New scheme a 'drop in the ocean' for disabled people

Only the most severely disabled people in Britain will be supported into work by a new scheme that the Department of Work and Pensions launches tomorrow. Called Work Choice, the Government has set aside £470m to help just 23,000 of the most disabled into jobs.

Experts say the scheme will help only a fraction of the more than a million disabled people the Government wants to get into work. They believe the rest with disabilities will be caught in the trap of being pushed off benefits and left unable to find work without specialised support.

"We would estimate 23,000 is about 2 per cent of those moving off incapacity benefit who will require additional support," said Richard Hawkes, chief executive of Scope. "Those on Work Choice will get the right support, but what about the more than a million disabled people who mainstream providers aren't going to be able to support properly? Helping 23,000 is a drop in the ocean."

The Government is expecting all but 290,000 of the country's 1.5 million disabled people to enter the workplace. Work Choice is aimed at getting only those with complex support needs into jobs, leaving the rest to find work without specialist help.

David Congdon, director of public affairs at Mencap, said: "The problem is that only 23,000 can go on Work Choice and the rest will end up on the single Work Programme, where they won't realistically be able to find work because it's not geared towards disabled people specifically."

Work Choice will replace the previous plethora of disability work support programmes, including Work Preparation, Workstep and the Job Introduction scheme.

Comments