As announced in the White Paper “Raising expectations and increasing support: reforming welfare for the future”, the support provided to new employment and support allowance customers through pathways to work will be extended from the current six mandatory work-focused interviews, in the first eight months of the claim, to include quarterly work-focused interviews up to the two-year point after claiming. Beyond this claimants will be able to access support through pathways to work voluntarily and will also be able to receive help from the new specialist disability employment programme, which is due to be launched in October 2010. This new programme will be for those disabled people who have complex barriers to employment and will ensure that they have access to the right level of support based on their individual needs, to help them prepare for, enter and/ or retain employment.
As we set out in the White Paper, we will need to introduce further changes gradually and extend the work-focused interviews regime beyond current time periods as resources allow. This is consistent with the direction of travel set by David Freud in his report “Reducing dependency, increasing opportunity: options for the future of welfare to work” and further developed in the recent review by Professor Paul Gregg. The Invest to Save pathfinders, due to begin in five areas from spring 2011, will help to increase our understanding of how best to support long term claimants with a health condition or disability into work.