Barriers to Employment is as ongoing partnership project in Doncaster that supports Incapacity Benefit Claimants (IBCs) to improve their health and well-being and return to work where possible.
Research conducted in Doncaster in 2004 with the statutory and voluntary organisations and benefit claimants themselves was gathered in a detailed report. This outlined six stages on the claimant's journey and the difficulties they faced getting back into employment after a period of incapacity.
The project is the development of this original multi-agency commissioned and Single Regeneration Budget funded piece of work. The organisations involved are Doncaster PCT (a reconfiguration of three former PCTs), the strategic health authority and local acute trust, Doncaster Metropolitan borough council, Job Centre Plus and several other partnership forums, employers and voluntary groups.
The separate stages identified in the 'Claimant's Journey' are: 'In Work', 'Illness Strikes', 'Claim Processing', 'Health/Emotional Support', 'Job Readiness Support' and 'Return to Work/Employer Support'. Recommendations in the report - 39 in total - were divided between these stages and not only look at supporting people back to work but also with helping them stay there.
'We all set out hoping to identify gaps in provision and reengineer the services already provided,' says Arnold Drakeley, head of strategic partnerships at Doncaster PCT. 'Since then a number of initiatives have come along that require a more coordinated whole system approach. Barriersenergises people, helps us pull everything together and avoids replication.'
Oversight for the project as it develops comes from the Barriers to Employment Group, a task group of the Doncaster Economic Partnership. The responses to the recommendations sit within the broader framework but run independently and are provided or led by the different partners.
The PCT leads on or participates in a number of these elements such as the Department of Work and Pensions commissioned Condition Management Programme, itself part of the bigger Pathways to Work scheme. The programme offers tailored support for IBCs that includes modules on understanding and managing conditions, confidence building and health awareness.
'One of the biggest gaps to be plugged was Occupational Health (OH) services,' says Mr Drakeley. 'The local economy has lots of small and medium sized employers with no OH of their own. Single Neighbourhood Renewal Funding has helped to establish a new service for employers and employees across Doncaster.'
The trust is also one of only two demonstration sites for Improving Access to Psychological Therapiesand this has been incorporated in the project to support people of working age with mild to moderate mental health problems.