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House of Commons Hansard
24 March 2015
Volume 594
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Today I am pleased to announce the outcome of the recent commercial procurement exercise to select providers for the new specialist employability support contracts, the new provision which replaces the residential training college contracts.

Funding will be maintained at the current level, but will help more than double the current number of disabled people and comprehensively improve the geographic availability and accessibility of intensive support.

Specialist employability support is an innovative new programme that will focus on helping those disabled people who need the most support either to enter work or to move closer to the labour market and engage in further employment related courses or activities.

Specialist employability support will offer intensive, specialist support to disabled people, provided by a network of more than 70 specialist organisations throughout the country.

This new provision will ensure that high quality, intensive support is accessible to twice as many people than under current contracts, with the annual number of customers helped increasing from around 800 to up to 1,700. In addition, over the two years of the contract we anticipate that the new programme will deliver around 1,250 job outcomes, up to two thirds of which will lead to sustained employment in the open labour market.

The new programme is designed to forge stronger links with a range of other programmes and will bring together a variety of existing Work Choice and Work programme providers, many different specialist voluntary organisations and a number of condition-specific specialists.

Specialist employability support will be provided through six separate contracts, each providing national coverage to ensure that the customer group has the optimum choice of support.

Four will be “pan disability” contracts, meaning that support will be provided for people with a wide range of disabilities. Two will be specialist sensory impairment contracts; one focusing on people whose primary disability is a visual impairment, the other on supporting people whose primary disability is a hearing impairment.

The specialist employability support programme features two main types of support:

Specialist employability support—which consists of intensive, employability support provision, and;

Specialist employability support start back—which is a shorter term provision that will help to prepare disabled people for other support provided by DWP or other organisations. All six specialist employability support providers will offer both support options.

The six successful bidders were:

Pan disability

Shaw Trust


Kennedy Scott

Steps to Employment

Visual impairment

Royal National College for the Blind

Hearing impairment

Doncaster Deaf Trust

The new provision will go live on 1 September 2015.

There was strong competition for each of the contracts on offer, with bids showing real innovation and flexibility. The majority of the current residential training colleges were involved in successful tenders to continue to provide support under the new provision.

DWP has consistently engaged with the existing contractors to prepare them for the tendering process and has developed a range of potential options to support the two residential training colleges currently offering DWP provision who will not be involved in delivery of the new provision.