News     24/12/2023

Adferiad’s Response to the Autumn Statement

Adferiad’s Response to the Autumn Statement

From Alun Thomas – Adferiad’s Chief Executive

We’ve seen news from the UK Government that they will be rolling out their Back to Work Programme, and there is much concern regarding the proposed implementation of benefit sanctions as a means to assist people with disabilities in securing employment. While the intention to promote workforce inclusion is commendable, it is my firm belief that benefit sanctions, in themselves, are not a productive approach to addressing the complex challenges faced by individuals with disabilities.


It is crucial to acknowledge that people with disabilities often require targeted support that goes beyond punitive measures. One exemplary program that emphasises this approach is the Adferiad led, Welsh Government funded Cyfle Cymru initiative, which focuses on providing high-quality, tailored assistance to individuals with mental health and substance use issue in seeking training, education, and employment. Programs like Cyfle Cymru which has so far delivered support to over 15,000 people in Wales), recognise the diverse needs of people and offer comprehensive support to enhance their skills, confidence, and overall employability.


Imposing benefit sanctions without addressing the root causes of unemployment among people with disabilities may inadvertently exacerbate their challenges. Rather than fostering a conducive environment for their integration into the workforce, punitive measures may lead to increased stress and hardship, hindering the very goal they aim to achieve.


A more effective strategy involves investing in programs like Cyfle Cymru, which not only offer skills development, but also address the unique barriers faced by individuals with disabilities. These targeted interventions can empower participants, equipping them with the necessary tools to navigate the job market successfully. This approach utilises the experience and empathy of people who have shared this experience – peer mentors. Peer mentors provide real understanding of the day-to-day challenges people face, as well as offering motivation through their own success stories of gaining employment. Many of the peer mentors working in such services have themselves undertaken the programme they now deliver, and significant numbers move on again in developing their own careers, providing opportunities for new peer mentors to share their own journey.


In Wales, I know that we are seeking an holistic and compassionate approach, which I believe holds the key to fostering meaningful employment opportunities for people with disabilities. While sanctions may have a role in certain circumstances, their value is limited when applied without consideration for individual circumstances. Some individuals may be resistant to engagement due to various reasons, including mental health issues or personal challenges and we should ensure that these individuals receive targeted and focussed encouragement and support. If, however, individuals choose not to engage or still do not want to work, despite the availability of such services, we understand that there must be consequences to such decisions.   In such instances, we recognise that sanctions should be employed judiciously, as a last resort, and only after exhausting all other avenues of support.  We do not however, see any reason for sanctions to include restrictions on legal aid, as proposed and believe this is a fundamental breach of the Rule of Law.  We will campaign and challenge vigorously if such a sanction is applied to people who clearly need a voice in mental health tribunals and similar environments.


I will be writing to the DWP to invite them to consider how effective this approach can be, and to offer our support in providing a person-centred approach to this challenging area.