In-work support for disabled people failing

Did you know? •Access To Work support highly criticised and needs substantial improvement says Parliamentary Committee. •Legal compliance seems optional for Access To Work and the Equalities Commission hasn’t managed to bring them to book. •Government more focussed on disabled people watching sport rather than whether we can work and pay for the tickets?

Access To Work is the scheme run by the Department for Work and Pensions to assist disabled people to work. It can provide funding for special equipment, some work travel, support workers and more. But the report published by a Parliamentary Select Committee on 19 December exposed how this vital support has failed to keep up with the efforts of Welfare Reform and the Work Programme in moving more disabled people in to work.
Published just as most people started their Christmas breaks, the report hasn’t had much visibility so it needs wider support if ATW is going to tackle the high unemployment rates amongst people with long-term health conditions . Here are points I’ve picked out of the summary:
•ATW needs substantial improvements.
•The Department seems to be trying to increase the number of people receiving ATW support but with only a slightly increased budget. This means that some people who have high support needs are bearing the brunt of the inadequate funding. My perception is that people are considered to be “Fit for Work” by the Work Capability Assessment process (with all it’s other well recognised flaws) on the basis that ATW support is available for those who need it – but that this is not backed up by sufficient funding to make it happen.
•It seems that savings from the closure of the Remploy factories that had been earmarked for ATW didn’t get transferred. Funding has been provided through the Work Programme but this has had very limited success in supporting people with long-term health conditions.
•ATW appears to focus primarily on people with sensory and physical impairments but there are many more people with a much larger spectrum of conditions that need help.
•Policy that caps support for Deaf people who use BSL interpreters needs urgent resolution. But it is disappointing that the report doesn’t show equal concern for others of us who need highly skilled support workers too. Some might consider that such a policy is indirect discrimination that DWP cannot justify and that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission should be on their case.
•There is no clear information about how ATW decisions are made and how they can be challenged. In practice, from my experience, the Department is deliberately not telling people that they can take disputes to the Independent Case examiner and the Parliamentary and Health services Ombudsman. It isn’t just or fair to deny us our rights.
•ATW is not taking adequate account of the full circumstances of self-employed people’s businesses. Again, it also seems that they have little appreciation of the circumstances of those running single person companies. This flies in the face of Census data that shows that working disabled people are more likely to be self-employed than others.
•Poor administration. Enough said.
•ATW staff need better disability awareness and communications need to be more accessible. From my perspective, it is staggering that a system aimed at supporting disabled people is not compliant with the Equality Act 2010 and that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission hasn’t taken a stance on this.
•The Department has introduced major changes but not told the people who will be affected! One feels rather mushroom-like …
As you may have guessed, I provided evidence to the Select committee and wouldn’t it be great if the ATW team talked to us who have had years more experience of the system than those who run it? From an individual perspective, I see no sign of any resolution to disputes that have been going on for months already. It feels as if the last 15 years working to help other disabled people get back in to employment is treated with utter contempt when now my future work prospects are put at risk rather than being supported by this system.
Perhaps the current survey in to the accessibility for spectators at sports events is timely – it looks as if I may have lots more leisure time in the future!

Disability Floristry Art

Disability Floristry Art

Bouquet of the week.
To all those disabled people who have been recognised in the New Year’s Honours List – we may not be able to identify you all but huge congratulations for making contributions to our society and setting great examples of just what is possible.

Yours respectfully,

Penny Melville-Brown

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

Voluntary work threatened by benefit sanctions.

Did you know? Contractors funded to run the Government’s compulsory community work seem to be passing the buck to volunteer organisations.

When unemployed people complete two years on the Work Programme without getting back to employment, they are put on to the Government’s Help to Work programme that includes mandatory community work: they will have their benefits stopped if they don’t do the work. Various contractors are being funded to provide the training and arrange the community work. But it seems that some are trying to use the voluntary sector to run those work placements – without passing on any of the funding.
This raises a key principle: voluntary work is exactly what it says on the tin. Being required to work at the risk of social security benefits is quite different. Is it ethical for voluntary organisations to be required to report “volunteers” who don’t show up?
Equally important is the quality and effectiveness of community work. By definition, all of these people will have been out of work for at least 2 years and often much longer. They have not been able to get jobs despite the support of Work Programme professionals so community work is likely to require even more effort and supervision to prepare them to succeed on the job market. Such support takes time, skill and experience so it’s not without cost. And this doesn’t even take in to account that a sizeable proportion of the community workers are likely to have additional needs due to health conditions/disabilities. It seems inescapable that either those contracted to manage the community work need to provide this support or they need to pass on the right proportion of their funding to whoever takes on the community workers. Already, in some areas, voluntary sector organisations are rejecting involvement in community work because of the ethics and because they don’t have the resources to fulfil the contractors’ responsibilities. Perhaps this policy is at risk of foundering because the detail of delivery hasn’t yet been fully worked out?

140709 - Apple tree

uquet of the week. Apple tree

I have just celebrated 30 years in the same house. Built in about 1880, it still has lots of original Victorian features but has also evolved over the years: new rooms, garden landscaping and interior decorating. Here’s a picture of one of the apple trees that has survived from the orchard on which the house was built – It must have been planted in the mid 1800s and still produces wonderful Cox’s Pippins for tarte Tatin.

Yours long-termly!

Penny Melville-Brown

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000