Anonymous letter sent on to Stephen Crabb MP

You may have seen the brilliant anonymous letter in today’s Limping Chicken about a Deaf persons experience of the Access to Work scheme, if not read it here. A BSL translation is also available.

At the request of the author, we have sent a copy of the letter to Stephen Crabb MP. Here is what we sent: 

Dear Stephen Crabb MP

Re: Anonymous letter posted on Limping Chicken Deaf blog.
We are writing to bring to your attention this anonymous letter which has been published in Limping Chicken today ( Please note that we have been asked to forward this and make public any response.
Stop Changes to Access to Work (SC2AtW) was set up three years ago as a result of changes that were beginning to have widespread negative impacts on Deaf AtW customers. Since that time the restructuring that has taken place has placed more stress on AtW customers, particularly for Deaf BSL users, and seen budgets being significantly reduced. This letter supports our experiences of the scheme. 
We look forward to receiving a response to the letter (posted in full below) at your earliest convenience. 
SC2AtW Campaign group.


 Dear Stephen Crabb MP,

I am writing to you because you are the Work and Pensions Secretary and have ultimate responsibility for Access to Work (AtW) funding. I want you to know what happened to me when I re-applied for my AtW funding recently.

This letter has been made public because I believe it is important that other deaf and disabled people know they are not the only ones being treated in such an unacceptable manner by your staff.

I’m afraid I cannot tell you my name because I fear for the repercussions. I am genuinely worried that I will get into “trouble” if you find out who I am. It’s not relevant anyway, because I know that what has happened to me is not unique.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m generally an empowered and assertive person. I have plenty of control over my own life. However, my new AtW advisor (I use that word in the loosest sense possible, because it was actually me who advised them) has subjected me to such stress in the last month that I actually had an anxiety attack.

I do not usually have anxiety attacks.

I am a hardworking person with a demanding desk job. I only require BSL/English interpreters for a very small amount of time, because I have limited contact with people who cannot sign. I have been doing this job for over 10 years and have been very happy with my ad hoc AtW funding of late, which your previously friendly advisors agreed with minimal fuss.

However, my funding ran out in January this year and no one told me. This apparently happens quite a lot. So, because I didn’t know, I booked interpreters and paid them, then I realised I needed to re-apply so I contacted your staff and was allocated the above advisor.

I have never been subject to such a ridiculous and demoralising “assessment” in my life. It was like having to jump through a series of hoops at speed (and some of these hoops were actually on fire). Mr Crabb, I am not a circus performer; nor am I a magician.

I felt like every question was a trick and had to be answered extremely carefully. At times, I was made to feel like a common criminal; at others, a basic inconvenience. Every time I answered a set of questions, I was presented with another set, and all of these had to be answered within a very short time. I feared that if I couldn’t come up with all the correct information, I was going to have to start all over again, or lose my funding.

I was asked if I’d been deaf all my life. No, I became deaf when I was 4, which your staff should have on file already. In the next set of questions, I was asked how I became deaf. I was 4 then! I’m 42 now! Why is that relevant? Surely your staff should know that asking people how they became disabled is a big no no!

After quibbling over the amount of hours I need interpreters for, the advisor asked if I would consider having some kind of technological gadget to replace them (no). I was also asked for all sorts of other details, including the exact amount of time I’ve used interpreters for the last 3 years for (they got their sums wrong), and was made to spell out why. Why did the number go up and down if my job and disability have remained the same? But why?

I was also asked for a copy of my accounts (they could have found that on the Companies House website), for quotes from 3 interpreters, whether or not I can lipread, and if I get any benefit from hearing aids (no – but what’s that got to do with the price of bread?). As an aside, you might be interested to know that your staff have also been asking my friends what brand of hearing aids they wear. But why?

And all of this pedantic, controlling drivel needs to be delivered to your advisors’ email inboxes within the next day or so.

Never mind our work deadlines (because we’re kind of busy! We have jobs! That’s the whole point!) and never mind our other commitments. When our AtW advisors email, we must put everything aside and prioritise them to the death.

Through all of this, my advisor remained harsh and humourless. They refused to even acknowledge my question about whether or not the money I’d paid interpreters before I knew my funding had run out would be backdated, until I’d asked about six times (then I was told they didn’t know yet). And every time I emailed them back, I thought they’d reply with a final funding decision, but they didn’t. I just got more and more questions from them, again and again.

And all because I book one interpreter about 6 times a year, so that I can undertake continuous professional development and try to get a bit of work.

Mr Crabb, this is tantamount to bullying and I will not stand for it. As I said, I usually kick ass, but your staff drove me into a state of anxiety, forcing me to ask my wife for help on several occasions, when I just couldn’t take it any more.

I’ll live, but I worry more about people who aren’t as tough as I am. What about the hardworking deaf and disabled taxpayers who don’t check their emails every nanosecond? What about those who have English as a second language, or those who don’t have wives to help them? Will they have rugs pulled from under their feet?

Your system is not working. Please look into it.


A hardworking British taxpayer who just wants to do his job

Stop Changes Demo: 26th September 2015

Last September over 1,000 Deaf and disabled people took to the streets to protest against the cuts being made to the Access to Work scheme.

Here is the first video of the march with sound clips of the many inspiring speakers who spoke at the rally held opposite 10 Downing Street.

We would like to thank Ted Evans ( for filming of the event (and Becky!), and Owain Paciuszko ( for video editing. You are brilliant!

Access to Work don’t have set pay rates…. Really? 

Our friends at NUBSLI (National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters), have shared a recent response they have received to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request about the rates paid by Access to Work. 

NUBSLI are working hard to safeguard the rights of Deaf people to access qualified and skilled interpreters by ensuring interpreters’ pay, terms and conditions are protected. This will mean that BSL/English interpreting continues to be a sustainable career. As part of their work they have established a Freelance Fee Guidance

The FOI they sent to the Department of Work & Pensions was to ask about the fees paid to BSL/English interpreters and the last time these were reviewed. The response will be surprising to anyone who uses Acceess to Work support…

Access to Work does not have set pay rates for BSL/English interpreting and CSW support for Deaf and deafblind people. 


This has not been our experience of the service to date. We will be feeding this back to NUBSLI and asking them to keep us updated on this area of work. 

Please do let us know if this has been your experience by emailing us at: 
The full response can be read below.  


Campaign open meeting 

#StopChanges2AtW is holding an open meeting for everyone interested in the campaign to:
– Find out what the campaign has been doing since our amazing march in September

– Find out and feed into the latest Access to Work developments

– Speak up about any problems you are currently experiencing

Since the #StopChanges2AtW campaign was set up in October 2013 a lot has happened. Some of the problems that were emerging with Access to Work got better as a result of lobbying by us and other groups. The experience of being in a campaign that brings together Deaf and Disabled people and interpreters has also been brilliant – in some ways a learning curve for all of us, but one that has been very worthwhile and made us stronger together. There are still problems with Access to Work we need to raise and lobby to change including the introduction of the cap and the prospect of privatisation among others. 
At the meeting on 10th March we will recap on what the campaign has done so far and agree on our key priorities moving forwards.

Everyone welcome whether you have been involved in the campaign previously, want to get involved now or just want to hear what’s going on.

The venue is wheelchair accessible and BSLI communication support will be provided. 

For other access needs or for more information please contact:

For more information about #StopChanges2AtW go to:

Letter from DWP on the privatisation of Access to Work

You may remember our letter which we sent to DWP in response to the article in the Mirror last week about the privitisation of Access to Work. See our post here:

Dear Sir/Madam

Thank you for your email of 4 February to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP, concerning Access to Work.

I hope that you will understand that Government Ministers receive a large volume of correspondence and are unable to reply personally on every occasion. I have therefore been asked to respond and I hope that the following is helpful.

On behalf of this Department, I would like to confirm that no decisions have been made on the future delivery model of Access to Work and there are no current plans to privatise the service.

The Autumn Spending Review settlement awarded Access to Work with a real-terms increase in resources and, as a result, the Minister for Disabled People has commissioned a feasibility study to explore how Access to Work can help the greatest number of customers possible. Part of this feasibility study will include investigating potential future delivery models and whether any could extend customer reach beyond what Government can deliver, by having the capacity to leverage additional external funding for example.

We have published an Invitation to Tender for an external Consultancy firm to conduct the study. Independent experts are removed from Government and can therefore impartially explore the various potential delivery options and will have previous experience in this area of work.

The independent experts may liase with external stakeholders, as well as key staff amongst Access to Work Operational and Strategic divisions, to identify challenges and opportunities of the various potential delivery options.

It is important to remind stakeholders that officials are still in the commercial process of inviting tenders from potential suppliers and subsequently the study has not started yet. Furthermore, this means that no decisions on the future delivery of the scheme have been made.

Stakeholders will be kept well informed of any significant Access to Work related changes.

Yours sincerely

Ministerial Correspondence Team



Privatisation of AtW? Letter to Mr Duncan Smith 

StopChanges2AtW were appalled to read the piece in yesterdays Mirror which talked of a memo they had seen about the privatisation of Access to Work. Read it here:

Today, StopChanges2AtW sent the following letter to the DWP:

Dear Mr Duncan Smith 
We are writing to ask you to comment on the piece published in yesterday’s Mirror on a memo regarding the privatisation of Access to Work:

We were surprised to hear about this at a time when you and your department have publicly committed to significantly increasing the numbers of disabled people in work, and increasing employers disability confidence. We believe, and suggest evidence shows, that such a change would be likely to work against these goals.

Access to Work is widely accepted as bringing money into the treasury so the justification for wishing to privatise the scheme is unclear. Despite the government having since refuted the figures which were initially accepted (Sayce report showing the treasury recouping £1.48 for every £1 spent), no evidence has been provided to disprove these amounts. As part of the Work & Pension Select Committee inquiry recommendations it was suggested that government undertake a cost-benefit analysis of Access to Work expenditure, including its likely long-term impacts on social security expenditure and income tax returns. ( This piece of work has never been completed.

We will be publishing our findings of a survey we conducted with Access to Work users which show that there have been widespread cuts to individual budgets. This is contrary to the proposed changes outlined in the Equality Impact Analysis ( which suggest only the introduction of caps to high cost users defined as spending over £40,800.

Deaf and disabled people have consistently fed back that their experience of privatised services is that they are less accountable, less flexible and less customer focussed. Just when you are making improvements to the Access to Work scheme, this work looks set to be undone. 

Access to Work is currently a demand led scheme, with in principle no fixed budget. If a charity or private company is brought in this would clearly have to change, fundamentally changing the principles underlying the scheme.  

Also as experience has demonstrated, bringing a need for profit into such a service provides a powerful perverse incentive to reduce the value of awards, despite needs.

Further, any organisation brought in would have a fixed term contract. As experience has shown with other such contracts, the regular transitions to a new provider have a major negative impact on customer support and prevent the build up of necessary expertise, resources and relationships.

Should privatisation go ahead, the government are likely to see Access to Work users increasingly give up work, as the pressures being placed on them to reduce the support they need become a barrier to continued employment.

 We await a response at your earliest convenience.


Stop Changes To Access To Work 

A message from Stop Changes To Access To Work

Transcript of video: 

Hello, my names Geraldine from Stop Changes To Access To Work. This is just a quick up date about what we’ve been doing up til now. I wanted to remind you, maybe you remember the March back in September, what a wonderful day that was, nearly 1,000 people marched – Deaf and disabled people, their friends and families, to tell the government to stop touching our Access to Work, to stop cutting our resources. 

Another positive thing has been people contacting us to ask for help and to look into judicial reviews for their AtW and we’ve been supporting those. We’ve also been working with other organisations. 

We have a survey out at the moment, a questionnaire and we are asking Deaf and disabled people to fill this in and tell us the good and bad things about Access to Work. Please fill this in, it will help us show Access to Work that there are still ongoing problems. 

We’ve been supporting and working with the national union of sign language interpreters (NUBSLI), who are campaigning against the national framework. That will affect us and the quality of interpreting resources available in the future. It is a worry. 

Really I want to finish off on a positive. I want to say it was brilliant to see so many people on the march, we wish you all a happy Christmas and if you don’t celebrate Christmas, all the best for the new year. Keep your eye on the campaign as there is still a lot more to do. Bye for now. 

Link for survey:

Petition response from Justin Tomlinson, Minister for Disabled People

We have now received a response to our petition.

As you will see there are some positives, e.g the introduction of Video Relay Services in 2015/16, however we are still concerned about many other aspects of the scheme and its delivery.

We will be writing in full to the Minister once we have the results of our survey (which can be seen here). In the meantime we will be contacting the DWP and pointing out to them that the Equality Impact Analsis remains inaccessible to Deaf BSL users, and given that they have identified that 89.5% of those affected are Deaf BSL users, this is unacceptable.

If you haven’t taken part in our survey yet please do so here.


You can read the Petition Response as a Word document here.


Response: Page 1

Response: Page 2

Response: Page 3

Response: Page 4

Our march: A photo essay

Our Access to Work march on Saturday 26th September was wonderful, with 1,000 people marching from Parliament Square to Downing Street via the Department of Work and Pensions, with a clear message: STOP MAKING CHANGES TO ACCESS TO WORK.

After dropping off a copy of our petition (signed by 20,000 people at that point) at Downing Street, we held a rousing rally at Richmond Terrace, where emphasis was put on working together and paving the way for today’s deaf and disabled children’s futures.

Here are some photos from the day – each one is captioned – thanks to Paula Peters and others:

#LetUsWork banner: getting ready to march…

#LetUsWork banner: getting ready to march...

Marchers lining up outside Parliament.


Stop the Cuts banner (with Claire Hill, our fab stenographer)!


Some of our lovely stewards getting everyone to line up, ready to march…IMG_4832

…And we were off!  Marching around Parliament Square:


Outside the DWP (to chants of “Shame! Shame! Shame!”):


Marching down Whitehall with a rather magnificent BSL banner…


Arriving for the rally…


Stop Changes to AtW members handing over our petition at 10 Downing Street!


Rally: Our MC, John Walker, introducing Sean McGovern (TUC Disabled Workers’ Committee Co-Chair/Unite the Union)


Some of our interpreters and stenographer in full flow!


Jane Aitchinson (Unite the Resistance)


Jeff McWhinney addressing the crowd!


Tracey Lazard (Inclusion London)


Dawn Marshall (Becoming Visible)


Ray Johnson (People First)


Jen Smith (NUBSLI)


Jane Cordell (Result CIC)


Roger Lewis (DPAC)


Jenny Sealey (Stop Changes)


Ellen Clifford (Stop Changes)


… and the amazing crowd!


We wholeheartedly thank everyone who came and made the day such a success.

Our amazing march: Some links!

More soon about our brilliant, 1,000-strong, march on Saturday!

For now, here are some links (if you know of more, please tell us!):

Today’s Limping Chicken

Friday’s Disability News Service

Photos on Demotix by Peter Marshall:

Photos on Demotix by Philip Robins

Finnish Deaf news (English translation below)

 Yesterday, 26 September in London deaf people gathered to protest because the government planned cuts in working interpretation fundings. If the work interpretation is reduced, the deaf are afraid that the work interpretation shall be reduced, this will lead to the loss of existing jobs and have trouble finding work. The British Deaf community also collected more than 18 thousand names changes to oppose the changes.