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BBC In Touch: Liz Sayce on Access to Work

07 January 2015

Last night Liz Sayce, CEO of Disability Rights UK was interviewed about Access to Work (AtW) on BBC In Touch   

You can listen to Liz in In Touch at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04wv050

When interviewed Liz Sayce said the irony is that all parties want disabled people to work. AtW can achieve this but its effectiveness is blunted by payment delays and a perceived culture of suspicion that recipients do not deserve AtW payments. There has also been a tightening of the AtW rules regarding self employment.

Regular listeners to In Touch have raised a number of concerns over AtW. They have highlighted problems with payment delays, poor administration and a perceived climate of suspicion concerning AtW recipients. A recent Select Committee report echoed this. There has also been a threat to take legal action over AtW.

As a result the Government has taken certain steps, including a commitment to publish the AtW selection criteria.   

When interviewed, Liz Sayce said that whilst there had been some improvements to the AtW scheme such as extending it to apprenticeships it was still, as she has been reported as stating, the Government’s best kept secret.

She noted that there appears to have been a greater scrutiny of higher cost requirements, for example the DWP unnecessarily requesting more quotes on support costs as well as pressurising AtW recipients to get their employer to fund support, even when the employer is not required to do so.

She said that increased scrutiny is not needed. AtW is effective, whilst other programmes are failing disabled people (over 90% disabled people on some schemes are not helped).

AtW works so it should attract more funding. Liz recommended putting money from non-viable supported businesses into Access to Work. Some money has gone in but not nearly enough. 35, 000 disabled people are helped each year ,against a backdrop of over 3 million disabled people of working age who are out of work’.

In the interests of transparency we need the eligibility criteria to be published. It may not be the rules themselves but a problem in the way they are interpreted. Whatever the reason people need to see the criteria.

AtW is not a benefit, it is support to work. Without it many people cannot work. The length of time taken to pay support workers can lead to both a loss of the support worker and the loss of a job. This makes no sense as the more spent on getting disabled people back into employment, via AtW payments, the more money ultimately goes back to exchequer.

As the election approaches the scope for change to AtW is limited but crucial changes can be made. The Government can commit to reducing delays as well as returning to more specialist support provision, such as that for people with sight problems. There also needs to be less form filling and red tape to improve access to the scheme.

In the future, whoever is elected needs to commit to improving the AtW scheme so that more can take advantage of it.