Three new criticisms of the DWP

“A target-driven culture created perverse incentives” – I think we can agree with this recent article from charity Turn2us relating to a report by the National Audit Office.



The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are letting down disabled people who want to get back into work, overworking their Jobcentre work coaches and being too target driven, according to a new report by the National Audit Office (NAO).

The report highlights three significant failures with the DWP and Universal Credit that need to be fixed.

jobcentre plus

Disabled people and work

Firstly, the report finds that the Government’s goal of getting 1 million more disabled people into work cannot actually be used to measure the success of its efforts as it cannot be linked to any specific policy.

Additionally, factors such as people who are already in work now reporting a disability may skew the figures. The NAO says this target means the Government cannot be held to account.

Before this target of 1 million, the Government’s original goal was to halve the disability employment gap. That gap has actually only narrowed by 4 percentage points since 2015.

Overworking Jobcentre staff

The second main finding from the NAO report was that work coaches are at risk of being severely overworked which affects the quality of the service.

While some work coaches are already saying they are overworked, the number of claimants they each work with is expected to more than double from 130 to 280 over the next few years.

Within this, the number of claimants per work coach in the intensive work search group (who require the most time with work coaches) is expected to increase from 96 to 133 (an increase of 39%).

Overly target driven

Finally, the report highlights that the DWP has created a target-driven culture which results in perverse incentives, according to the NAO.

Work coaches were often focusing on claimants who were easiest to help into work, so they could meet there targets, rather than focus on those who need help the most.

Work coaches were also happy to get people into temporary employment to meet targets instead of getting them long term and meaningful employment.

Read the full NAO report



Social care: what’s in a name?

Katie Mantell at the King’s Fund – Social care is all around us. More than 1.5 million people in England are employed to provide social care to older and disabled people. And these numbers are dwarfed by almost 6 million unpaid carers – family members and friends who give up their time to help with a range of tasks, from cooking to personal care.

But despite this, ‘social care’ is a phrase you don’t hear much in everyday life. Last year, when my 94-year-old grandmother’s health was deteriorating and she needed support with washing, getting in and out of bed and other day-to-day tasks, I remember noticing that no one in my family used the term social care. Instead, the talk during this difficult time was about ‘speaking to the council to get someone in to help Gran’, and ‘finding a carer who will come around to the house’.

So why don’t we use the term social care very much outside of professional circles and the media? And does it matter if we don’t?

There are a couple of reasons why it doesn’t trip off most people’s tongues. First, it is an umbrella term that includes a broad range of activities associated with the tasks of everyday living, and can be replaced with more specific terms such as ‘going into a care home’ or ‘home help’.

Care Guide

Second, social care doesn’t have the recognisable brand that the NHS does, and research suggests that it isn’t widely understood. A survey carried out by Britain Thinks for Age UK in 2015 showed that many members of the public ‘have never heard of social care… do not understand what it is, what aspects of care it covers, how to access it or how, if at all, the social care system aligns with the NHS’.

Other research also hints at a lack of awareness of social care. In surveys such as those by Ipsos MORI and in the British Social Attitudes survey, when people are asked whether health and care services have improved or about their overall satisfaction with services, the percentage who answer ‘don’t know’ is much higher for questions about social care services than for those about general practice or hospital care.

As my colleague and social care policy expert Richard Humphries reflected at the end of last year: ‘A troubled NHS easily commands public attention through visual images of overflowing hospitals and queuing ambulances. But when the social care system is “full”, few notice, the consequences scattered silently and invisibly across thousands of homes and families. It makes little noise on the radar of political and public concern.’

In recent months, social care has risen up the political agenda. The crisis in social care – and the injection of funds for social care in the Spring Budget plus the promise of a Green Paper – has given the issue more prominence in national debate. And it seems likely that social care will feature prominently in the general election campaign over the coming weeks.

But it would be easy to assume, from reading news stories alone, that social care was just about older people and hospital discharges. In reality, of course, it is much, much more than that, covering a range of activities to enable people of all ages, with a range of needs, to live their lives to the fullest.

It’s not just the public who have a limited knowledge of social care. I’m struck by how many of us working within health have a quite basic understanding.

Last year, our fellow in social care policy, Patrick Hall, gave an overview of social care in a seminar for staff from The King’s Fund. We all learnt a lot, and the seed of an idea emerged: could we produce some content for professionals, patients, service users and others that would simply explain what social care is and how it works? After all, making sense of a complex policy environment is one of our organisational goals.

Inspired by some really creative examples, we decided to shoot some short videos as the centrepiece of a package of content explaining social care. As much social care happens in people’s homes it felt right to set our videos outside the office environment, and we decided on a kitchen – often central to a home and the place where things are organised and discussed, where food is prepared and cups of tea drunk. We tasked Patrick with using these surroundings to explain, in his own way, what social care is.