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Support to Work evaluation

This report evaluated Support to Work during the calendar year 2019. It assesses the ability of the service to achieve expected outcomes, which are:

  • supporting disabled people to enter employment
  • supporting disabled people to gain the knowledge and skills they need to find, choose, and apply for jobs
  • improving disabled people’s confidence in their capability
  • disabled people know their rights when in, or looking for employment

We took a co-produced approach to evaluation for Support to Work. People with lived experience of disability were at the heart of our research. They joined our team of evaluators and peer reviewers, undertaking and overseeing this evaluation.

Disabled people’s knowledge, experience, needs, and concerns directly influenced how we measured success and identified ways to improved and develop the service.

Support to Work evaluation summary

Support to Work is an online and telephone support programme for disabled people in England and Wales, who are looking for paid work.

The service offers a uniquely effective and empowering model of employment support.

Our Support to Work customers

Customers that use Support to Work are more ethnically diverse than the national disabled population.

Around half of customers accessing the service have been out of work for less than 6 months and have had negative, and sometimes discriminatory employment experiences due to being disabled people. This often means customers join the service with low confidence.

Outcomes for our customers

132 (23%) of customers who exited the service in 2019 entered employment. In most cases customers had used the service for about 5 weeks before moving into work.

Those that did not move into work also benefited by gaining knowledge of the job search process and showed increased confidence using these skills. Customer confidence in their own ability also grew.

Support to Work also helps many customers develop a strategy for if, when and how they talk to a prospective employer about their condition or impairment. The service aims to support customers to improve understanding of their rights. For example, reasonable adjustments and Access to Work.

Although we know customers are supported with this, we currently have limited data on progress. This is something we will look to adapt going forwards to gain a better understanding of change the service makes. Especially if the service expands to offer in-work support.

Enabling customers to use the service

The following factors helped customers use the service:

  • a wide eligibility criterion
  • a simple and friendly sign up process
  • increased accessibility by using telephone and online communications
  • flexibility of arranging and changing appointments
  • voluntary engagement which differs from sanctioned and imposed practices generally found within current statutory employment support offers
  • tailored action plans built around individual customer circumstances

Barriers to customers using the service

The following factors were found to be barriers to customers using the service.

  • some customers were not ready to use the service
  • customers signed up but did not respond to service contact
  • customers were only looking for work experience rather than a pathway to paid employment (not covered by this service)
  • some people were better suited to an in-person service due to low confidence or understanding in using telephone or digital communications

Customer feedback on the service

Customers valued:

  • the skills and experience of Support to Work’s employment advisers
  • acceptance, understanding and listening skills of the advisers
  • the services format and tools
  • the central focus placed on tailored support for the individual
  • a structured but flexible approach

Customer challenges:

  • some misconceptions about the service during the signup process
  • some aspects of service do not allow for complete flexibility in action plans
  • issues with using communication methods, such as the service messaging system. This is being reviewed.
  • a small number affected by (unavoidable) late cancellations of appointments

Gaps in the service

Analysis by the Department of Work and Pensions shows that disabled people are twice as likely to fall out of work than non-disabled people. 

Customers told us that the following support would be helpful to them.

In-work support

Customers taking part in this research explained that it would be helpful if support continued after successfully securing a job. In response to this, as of October 2020, In-work support will be available to customers who enter into employment while using the Support to Work service. 

Jobs board

Customers also showed an interest in having support to identify employers with positive attitudes towards employing and supporting disabled people. The service is now looking at offering a ‘jobs board’ that will allow Support to Work customers to search for vacancies at disability friendly employers. The jobs board will be open to Scope customers using the services in-work support adviser. 

Staff experiences

Advisers get most of their job satisfaction from noticing improvements in the customers confidence. Empowering customers with the skills they need to navigate the jobs market on their own.

Advisers enjoy working with customers who may not be able to use other services. They believe that the voluntary nature of the service means customers are more engaged with the support they receive.

Staff have reported some frustration with the amount of time needed to manage customer expectations about the service and what it offers. This is something that is fed back for consideration around how we market our services.


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