Case study

DWP employer support for disabled people


Opencast supported DWP Digital over a three-year period 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.

  • User needs front and centre

  • Most users prefer new content

  • Easier translation into Welsh


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.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) 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 to investigate the challenges facing employers in supporting employees with long-term conditions or who are disabled, to return to and remain in work. 


The discovery phase of the project set out to understand the users and the context, including how employers go about finding information to support their disabled or 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, employers 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 the Government Service Standard. 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.

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.

The new service went live into public beta at the end of 2022. 

Technical details

User interface: DWP CASA (collect and submit applications) framework used to develop external-facing service. Service followed all development standards outlined by engineering team, ie full unit testing and CI/CD integrations including security and vulnerability scanning. No sensitive data collected, and all cookies clear on their purposes and easily turned on/off. Intensive service testing to ensure it meets government accessibility standards.

Acceptance tests: End-to-end testing to provide comprehensive testing of the service. Acceptance tests incorporated into pipeline to run as part of the CI/CD to QA any changes to service on all running deployment stages.

Test and behaviour-driven development: best practices used to create solution using a microservices-based architecture, leveraging automated tooling to support rapid release including rapid form creation and deployment.

Environment: EHIE’s environment deploys to all development stages (dev, staging, and prod). Incorporates pipeline fragments to check for errors, security risks and proper configuration of service protection (ie logging, monitoring and firewalls). Service deployed within DWP health platform infrastructure and onboarding to AKAMI for traffic routing and monitoring.

Out-of-the-box innovation: Rich content nature of project and requirement to be available in Welsh led us to create a ‘translation request pipeline manager’. This would automate as much as possible translation of new content into Welsh requests to DWP’s translation unit, by detecting new content added into source on each iteration and generating payload of the translation request for unit team. Once translation is ready, the pipeline manager will merge it back into the code. This new asynchronous process has led to a dramatic reduction in the requests to the translation unit – once per release. This has increased the efficiency of both teams.


support visits by end of 2023


SME confidence in
understanding legal obligations


prefer content to that existing elsewhere



sick days


The service was iterated continuously to the public beta stage, so is now 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 DWP Support with Employee Health and Disability service.

Since deploying in public beta, over 12,500 users have visited support with employee health and disability. Survey data shows that SME confidence in understanding and discharging their legal obligations has risen by 37% since the service was introduced, with 83% of users preferring its content to existing content located elsewhere.

The wider 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

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

Sarah Bradley

DWP Digital product owner

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