Up to 25,000 people will benefit from new employment support starting today as part of the Government’s flagship Universal Support programme.

Backed by £53 million in funding, the new scheme will provide personalised help to people facing complex barriers to work across England and Wales as part of the Government’s plan to tackle economic inactivity and spread the benefits of employment more widely.

Participants will be identified and referred by work coaches as well as contracted providers and it is expected to have helped 25,000 people move towards employment by September 2024.

The new scheme is one part of the new Universal Support programme, announced as part of a £2bn package at the Spring Budget, which will help disabled people, people with health conditions and people with additional barriers to employment into sustained work.

Just one per cent of people in the Employment and Support Allowance ‘Support Group’ leave the benefit every month. Universal Support has been designed using the evidence of what works to help claimants overcome complex barriers to work, given that one in five people categorised as having “limited capability for work related activity” have said they would like to work at some point in the future. Similar interventions in the past have seen over one in three participants with disabilities helped into work.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride MP, said:

We know the positive impact work can have on our health and wellbeing. Universal Support is a huge step towards unlocking the benefits and opportunities of employment for more disabled and disadvantaged people.

I’m excited to see this latest phase help thousands more people start, stay and succeed in work. Our welfare reforms will help to grow the economy – and just as importantly they will improve thousands of lives.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride MP. Photo credit: UK Gov. Crown Copyright.

Jobcentre Work Coaches will make referrals to the new programme, as will providers of the DWP’s Work and Health Programme, who will be able to use their local networks to identify people who want to find work but are not yet being assisted by Work Coaches.

After an initial assessment, participants will be introduced to suitable employers based on their preferences, strengths and any lessons learned from previous work experience, to ensure they find a job that is right for them.

They will then receive wraparound in-work support provided by a personal adviser in person and online as they start and sustain employment, which may include debt advice or help with networking or housing, and will include frequent engagement with their employer.

This is different to traditional employment support, as it ensures participants receive a job from the outset followed up by highly personalised support to overcome challenges as they arise, rather than having to train before being allowed to start employment.

Universal Support will ramp up over time, expanding to support at least 50,000 people a year from 2025/26, and will include help with issues like managing health conditions, debt, and navigating any workplace adjustments required to accommodate individual needs.

The investment comes as the government is consulting on changes to the Work Capability Assessment, with proposals to ensure it is delivering the right outcomes for supporting those most in need. The consultation represents the next step in welfare reform, reflecting the rise of flexible and home working and better employer support for disabled people and people with health conditions – as well as new government help including Universal Support.

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