Will it ever be possible for the Department for Work and Pensions to engage effectively with ‘harder-to-help’ groups? That was the provocative question posed by Demos Associate Tom Pollard in his paper published in January, after 18 months spent on secondment at the department.

Expanding on Tom’s work, our new research finds good reason to believe the answer is ‘no’. Our original new polling reveals the DWP suffers a chronic lack of trust amongst both the general public and ‘harder-to-help’ groups. We believe this is likely to seriously hamper efforts at engagement between the department and ill or disabled people, reducing the scope for employment support to ever be successfully delivered by the DWP.

In this new report we set out how institutions beyond the DWP could deliver employment support to ill and disabled people. We explore three institutional alternatives to the DWP: devolution to bodies such as devolved assemblies or local authorities; the Department of Health and Social Care working with local NHS bodies; and third sector organisations. We find that all three alternatives are likely to deliver significant benefits vis a vis the DWP. We also consider a number of less wholesale but equally worthy reforms to the welfare system.

Our findings leave us in no doubt that the current system of support is broken and must be radically reshaped. Read Pathways from Poverty: The future of the DWP here.