DWP-funded trial in Greater Manchester backs hundreds of disabled adults in employment

A man sitting at a desk with his hand on his head looking frustrated and exhausted
Working Well has helped 188 people to find work, or to stay in it if they are facing difficulty due to a health condition or disability -Credit:scu

A radical employment trial taking place in Greater Manchester has helped almost 200 disabled people into rewarding employment, amid a government crackdown on the long-term sick. Called Working Well, the scheme aims to help people with disabilities to not only find a job, but keep it too.

Since September 2023, Working Well has supported 600 people living with disability with tailored employment coaching, with 188 of those taking part now in work. The scheme is delivered by the charity Growth Company in collaboration with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, with funding for the trial coming from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Disability has become a major barrier to employment for many following the pandemic, with 2.6 million people now out of the workforce due to long term sickness or disability. This prompted Rishi Sunak to announce a crackdown on disability benefits last month, amid a sharp rise in Personal Independence Payment claimants that could see the taxpayer footing a £27.4bn bill for disability benefits by the end of the decade.

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Working Well: Individual Placement and Support in Primary Care, to give the trial its full name, follows a "place, train, and maintain" model that provides participants with flexible one-to-one support to find a job, as well as other CV and career advice. Importantly, when someone enters employment, they continue to receive support to help them stay in work.

A disabled woman on a sofa talking on the phone to put in a claim
Navigating the world of work can be more difficult if you are living with a health condition or disability -Credit:SCU

Rather than having people apply for jobs that might not be best suited to their individual needs, Working Well creates partnerships with employers to make sure that necessary adjustments can be made to accommodate workers and support them with managing their health condition alongside working.

Yesterday (May 7), the DWP announced a similar scheme, WorkWell, off the success of the Greater Manchester scheme which has seen 188 people find work within six months of joining the scheme. The expanded DWP trial will reach a much larger audience of 59,000 people from October, including disabled people across the city region.

One of the people who has benefited from taking part in the Working Well trial is Lee, who was referred to the service while unemployed and experiencing anxiety about the value of his university degree and the prospect of not securing a graduate job.

Supported by his Working Well Employment Specialist, Lee was given advice on finding work, including feedback on his CV and the job application process, from supporting documents to interview techniques. They also provided guidance on setting up a business and finding vacant retail space. This support resulted in Lee being offered an internship at the University of Salford.

Lee is still on the programme while receiving in-work support and said: “I’m happy that the team intend to support me for the foreseeable future – during and after the internship.”

Lee reserved special praise for his adviser: “Kate became my Working Well worker around January and during the few weeks we worked together, we developed a fun, dynamic, and honest relationship.

“Having Kate support me for my internship interviews made me more focused and less stressed. Her backing was one of the reasons I received a job offer so quickly.”

The scheme takes a holistic approach to unemployment, also providing support to people who are in work, but at risk of falling into unemployment due to a disability or health condition. One such person helped by the scheme is Ellie, who contacted the service after feeling overwhelmed at work.

She struggled to focus and manage tasks, and felt a lack of guidance and clear expectations in her role. After being matched with Employment Specialist, Margo, the pair worked together to come up with a list of reasonable adjustments and tangible requests for Ellie’s employer, including setting up a process for managing tasks, focus times, and developing meeting agendas.

These small changes made a huge difference to Ellie, who now feels much more confident, comfortable, and focused in the workplace. She said: "Working with Margo has been a really nice experience. I didn’t know such support out there existed for people like me who struggle to advocate for themselves, and also know where to search when it comes to further training opportunities for either career progression or starting a job in a totally different direction.”

Working Well, which is separate from WorkWell, will run until March 2025 and is encouraging individuals who need help to get in touch. You can find out more about the scheme here.

Alex Howley, Operations Director at the Growth Company said: “In a short space of time, Working Well has already had a positive impact on the lives of so many people facing barriers to employment.

“Programmes such as this are a vital resource for people who have every desire to work but are often left with no choice other than unemployment or long-term sickness, due to a lack of adequate support. Through our tailored, person-centred approach, we have seen people return to work, find new employment, and have engaged with employers to support employees with disabilities and help them thrive in the workplace.