The government confirmed today it would go ahead with Work Choice, the specialist employment scheme for disabled people, ending months of speculation.
The scheme, which was devised by the Labour government, will start on 25 October, as planned, and remain separate from the Work Programme, the planned overarching employment support programme for all other claimants.
Work Choice involves the merger of three existing schemes, including Workstep, which is geared towards helping disabled people overcome barriers to gaining and keeping work.
There had been concerns over the government’s intentions for Work Choice with Shaw Trust, one of the preferred providers for the programme, warning that the coalition’s delay in confirming the programme’s future could adversely affect both users and providers.
In a statement today, minister for disabled people Maria Miller said: “Work Choice has been developed in close consultation with providers, disability groups and disabled people and has widespread support.
“Work has been ongoing since the coalition government took office to ensure continuity of support. We are making this announcement now to ensure that all providers are able to prepare fully to deliver the programme from October.
“We will now proceed to contract with the successful bidders for the Work Choice programme.”
Work Choice is designed to provide more support for disabled people furthest from the labour market by tackling Workstep’s inflexibilities, such as the expectation that clients will enter work within eight weeks of starting the programme.
It involves a large cut in the number of providers under contract with the DWP from over 200, under the existing programmes, to 28.