Commons Select Committee Inquiry – Employment support for disabled people: Access to Work

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12 May 2014
The inquiry will consider the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Access to Work programme (AtW).

Background

AtW is designed to help long-term disabled people to start a new job, or remain in employment, with practical support which goes beyond the “reasonable adjustments” which employers are required to make by law.
AtW grants can cover, or go towards, a range of practical solutions to problems faced by disabled people in the workplace—for example, adaptations to equipment; taxis to work for those who cannot use public transport; and support workers. The programme helped around 31,000 people in 2012/13.
In 2011 the coalition Government commissioned Liz Sayce to conduct an independent review of employment support for disabled people. The Sayce review highlighted the effectiveness of AtW but found a lack of awareness about the programme, particularly amongst smaller employers and people with mental health conditions and learning disabilities. Liz Sayce recommended that DWP “transform [AtW] from Government’s best-kept secret to a recognised passport to successful employment”.
The Government has since taken some steps to increase the reach of AtW, for example through increased marketing of the scheme to employers, and extending it to cover a broader range of work experience, traineeship and apprenticeship placements.

Terms of reference for the inquiry

Submissions of no more than 3,000 words are invited from interested organisations and individuals.
The Committee is particularly interested in:
  • The AtW application and assessment processes, from the perspectives of employees and employers;
  • The adequacy of ongoing support, both in terms of the aids, adaptations and support workers provided through AtW, and the help and advice offered by DWP;
  • The effectiveness of AtW in supporting people with mental health conditions and learning disabilities;
  • AtW’s effectiveness in terms of helping disabled people to:
  1. Secure a job;
  2. Stay in employment; and
  3. Develop their careers; and
  • The steps taken so far by DWP to extend AtW, including its marketing and funding of the scheme.
Submissions do not need to address all of these points.
The deadline for submitting evidence is Friday 20 June.
How to submit your evidence
To encourage paperless working and maximise efficiency, select committees are now using a new web portal for online submission of written evidence. The web portal is available on our website.
The personal information you supply will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 for the purposes of attributing the evidence you submit and contacting you as necessary in connection with its processing.
Each submission should:
  1. be no more than 3,000 words in length
  2. be in Word format with as little use of colour or logos as possible
  3. have numbered paragraphs
If you need to send a paper copy please send it to: The Clerk, Work and Pensions Committee, House of Commons, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA
Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum, in which case a web link to the published work should be included.
Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. It is the Committee’s decision whether or not to accept a submission as formal written evidence.
The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), or by making it available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.
Select Committees are unable to investigate individual cases.
Further guidance on submitting evidence to Select Committees is available on the parliamentary website (PDF PDF 2.46 MB)Opens in a new window.
The deadline for submitting evidence is Friday 20 June.
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Currently, policy options are severely constrained by the Government’s “concern” to “maximise the freedom of individuals and of business”, to avoid interfering with the “operations of the market”, and to minimise the costs on private enterprise. However, attention must not be diverted from the campaign for enforceable and enforced anti-discrimination legislation. It is surprising that little regard has been given to employment equity with its promise of addressing fundamental issues about the potentially disabling role of the working environment.
Jobcentre Plus introduced some “operational changes” to the Access to Work programme. They admit that these have limited the scope of funding for applications after 1st October 2010. In other words, support has been cut.
The DWP said that:
“Our considerations have led us to take a view on a range of equipment that we feel should be regarded as either standard provision or the type of items that we could reasonably expect an employer to fund from their own resources, taking into account current working practices, advancements in technology and normal business standards.
As a result we no longer expect to provide any funding for a range of items that have previously fallen within our remit, including chairs, other ergonomic items, IT hardware and more commonly used software. “
Indeed, political focus since 2010 has been aimed at reducing both support and public sympathies for disabled people, with scant concern for our welfare and well-being. In fact the welfare “reforms” have discriminately, severely and adversely impacted on the “freedom of individuals” with disabilities.
Therefore the inquiry is a welcomed and timely one.

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 Special thanks to Robert Livingstone for his brilliant memes.
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