Barriers to Work – Deaf and Disabled employees are losing out due to changes in government’s Access to Work programme

Newly published research has found evidence of significant problems with the Government’s disability employment support programme Access to Work. Inclusion London’s report “Barriers to Work” will be launched in Parliament on 24 October alongside a comprehensive list of recommendations from the campaign #StopChanges2AtW on ways to improve Access to Work and reduce the adverse impacts that changes to the scheme are currently having.

Press Release: embargoed until 11am Tuesday 24 October 2017

New report highlights adverse impact of changes to the Government’s Access to Work programme on Deaf and Disabled people in employment

Download our recommendations: Improving Access to Work: Our Recommendations (PDF)

Download the Barriers to Work report:

Barriers to Work (Word doc)  Barriers to Work (PDF)

Newly published research has found evidence of significant problems with the Government’s disability employment support programme Access to Work (1). The report “Barriers to Work” commissioned by Inclusion London will be launched in Parliament on 24 October alongside a comprehensive list of recommendations from the campaign #StopChanges2AtW (2) on ways to improve Access to Work and reduce the adverse impacts that changes to the scheme are currently having on Deaf and Disabled people reliant on the scheme to stay in employment. The recommendations have been put together and are supported by Deaf and Disabled people and their organisations across England, Wales and Scotland.

The research found that almost half of respondents to a survey carried out by #StopChanges2AtW had experienced changes to their Access to Work package with “cuts” or “cost cutting” as the most frequently given reason. (4) The report also found evidence of rationing strategies being deployed at various levels including more frequent re-assessment, often leading to a reduced award, tighter eligibility criteria, and increased restrictions on the use and portability of support, especially for the self-employed.

More than half of respondents said they found Access to Work difficult to use, with one in four reporting severe difficulty. (5) Many respondents said they effectively lost support because the processes for claiming Access to Work has become so complex and protracted with a dramatic rise in administrative problems (6) so that the scheme was no longer a viable form of employment support.

Nearly all of those experiencing changes said they had impacted negatively on their work, reducing their standard of work or their productivity. In the worst cases people had lost their job, turned down work or reduced their income as a result of the changes. Many respondents reported a personal, as well as professional, impact from the changes: through stress, poorer health, and loss of self-esteem or confidence due to feeling “like a burden”.

Catherine Hale, author of the report said: “The Government has justified introducing caps on Access to Work support costs saying they want to expand the scheme to reach more people, however most respondents to the survey who were adversely affected by changes had low or average value awards. The majority of respondents experiencing reduced support received under 5 hours of support per week. Many were self-employed, affected by the changes to guidance on self-employed earnings, as well as restrictions on the portability of support between contracts.”

Geraldine O’Halloran, co-founder of #StopChanges2AtW said: “On the one hand the Government says they want to reduce the disability employment gap and get another million disabled people into work, yet here is a disability employment scheme with a track record of success and it is being cut and changed to a point where it is no longer a viable form of support. We know that Access to Work provides a return for the Treasury for every pound invested in it (7) and that’s before the wider benefits of savings to the NHS and social care are taken into consideration. Deaf and Disabled people are frustrated and anxious at the risk of unemployment and benefit dependency, which will come at a much higher cost to the State than the support package they need to remain in work.”

Ellen Clifford, Campaigns and Policy Manager at Inclusion London said: “The sheer numbers of Deaf and Disabled people coming to us with problems with Access to Work and the scale of difficulties with administrative errors and repeatedly lost paperwork suggest the scheme is being deliberately run down. Access to Work used to be known as the government’s best kept secret but it’s now questionable whether it is fit for purpose. We urge the government to adopt our recommendations and to invest in an Access to Work programme that can effectively support Deaf and Disabled people to get into, stay in and get on in employment.”

For more information or to speak to Deaf and Disabled people personally affected contact ellen.clifford@inclusionlondon.org.uk or via 07505144371.

Notes to editors

(1) Access to Work provides workplace support for Deaf and Disabled people over and beyond what employers can provide as a reasonable adjustment. Access to Work customers are an integral part of the UK workforce, often with highly developed careers. In the financial year 2015/16 36,470 individuals were helped through Access to Work, which represents a small drop in the previous year. The Department for Work and Pensions has altered the way it records the statistics so figures just published for this year cannot be compared against previous years. “Experimental” statistics for 2016/17 record the number of people for whom “Access to Work provision was approved”. This includes people who were given assessments but found to be ineligible for support under the scheme.

https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/538443/access-to-work-statistics-march-2016.pdf

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/access-to-work-statistics

(2) StopChanges2AtW is led by Deaf and Disabled professionals and campaigners and BSL interpreters, set up in 2014, to give a voice to Deaf and Disabled people adversely affected by changes to Access to Work. https://stopchanges2atw.com/

(4) Most respondents who were adversely affected by changes to AtW had low or average value awards. The majority of respondents experiencing reduced support received under 5 hours of support per week. Many were self-employed, affected by the changes to guidance on self-employed earnings, as well as restrictions on the portability of support between contracts.

(5) Only 15% of respondents said they found Access to Way easy to apply for, or use.

(6) The most frequently mentioned administrative problems with AtW included not being told when their award was ending, leaving them indebted to support workers and unable to perform their job; a large increase in time spent disputing their needs with AtW staff, resulting in lost productivity in work; lengthy delays in assessments for support meaning they were unable to take up a new job or offer of work and lengthy delays and frequently lost paperwork in processing payments, leaving them in personal debt. The loss of personalised support relationship with an AtW adviser also means that all aspects of communication are slower and less efficient than before.

(7) The Sayce Report, which recommended closure of the Remploy factories in order to re-invest the money saved in Access to Work, gave a figure of £1.48 back to the treasury for every £1 invested in Access to Work. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/49779/sayce-report.pdf

 

Further reading:

StopChanges2ATW’s blog post: Barriers to Work: Our Report and Recommendations

Victoria Derbyshire, 24th October 2017: There are criticisms of a key scheme which gives workplace support to disabled people – the programme hears from those affected.