The intention of the reform of disability pensions and flexible work schemes is to improve the employment prospects of vulnerable people. The aim is to reduce the number of persons, and especially young people on disability pensions using a more inclusive and inter-disciplinary programme.
At an early stage in its implementation process, the Ministry of Employment and MindLab set up a project to investigate the significance of the reform and its importance for individuals and local authorities. The aim of the project was not to find out whether the reform worked or not, but to discover how the reform affected the job centres and the daily lives of their clients. It was intended to highlight the complex change processes in which existing actions and a new reform must find common ground. How can the reform be best supported in practice and what are the requirements for a successful roll out to the public? Finally, what do the local authority caseworkers need to do differently?
The project research illustrated the potential for a successful implementation the reform to create new hope and more opportunities for the more vulnerable members of society. The success of programmes such as this depends on the active participation of the client.
At the rehabilitation meeting, I told them that I didn’t want to be on cash benefits for five more years. Now I’m in a completely different programme. I’m taking part in my own life now.
The project also showed that implementation of the reform for persons on disability pensions and flexible work schemes poses a significant challenge for local authorities, because it requires a paradigm shift in the Danish employment programme. The focus should not be on how many cases are completed but on how the solutions work for the individual client. This involves direct contact with the client as well as a greater amount of freedom for the case officer to be creative and find the most appropriate solutions to help the client back into employment. Greater freedom for the case officer will ensure that the client receives the right kind of support that is not necessarily employment centred but is aimed at improving the client’s social situation as well as their mental and general health in order to help move the client closer to the labour market.
The project made the implications of this paradigm shift more visible; partly by showing how the clients experienced the local authority’s implementation of the reform and partly by describing its unexpected outcomes. For example; the case officers adapting to a new way of working, with more room to manoeuvre and allowing for a different type of process in which they can find new and different programmes for the client. This adaptation has meant that the anticipated effect takes longer than expected.
I certainly need to use different skills. Before, the client was just a piece of paper. Now we have to sit and talk to the client. It gives a completely different impression and can also change your preconceptions.
– Six clients that have had a meeting with the rehabilitation team
– Seven representatives from the management (job centre and local authority department managers)
– Five managing case officers
– Five operational case officers
– MindLab also carried out ethnographic observations of seven meetings of the new rehabilitation team
The collaboration with MindLab has made a valuable contribution to the Ministry of Employment’s back to work programme on a number of levels:
– Specific support for the reform
– The project has contributed to the planning of a number of supporting activities and focus areas for implementation of the reform. A change in attitude is necessary at management and local authority level because it is sometimes difficult to justify the alternative programmes the case officers are able to set up. For example, it may be difficult to prove that line dance or swimming can make a difference in the motivation to enter full-time employment. The management therefore needs to think differently that it is used to in order to achieve the objectives of the reform.
– Common ownership of the implementation process
– The project has connected the local authority experience with the ministry’s and the authority’s strategic considerations via workshops and continuous dialogue. This has contributed to a more common ownership of the implementation process.
– Method development in the Ministry of Employment
– The project has also contributed to method development in the Ministry of Employment, where focus will be to continually be aware of the practical aspect to ensure that policy initiatives can be implemented through development and political action.
We are developing a method to help us become more aware of the right actions early on in the implementation process. It’s a more dynamic approach to adjusting central elements in the reform.
MindLab and the Policy Office of the Ministry of Employment looked at how five different local authorities have implemented the reform of disability pensions and flexible work schemes. The five authorities were selected in collaboration with the National Labour Market Authority in order to gain a broad national impression of the implementation of the reform, with the authorities reporting back at various stages of maturation during the implementation process.
MindLab interviewed clients, case officers and managers in five job centres who provided valuable information on the advantages and limitations of the new reform framework. A number of insight-gaining and idea generation workshops were also held internally in the management secretariat of the Ministry of Employment and also with those involved in implementing the reform: local authority case officers and managers, civil servants from the Policy Office, the National Labour Market Authority, the Danish Agency for Labour Market and Recruitment and the Ministry of Children, Gender Equality, Integration and Social Affairs. This formed a qualified basis for the analysis and ideas and concepts were developed for how the reform could best be supported in the future.
All actors were invited to give feedback on the analysis and a cross-ministerial knowledge sharing session was held, aimed at generating input for the development of the Ministry of Employment’s implementation strategy.
The project on the disability pension/flexible work scheme reform has now been concluded and the report sent to the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Employment.
Participant observation creates an understanding of the context in which your project work takes place. Through participant observation, it is possible to see what is actually happening and which actions take place in practice. Therefore the method is a good way to supplement interviews, as there is often a difference between what people say they do and what they actually do.
Desk research is used to create an overview of the knowledge that already exists on the subject. This gives you background information to form the basis for the subsequent study design.