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‘Access to Work’ Category

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.”

20 MarSelect committee concerned by government action on Access to Work

The chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, Dame Anne Begg MP, has expressed concern about government action on Access to Work.

Dame Anne wrote to the Minister for Disabled People after he told her he wouldn’t be responding formally to their report on Access to Work until after the general election.

Dame Anne was also concerned that he had introduced a cap on Access to Work awards. She said it was directly contrary to the conclusions and recommendations in their report.

12 MarMinisterial statement about changes to Access to Work

Mr Mark Harper MP, (The Minister for Disable People), has today submitted a written statement on Access to Work to which UK Council on Deafness will be responding.

Access to Work :  Written statement – HCWS372
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 12 March 2015 by Mr Mark Harper MP

Statement:

Access to Work plays a key part in building a Disability Confident Britain. In 2013/14 Access to Work spent £108m to help 35,540 disabled people enter or remain in work, over 4,000 more than in 2012/13. I want to build on this by continuing to improve customer service, increase the numbers of disabled people helped, improve choice and control and reach out to under-represented groups such as those with hidden impairments including mental health conditions, learning disabilities and autism.

In December 2014, I announced operational improvements to the Access to Work Scheme. The transformation of Access to Work operations is starting to bear fruit and I am pleased to announce that we are now meeting service standards.

This gives a platform for further reform. In 2015/16 we will start a process of offering personal budgets for those with on-going awards for travel or support. This will give users more freedom over how they use their awards.

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19 DecUK Council on Deafness welcomes Work and Pensions Committee focus on impact of Access to Work changes on deaf people

The UK Council on Deafness has welcomed the Work and Pensions Committee’s focus on the problems deaf people have faced due to the way Access to Work has been operating.

The report of the Committee’s inquiry into the scheme, published this morning, specifically mentions how the application of the ’30 hour rule’ has threatened the employability of deaf people.

David Buxton, chair of the UK Council on Deafness Access to Work group, said: “This report, and yesterday’s statement by the Minister for Disabled People, are testament to the way deaf people and organisations have worked together over the past year.

“Hundreds of deaf people submitted evidence to the inquiry, many more than usual, and that is reflected in the report. Whilst improvements need to be made to the scheme for all disabled people, it’s clear deaf people have borne the brunt of changes to the programme.

“As Dame Anne said, it would be unacceptable for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to try and control costs by targeting a particular group and threatening their ability to stay in their jobs. We don’t think that was the intention, but unfortunately that’s what it seemed like to deaf people.

“The application of the 30 hour rule, capping of hourly rates and refusing to fund a second interpreter when necessary all showed the DWP didn’t understand how sign language interpreting is provided and used, as the Committee recognised. We are therefore very pleased the Committee recommends introducing a specially trained team to deal with high cost awards, and that it receives intensive training in deaf awareness and the solutions available.

“We also hope Access to Work follows the recommendations that the guidance on employing a support worker should not apply to sign language interpreting and to fully review the awards of everyone who has suffered as a result.

“Of course, many deaf people don’t use sign language. Whilst many of the problems have related to interpreting, it’s important the DWP doesn’t lose sight of the variety of support needed.

“We now look forward to working with the DWP to finish its review and begin to make the changes that will mean more people benefiting from Access to Work. We are also talking to them about making the case for additional funding to the Treasury and hope they will follow the Committee’s recommendation to carry out a cost-benefit analysis of Access to Work.”

The UK Council on Deafness was pleased to note many of the recommendations made by the Committee are in line with its own vision for Access to Work. They include

  • consulting people who use Access to Work before changes are made;
  • greater clarity on how decisions are taken and appeals and complaints can be made;
  • establishing an online system;
  • better disability awareness training, with specific attention to deaf awareness;
  • better knowledge of the support and technology available for deaf people;
    guidance in BSL; and
  • making it possible for people to contact Access to Work via video relay.