Investment to support people with learning disabilities into paid employment is declining and many commissioners do not have access to the data they need on services they commission, according to new research.

Other interim findings by the National Development Team for Inclusion’s (NDTi) research into the cost effectiveness of local authority and NHS investment in employment supports for people with learning disabilities and for those with mental health problems found that there is limited focus on the use of personal budgets to support people into paid work.

These interim findings found that over the past 5 years there has been growth in the overall level of spend on supporting people into employment, mostly thanks to policy initiatives in the past decade. However, spending reductions in 2012/13 appears to have taken spend levels back to, or below, the level they were in 2010/11.

However, despite the 2012/13 reduction, most commissioners expect commissioned employment supports to be consolidated or increased over the next few years.

Meanwhile, most commissioners have data on how much they spend on employment support, but many are unable to break down spend between different types of employment support.

Data collected by commissioners does not generally provide information on more complex issues, such as the impact of someone getting a job on their use of other health and social care services.

Rob Greig, chief executive of the NDTi, said: “These early findings suggest that many commissioners do not have access to the information they need to help ensure that they are achieving value for money out of the investments they are making in supporting people with learning disabilities and people with mental health problems into paid work.

“There is clear evidence that some types of employment support are more effective than others in enabling people to gain and retain paid work. If we can support evidence-based investment in those approaches, then the chances of increasing the numbers of disabled people accessing the world of paid work will be greater. Achieving this should be cost effective as past research has shown it costs the public purse less to support people into work than it does to meet the costs of people using alternative health and social care services such as day centres.

“Following the completion of the next stage of the research – which will look in more depth into the outcomes achieved from investment - we will be producing tools and supports that will help commissioners to plug these gaps in their knowledge.”

Keith Bates, head of employment at the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, welcomed the NDTi’s report, saying: “We should also be heartened that, despite some reductions in spend, the majority of commissioners continue to recognise the significance of employment even in times of austerity.”