Report highlights adverse impact of AtW changes

A report Barriers to Work, commissioned by Inclusion London, has found evidence of significant problems with the Government’s disability employment support programme, Access to Work

The report recommends ways to improve Access to Work and reduce the adverse impacts that changes to the scheme are currently having on deaf and disabled people reliant on it to stay in employment. The recommendations have been put together and are supported by deaf and disabled people under the #StopChanges2AtW campaign.

The research found that almost half of respondents to a survey carried out by #StopChanges2AtW had experienced changes to their Access to Work package, with “cuts” or “cost cutting” as the most frequently given reason. The report also found evidence of rationing strategies being deployed at various levels including more frequent re-assessment, often leading to a reduced award, tighter eligibility criteria, and increased restrictions on the use and portability of support, especially for the self-employed.

More than half of respondents said they found Access to Work difficult to use, with one in four reporting severe difficulty. Many respondents said they effectively lost support, because the processes for claiming has become so complex and protracted, with a dramatic rise in administrative problems, that the scheme was no longer a viable form of employment support.

Nearly all of those experiencing changes said they had impacted negatively on their work, reducing their standard of work or their productivity. In the worst cases people had lost their job, turned down work or reduced their income as a result of the changes. Many respondents reported a personal, as well as professional, impact from the changes: through stress, poorer health, and loss of self-esteem or confidence due to feeling “like a burden”.

Catherine Hale, author of the report said: “The Government has justified introducing caps on Access to Work support costs saying they want to expand the scheme to reach more people, however most respondents to the survey who were adversely affected by changes had low or average value awards. The majority of respondents experiencing reduced support received under 5 hours of support per week. Many were self-employed, affected by the changes to guidance on self-employed earnings, as well as restrictions on the portability of support between contracts.”

Geraldine O’Halloran, co-founder of #StopChanges2AtW said: “On the one hand the Government says they want to reduce the disability employment gap and get another million disabled people into work, yet here is a disability employment scheme with a track record of success and it is being cut and changed to a point where it is no longer a viable form of support. We know that Access to Work provides a return for the Treasury for every pound invested in it (7) and that’s before the wider benefits of savings to the NHS and social care are taken into consideration. Deaf and Disabled people are frustrated and anxious at the risk of unemployment and benefit dependency, which will come at a much higher cost to the State than the support package they need to remain in work.”