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‘Access to Work’ Category

03 FebDWP pilots Access to Work personal budgets

On Monday the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, announced a pilot of personal budgets for the Access to Work scheme.

In a statement to Parliament he said: “We are trialling a new feature of the access to work scheme. From today we shall be testing the use of personal budgets, which will allow disabled people who have received grants to decide exactly how and when the money can best be used to support their individual needs. That gives them more choice and more control over the support they receive to help them to start work, to stay in work, or even to start a business.”

The announcement follows a statement made by the Minister for Disabled People in March 2015, which was the result of negotiations about the scheme with our Access to Work special interest group.

15 JanDWP trials access by telephone for sign language users

People who use British Sign Language (BSL) can now contact the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) via telephone.

DWP has begun a six month pilot of a service that allows people whose first or only language is BSL to contact DWP about Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance (65+), Disability Living Allowance (under 65) and Access to Work. Following the pilot the Department intends to provide the service via the Crown Commercial Service framework agreement for language services.

The video relay service (VRS), provided by SignVideo, connects the deaf person to a sign language interpreter via a camera on a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. The hearing person at DWP will be connected to the interpreter via a telephone.

The service will be open to everyone during normal working hours. All someone has to do is click on the hyperlink on the relevant web page and they will be connected.

Jim Edwards, chair of the UK Council on Deafness, said: “The UK Council on Deafness is delighted DWP has taken this step to open up access for deaf people who use BSL. We trust the pilot will be successful and look forward to more government services becoming accessible, as they are in Scotland.

“We are also glad the Department has commissioned one of the companies that has voluntarily agreed to our standards for VRS. It means deaf people can be assured the interpreter will be registered with NRCPD or a member of SASLI, which means they will be properly qualified and follow a code of conduct.”

16 DecDWP piloting online access to Access to Work

dwpThe Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is looking for new deaf and deafblind applicants to help it pilot its online application system for Access to Work

DWP believes deaf and deafblind people will particularly benefit from the new online service. They will appreciate UK Council on Deafness members advising new deaf applicants to email ATW.DIGITALFIRSTCONTACT@DWP.GSI.GOV.UK saying they want to make an online application.

The applicant then be sent a unique link that will take them to the online form. By gathering more  information at the start, DWP expects the system to reduce the time it takes to make an award.

The online system is one of the improvements our Access to Work special interest group lobbied for during its negotiations with DWP over the past two years. Other improvements that have been or are being made include being able to contact Access to Work via email, the introduction of personal budgets, and guidance for individuals in BSL and English.

Following the pilot, the online application system will be launched nationally. We hope it will lead to the development of an online portal through which people can manage their Access to Work award.

04 JunUK Council on Deafness welcomes Access to Work research but remains concerned about cap on awards

The UK Council on Deafness welcomes the Department for Work and Pensions’ desire to establish the return on investment delivered by Access to Work.

The need for research was identified in the equality analysis for the future of Access to Work. It said, “establishing the return on investment delivered by Access to Work will build the case for increased funding”.

David Buxton, director of the British Deaf Association and chair of the UK Council on Deafness Access to Work special interest group, said: “We’re pleased the DWP has listened and is committed to basing its decisions on good evidence.

“But in a recent meeting with officials we made it clear DWP needs to urgently explore the risk posed to the employment of deaf people by the Minister’s decision to cap Access to Work awards. Before it comes into effect in October DWP must ask employees and employers who rely on Access to Work what will happen if the cost of support can’t be reduced.

“They say in the equality analysis they did not have the evidence to be able to quantify the risks, which will ‘depend on employer behaviour’. But as the number of people affected is relatively small, they and their employers could easily have been contacted.

“We also asked DWP how they are going to support people who will be affected by the cap. They and their employers are going to need help dealing with this change to the basis of the scheme.

“Access to Work has always provided support needed above and beyond reasonable adjustments. But that has now changed – it is the people who need lots of support that are being penalised by this cap.

“Of the 200 people we know will be affected by the cap, 90 per cent are deaf or have a hearing loss. They are likely to have jobs that require them to attend lots of meetings and conferences, which is why they need more support.

“I wrote to the Minister for Disabled People in March expressing our concern that the cap suggests there is a legitimate limit on the worth and aspiration of disabled people. These people have worked hard to get to where they are today, and we need to continue to invest in them for their benefit, their employers’ benefit and the benefit of society as a whole.

“We therefore hope the research into the scheme’s return on investment will make the case not only for increased funding but reversing the decision to cap awards.”

01 JunAccess to Work to change guidance on ‘additionality’

Access to Work is to rewrite its guidance on ‘additionality’ that has led to some deaf people losing all financial support for sign language interpreting.

The decision came after the UK Council on Deafness and others brought it to the attention of officials at the Department of Work and Pensions. Last week they released a statement saying, “guidance in this area had been applied incorrectly, advisers have received clarification on this issue and steps will now be taken to rectify the situation”.

Access to Work will now be contacting people who asked for the decision to withdraw their support to be reconsidered. People who have been affected by the wrong interpretation of the guidance but haven’t yet requested a reconsideration should contact Access to Work.

In the past few months, deaf people working with both deaf and hearing people were dismayed to learn the support they had been receiving to pay for sign language interpreters was being stopped. The reason given was that if a hearing person was doing the job they would need an interpreter to communicate with the deaf people. Access to Work therefore decided there was no extra cost to the employer.

Jim Edwards, chair of the UK Council on Deafness, said: “People who are deaf or deafblind have been the most affected by the changes made to Access to Work, and they will be most affected by the cap on awards. These constant problems make the community feel it is being singled out, and that’s not right.

“In this case a significant issue was cleared up relatively quickly, but some users of Access to Work have again paid the price for a mistaken interpretation of guidance. It happened with the guidance about employing a support worker, and now this.

“So we have stressed to them that they need to look closely at how interpretations of guidance quickly become ‘rules’ applied by all advisers. We are asking the Department to ‘road test’ future changes to policy and related guidance before implementation.”