Assistive technology report published

The Work and Pensions committee has called on the Government to do more to promote the use of assistive technology (AT) to help more disabled people into work. Its report says it can help to close the disability employment gap and improve national productivity.

The report details how the technology can greatly help the employment prospects of people currently claiming benefits, and help them to control their home environments when it is integrated with computers, phones and gadgets.

Disabled people and employers have often regarded it as costly, bespoke equipment, but the report says the Government can take action to change this perception and increase the use of assistive technology by allowing personal independence payments (PIPs) to be opened up for people to buy or lease technology.



The report states that necessary rapid innovation and mass-marketisation of assistive technology will only happen if the Government makes concerted efforts to stimulate entrepreneurship and drive forward advances – in the interests of promoting equality but also in the national economic interest.  Government should now: 

  • Open up Personal Independence Payments (PIP) to lease or buy AT, on the same principle as is currently used for claimants to lease cars – again with no additional cost to the taxpayer. For many disabled people out of work, even the cost of a mainstream laptop or smart phone is out of reach, but many need at least these basic, ‘universal’ forms of AT to access the job market. 
  • Create a new AT "Grand Challenge" under its Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund – allowing development of new AT at no additional cost - then bring together a consortium of AT developers, users, employers and support providers to bid for this funding.
  • Overhaul training for Access to Work staff to get a wider range of people using AT, make Access to Work more cost-effective, and open up the market.  Some staff remain wedded to recommending expensive specialist equipment when equally good mainstream alternatives are often cheaper - or free. Training is only offered by specialist equipment providers, further binding assessors to those providers and their equipment. DWP needs to ensure assessors consistently recommend the latest and best value equipment, and provide its own training to support it. It should also encourage local AT support organisations to tender their services via the Flexible Support Fund.
  • Enhance the planned Disability Confident employer portal to help employers understand what AT can do—often at little or no additional cost— and reassure many of their concerns about taking on and retaining disabled workers. 
  • Act as a model employer itself, with a new league table of Departments to incentivise them all to improve quickly: civil service computer systems are often not fully accessible to AT users despite all Departments being signed up to the Disability Confident scheme at the highest level of accreditation.