help them stay in work.

A disabled woman on a sofa talking on the phone to make a complaintA disabled woman on a sofa talking on the phone to make a complaint

Navigating the world of work can be more difficult if you live with a health condition or disability – Credit: SCU

Rather than forcing people to apply for jobs that may not be the best fit for their individual needs, Working Well partners with employers to ensure adjustments can be made to accommodate workers and support in managing their health alongside work.

Yesterday (May 7) the DWP announced a similar scheme, WorkWell, following the success of the Greater Manchester scheme, which saw 188 people find work within six months of joining the scheme. The expanded DWP trial will reach a much larger audience of 59,000 people from October, including disabled people in the city region.

One of the people who has benefited from taking part in the Working Well process is Lee, who was referred for work while unemployed and worried about the value of his university degree and the prospect of not securing a job graduate.

Supported by his Working Well Employment specialist, Lee received advice on finding a job, including feedback on his CV and the job application process, from supporting documents to interview techniques . They also provided guidance on starting a business and finding vacant retail space. This support led to Lee being offered a traineeship at the University of Salford.

Lee is still in the program while receiving support at work and said: “I am happy that the team plans to support me in the near future – during and after the internship.”

Lee reserved special praise for his adviser: “Kate became my Working Well worker around January and in the few weeks we worked together we developed a fun, dynamic and honest relationship.

“Having Kate support me for my internship interviews made me more focused and less stressed. Her support was one of the reasons I got a job offer so quickly.”

The scheme takes a holistic approach to unemployment, also providing support to people who are in work but at risk of becoming unemployed due to a disability or health condition. One such person helped by the scheme is Ellie, who contacted the service after feeling overwhelmed at work.

She struggled to focus and manage tasks and felt a lack of clear guidance and expectations in her role. After being paired with employment specialist Margo, the pair worked together to create a list of reasonable adjustments and tangible requests for Ellie’s employer, including establishing a process for managing assignments, focus times, and developing meeting agendas.

These small changes have made a huge difference to Ellie, who now feels much more confident, comfortable and focused at work. She said: “Working with Margo was a very beautiful experience. I didn’t know there was such support out there for people like me who are struggling to stand up for themselves and also know where to look when it comes to further training opportunities for either. career progression or starting a job in a totally different direction.”

Working Well, which is separate from WorkWell, will run until March 2025 and encourages people who need help to get in touch. You can find out more about the scheme here.

Alex Howley, Chief Operating Officer at Growth Company, said: “In a short space of time, Working Well has already had a positive impact on the lives of so many people who face barriers to employment.

“Programs like this are a vital resource for people who have every desire to work, but who often have no choice but to be unemployed or long-term sick due to a lack of adequate support. Through our personalized, person-centred approach, we’ve seen people return to work, find new jobs and engage with employers to support disabled employees and help them thrive in the workplace.

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