Access to Work for disabled people failing

Did you know? The third and final Access To Work leg of employment support for disabled people is at risk of failing.

Today’s report from the Parliamentary Select Committee on their review of Access To Work raises many questions as to whether this support that should enable disabled people to work is able to do the job. From out-dated administration through inequitable treatment to inadequate funding, there are many aspects of the scheme which damage its effectiveness and further undermine the already poor performance of the Work Programme and Work Capability Assessment process.
Many disabled people want to get back to work – and it makes economic sense to ensure that they can fulfil their ambitions. Not only do working people contribute tax and National Insurance payments to the overall State coffers but getting them off benefits can produce huge savings to the Welfare bill.
As the number of mainstream unemployed (Jobseekers Allowance claimants) continue to decline with an improving economy, the next Government will need to create a much more robust approach to resolving the plight of unemployed people with long-term health conditions/disabilities:
•The Work Capability Assessment process is well known for its failings, high levels of successful appeals and failure to properly address some conditions – hopefully policy improvements will reinforce better processes by the new contractor.
•Work Programme and other employment support contracts haven’t yet incentivised providers to succeed enough with disabled people. More personalised, individual, tailored, local help already has a strong track record but doesn’t seem to fit in with Government preferences for large scale contracts or their ability to manage them
•In-work help with travel, adaptive equipment and support workers provided by Access To Work can be critical in enabling the employment of many disabled people – and its provision is assumed by the Work Capability Assessments. But simply expecting more people to be supported for the same amount of funding is unrealistic and, more important, counter-productive. All of this is exacerbated by out-dated administration and policies that are secretive and fly in the face of employment law.

As the political parties ramp up for the next election, they need to consider how their policies will influence disabled people (about 20% of the population) and their families, friends, carers etc (probably at least another 10%). There’s considerable electoral mileage to be gained (or lost) – especially as disability is more prevalent amongst older people who are also more likely to vote. Let’s check out what the manifestos promise.

Penny Melville-Brown

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

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