The PSI Blog

Research on the effectiveness of
Provider-Led Pathways to Work

Genevieve Knight

A report published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) reveals the success of the contracted Provider-Led (PL) Pathways programme of support to claimants of working age benefits with a disability or long-term sickness.

The report assesses whether a provider-led model of Pathways to Work, PL Pathways, helped more IB customers be off benefit or in work than would have done otherwise, and reduced the number of incapacity-benefi ts claimants. The programme operated for people claiming incapacity benefi ts which are a family of working age benefits - including Severe Disablement Allowance, Incapacity Benefi t and Income Support - claimed on the grounds of disability, as well as the new Employment and Support Allowance. The research gives evidence on the PL Pathways experience which can be used to build future delivery of employment support to claimants of working age benefi ts with a disability or long term sickness.

The UK Pathways to Work programme was introduced in the context of a generally rising volume of people on incapacity benefits - from 0.74million in February 1979 to 2.78million in November 2003. It was a fairly innovative activation service increasing contact and support towards work for those claiming these types of benefits. PL Pathways started in December 2007 and ended in March/April 2011. DWP used external contractors (prime providers) to lead delivery of PL Pathways with outcomes-based contracts - in other words, contractors were paid by results. The successor services were the Work Programme which started in July 2011, a single contracted 'welfare to work' programme of services to include those on incapacity benefits alongside jobseekers, together with the new Employment and Support Allowance benefit which incorporates a new medical assessment to determine eligibility replaced incapacity benefits and which will soon be subsumed into the Universal Credit single benefit.

The research found that:

  • PL Pathways did succeed in helping more of those with a disability or long-term sickness to be off benefit at six months after their claim started, reducing the proportion claiming any type of benefit by two percentage points. This is a fairly large impact in the context of a 15 per cent base rate of IB claimants being off benefits at month six if PL Pathways had not been rolled out. Once accepted on to incapacity benefits, new claimants were more likely to move off benefit at six months with PL Pathways support than they were without it. In other words, the lower proportion claiming benefit achieved through mandatory participation in PL Pathways would not have been achieved without the programme.
  • There was some evidence that PL Pathways raised employment by about half this amount but with less certainty over the reliability of the employment-impact estimate.
  • The overall net impacts found for PL Pathways and Jobcentre Plus Pathways appear to be comparable in scale.
  • The PL Pathways impacts found for benefit exit were equivalent for men and women, those over 50 years and under 50 years of age, and those with mental-health conditions and those with other health conditions as reason for claiming.
  • PL Pathways impacts were found to be more equally distributed for the age groups than they were for Jobcentre Plus Pathways.

Read the report

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