What is Access to Work?
The Department of Work and Pensions runs a scheme called Access to Work. It is a pot of money which covers employees’ access costs – it can pay for Sign Language Interpreters, Access Workers, adaptive equipment such as ergonomic chairs, screen-reading equipment and also transport costs if public transport is not an option.
How is it under threat?
Access to Work isn't a benefit and doesn't incur a cost to government - in fact it brings money into the treasury, yet Deaf people, for example, are having their support allowance halved (meaning they can no longer afford to use qualified interpreters), while other disabled people are having their respective support cut in other ways.
Changes to the application process itself have made the whole process inaccessible and distressing, sometimes taking several months to put in place. This places jobs at risk and has already resulted in job losses and demotions. People currently in work are potentially being forced out of work and onto benefits, which goes against everything the government is telling us they are trying to achieve.
Deaf and disabled people bring a vast amount of skill and talent to our workforce that we can't afford to lose. We want to ensure that full support is provided, and people are enabled to gain, maintain and progress in their chosen careers.
Personal choice and control needs to be handed back to the experts on Deaf and disabled access needs in the workplace - the very individuals who use the scheme
What needs to happen?
Very little, actually. A trained, skilled, knowledgeable applicant response team and a commitment to protecting the pot of money set aside to run it will bring the project back on track. Additionally, it is vital the response team should no longer be given financial incentives to reject applications.
What can you do?
Get in touch with your local MP and tell them that this is an issue that matters to you. You can download our letter template from the orange box on the right-hand side of your screen.
Lyn Gardner has used her blog to talk about this issue.
Graeae Theatre Company and Candoco have also blogged about how these changes are affecting them, and Candoco's submission to the Work and Pensions Select Committee is available here.