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DWP reports 'empathy' approach works better than sanctions 'stick'

DWP reports evaluating the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) additional support trials which took place in 2015, highlight how empathy in relation to a claimant’s needs rather than the current ‘sanctions stick’ has better results in moving ESA claimants towards the labour market.

The reports found:

  • Early intervention, additional time with the Work Coach, occupational health advice and therapeutic treatment for lower back pain were all perceived as beneficial by claimants.

  • Claimants’ motivation to work and perceived job readiness were crucial to the progress that could be made. Some form of formal triage system based on this may therefore be a useful tool for Work Coaches.
  • The voluntary or mandatory nature of each trial was often not viewed by claimants as making any difference to their engagement. Instead, this was much more determined by perceived job readiness.
  • Timing of the support was critical – claimants needed support at a time and a pace that matched their assessment of their own capabilities.
  • It was very important to claimants that Work Coaches were empathetic, had a good understanding of their health conditions, and had a style that was supportive, collaborative and encouraging, rather than prescriptive.

Disability Rights UK (DRUK) has long argued for better support for disabled people into work and has produced several key reports in relation to this issue, such as: Taking Control of Employment Support.

DRUK concludes that “these DWP reports would seem to be in line with our view” expressing the hope that the DWP puts their findings into practice.


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