Case study

DWP Digital employer support for disabled people


Opencast has supported DWP Digital with the development of a new online service to give employers the tools they need to empower and encourage disabled employees and those with health conditions.


Long-term health conditions and disability are major issues for the UK government – not least because they are a major barrier to employment with a significant economic impact. Around 15 million UK working-age adults have a long-term health condition.

DWP Digital is keen to address the gap for support for people with disability and long-term health conditions. Disabled people are twice as likely to fall out of work, with 300,000 leaving work annually. They are also 10 times more likely to leave employment after long-term sickness.

Opencast worked with DWP Digital colleagues to investigate the challenges facing employers in supporting employees with long-term conditions or who are disabled, to return to and remain in work. 

DWP Digital colour logo.

The impact of the service is expected to be significant, including helping to reduce the estimated 120 million days of sickness lost each year to the UK economy


The discovery phase of the project set out to understand the users and the context, how employers go about finding information to support their disabled of sick employees.

Based on over 30 qualitative interviews, workshops with employers and analysis of 180,000 webpages, a key finding of the discovery was evidence of a need for more tailored information.

The team proposed 'directed guidance' – a series of questions that an employer would answer. Depending on their response, they would then receive information and guidance tailored to their circumstances.

The alpha phase that followed saw work start on a prototype of the directed guidance tool.

During alpha the team successfully validated the service concept and user requirements, adhering to Government Service Standards. We engaged with the Government Digital Service (GDS) to ensure alignment with its aims; and we conducted prototype testing with 20 businesses, building confidence that the proposed solution would meet user needs. 

After presenting results to GDS and DWP policy directors, the project moved into private beta. Opencast developers, DevOps and QA consultants collaborated closely with the DWP Digital team to build out a working service.

By the end of 2021, the service moved from alpha into private beta, before moving into public beta in Autumn 2022.

The private beta phase involved over 80 further research sessions with employers and line managers, as well as extensive engagement with disability organisations. Over 1500 users tested the service in a restricted private environment to help fine tune and validate the service.

Colour photo of man standing by whiteboard.
Opencast collaborated with DWP Digital team to build out a working service


The service has been iterated continuously to the public beta stage, so is being used by real users in a live environment.

Sarah Bradley, DWP Digital product owner and policy lead for the service said: “While it is early days, response to the current version of the service has been positive so far. We’re starting to see naturally occurring traffic come in. We’re already getting good feedback from users about how they are going to apply their learnings in the workplace.”

DWP confirmed the launch of the new £6.4m service in public beta in a press release in October 2022. Businesses and disability groups were invited to test and shape the new ‘Support with Employee Health and Disability’ service.

The impact of the service is expected to be significant, including helping to reduce the estimated 120 million days of sickness lost each year to the UK economy.

Watch our panel discussion on this story recorded for Digital Leaders Innovation Week 2022.

DWP blog: Designing services to help employers support disabled employees