Urgent expansion of work support for disabled people required

Tue,6 March 2012
News Equality & Rights

Press release

7 March 2012

Disability Rights UK [1] welcomes the Government’s acceptance of all the recommendations in the Sayce review [2] to transform the Access to Work programme [3] and the commitment to ring-fence the £300 million specialist disability employment budget. We believe that this is the best way to promote disabled people’s genuine participation in the nation’s workforce.

But we urge the Government to:

  • Demonstrate speed in implementing the recommendations – so that numbers using this essential programme can double quickly, as the Sayce review proposed; and
  • Ensure the rights of people working in non-viable Remploy factories are protected through financial and employment support, including support for employment, enterprise and community opportunities.
    Liz Sayce, author of the review and Chief Executive of Disability Rights UK, said

‘The Access to Work programme must expand. We currently face a crisis of disabled youth unemployment – being ‘not in education, employment or training’ is twice as common amongst young disabled people, as non-disabled. Without individualised employment support there is a real risk they will become a lost generation, out of work for life; and that others will slip out of work unnecessarily. Access to Work is popular with those who use it, and cost effective, but widely unknown. With reform and vigorous promotion it could transform disabled people’s opportunities’.  

Access to Work provides the essential support, interpreters, technology and more that give disabled people a more equal chance of employment. It is popular with disabled people – because you can (at best) get individual support that suits your situation and your job. And it brings money in to the economy – for every £1 spent, the Treasury recoups £1.48. 

The big reforms needed are:

  • To change Access to Work from Government’s best kept secret to an open, well-publicised programme and portal – where people can find out about every type of support, rate products and services and take control of their own lives and support. At present Small and Medium Enterprises (where new jobs tend to come on stream) usually know nothing about it, schools and health services usually don’t promote it – and one result is that new claims have gone down in the last 2 years;
  • To let people know in advance what their indicative entitlement will be – so they can assure an employer (eg at interview) that some help will be available with costs;
  • To provide cover for a temp, if someone has a fluctuating condition that means periods of absence – thereby removing the fear the employer may have about taking on someone with a record of absence; and
  • To work with organisations led by disabled people, to mobilise peer support – so disabled people learn from each other about ‘what works’ to help you get in, stay in and get on at work.

Phil Friend, Vice Chair of Disability Rights UK, said

‘Organisations led by disabled people have campaigned long and hard for employment support on our own terms, so we can work in every type of job and every part of the economy. That is the right model for the future. Disabled people are tired of being painted in the headlines as ‘scroungers’ and just ask for the individual support we need to have a fair opportunity to work alongside everyone else. While the Remploy factory model was right for the 1940s but unsustainable today, it is crucial that Remploy employees have the right support – intensive where needed - to secure their financial security and move into open employment or social enterprise’.


  1. Disability Rights UK has arrived - the merger of The Royal Association for Disability Rights (Radar), National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL) and Disability Alliance took place on 1st January 2012. Our vision is a society where all disabled people can participate equally as full citizens. We provide support and advice for disabled people seeking work, including guides written by and for disabled people eg ‘Doing Careers Differently’ available at: http://www.radar.org.uk/publications/doing-careers-differently/
  2. The Sayce Review was an independent review of employment support for disabled people commissioned by DWP and led by Liz Sayce OBE. Full information on the review and the final report (‘Getting in, staying in and getting on’ published June 2011) is available online at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/sayce-report.pdf
  3. Access to Work supports disabled people and employers. Full information on the initiative is online at: www.gov.uk/access-to-work or from Disability Rights UK at: http://www.disabilityrights.org/f27.htm Around 37,000 disabled people each year use the Access to Work programme. However, the numbers of ‘new starts’ is going down. Latest Government Access to Work statistics show that from April to September 2011 4830 people started using Access to Work (new starts) – a full year rate of 9,660. This means the last 3 years of ‘new starts’ look like this:

2009-10                     16,220
2010-11                     13,010
2011-12                     9,660 (expected - based on half year figures)


Further information on the Sayce Review and the Government response is available for media sources on:
020 7566 0125 (Jo) or 07590 929 441 (Neil).