Monthly Archives: December 2013

“Non communication days”.

It has been brought to our attention that as a result of the 30 hour rule, some Deaf people are being asked to have “non communication days”. These are days when no communication support is provided, so they are expected to get on with tasks that don’t require any communication. This has even been agreed by some employers, who by not challenging it, are sending out the message that this is acceptable.

We are appalled by this. The UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD), Article 27, states that “Persons with disabilities have equal rights to work and gain a living.” This is being severely impeded by the current guidance being implemented. Our biggest fear is that the lower pay will result in deaf people having to employ sub-standard support, that doesn’t meet their needs and restricts their ability to progress, or, worse they will become unemployable.

One Deaf professional we spoke to told us:

“I have always worked in a hearing environment. I have been lucky over the past 20 years, as I have developed skills and abilities that has given me the opportunity to not just develop as a manager, but to get to the level of CEO. This would not have happened if I did not have Access to Work resources. I have valued that resource and have used it well. But one of the things that has often been difficult is the level of resources you are allocated – you have to provide very detailed information about how you will use if that is sometimes difficult to predict. This often meant that there was no resources for 5 days support, this meant that at least one day a week is what I have always called a “non communication day” – when there was no interpreter.

This can feel very isolating and lonely. It can lead to miscommunication with hearing colleagues, who assume you have understood, as well as missing out on vital office chat and information being exchanged. For a manager this information in essential. Sometimes urgent decisions need to be made, without support this is often taken over by other members of staff. As a manager this leaves you feeling powerless and that you have lost control.

I am the expert of my own situation. The resources have got to work for me and be there to enable me to do my job”.

However, this is not merely an issue to do with employment, but a basic human right.

The higher support needs and therefore hours needed by Deaf people sets them apart from other AtW users. The governments own definition of discrimination states that “You can discriminate indirectly with working conditions or rules that disadvantage one group of people more than another.” https://www.gov.uk/employer-preventing-discrimination.

We don’t feel that it is too strong a statement to suggest this is what is currently happening to the Deaf community as a result of the 30 hour rule. We are of the opinion that the DWP are indirectly discriminating against Deaf people.

The Limping Chicken mentioned the non-communication day in their article “Things I am pleased, and not so pleased about, this Christmas”. We would like to thank Jen Dodds for raising awareness of the issue and our campaign.

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The Disability and Health Employment Strategy

Read the governments summary “the discussion so far” here.

The government have publicised their “Disability and Health Employment Strategy: the discussion so far” on social media. In it, Minister for Employment, Esther McVey, said:

It is right that disabled people and people with health conditions have the opportunity to use their skills and talents to play a full role in society, and working is a key part of this.

This strategy is a really important step in the discussion about what we need to do to ensure employers understand the benefits of hiring disabled people and people with health conditions, and that people get the right individualised support from the government“.

This at a time when they are indiscriminately enforcing the 30 hour “rule”, whether or not it meets the needs of Deaf employees. We would very much like to see “individualised support” from the government.

Minister of State for Disabled People, Mike Penning, said:

I’m proud that the UK is a world leader in disability rights, as demonstrated by our Disability Confident campaign to support employers and businesses to employ more disabled people. Being disability confident means recruiting, promoting and retaining a diverse and talented workforce. If employers are not disability confident, they risk overlooking a wealth of talent.

However, there is a still a long way to go. Looking at what people can do is the key to how we change perceptions of disability and ill health in our country. It is how we will increase the employment opportunities for disabled people in Britain and break down the barriers to work“.

The 30 hour guidance that our campaign is challenging, is creating new barriers to employment for Deaf people. It does not meet need. It is inflexible and does not consider an individuals work patterns, or the right to a choice of support in different employment settings. Employers would have to employ two members of staff for one role. This is potentially making deaf people unemployable.

There is little mention of any details. The only part that cites AtW says that the reform aims to:

improve the Access to Work programme so that it better reflects the needs of disabled people, people with health conditions and employers. For example, by enabling online applications which will allow employers to apply on behalf of their employees and also by expanding the remit of the programme to cover a wider range of activities that help people prepare for employment;

We are concerned about the accountability regarding interpreting support. We are unconvinced that there has been any consultation on this.

The government are asking people to have their say. You can email your views about the report at: dhes.comment@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

Help us to challenge the current guidance by signing our campaign.

Thank you!

All we want for Christmas is Access to Work!

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Dear Supporters

We would like to wish you all best wishes for the festive season. Thank you for supporting the campaign. As a result of your signatures we have already seen some action; your 38 degrees campaign has been raised by Sir Malcolm Bruce MP (Chair of the All Parliamentary Group on Deafness) with Mike Penning MP (Minister of State for Disability), tweeted about by MPs, and discussed in blogs.

Charities have also been campaigning on this issue, with a collective letter being sent by organisations (BDA, AOHL, Action Deafness, NDCS, RAD, Sense, Signature).

We are still waiting for a response to our letter and will continue to update you on this. Our work here isn’t done…! We have lots of plans for the new year, and we look forward to your continued support.

Working together we can continue to campaign for a fair and reasonable system that will meet everyone’s employment needs.

We will continue to update the campaign website and Facebook page with any news over the Christmas period. In the meantime, why not send your MP our Christmas card to remind them of the campaign? We have added a new page to our website – just copy, paste, and email.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas.

The Stop Changes to Access to Work Campaign Group.

Government announcement on extending AtW is not what it seems…

The government has announced that it is extending Access to Work. Read it here.

On the face of it this sounds great doesn’t it? Extending the Access to Work program to include work experience and apprenticeships. Who could disapprove of that? …What this article doesn’t tell you, is that the government are cutting the grants of people already in work too.

Access to work doesn’t incur any cost the exchequer. This is due to people that are earning a wage (I.e the disabled people themselves and their support workers), apprenticeship and work experience are not salaried. This will therefore incur a cost to the system that is presently cost neutral.

This campaign was set up in response to the 30 hour rule, that forces people to employ support that doesn’t meet their employment needs. Deaf people will become unemployable, as for every one deaf person doing a job, the employer would have to employ two members of staff. It is creating a huge barrier to work. People already in work risk losing their jobs as they are unable to carry out the roles for which they were employed.

It is pointless getting people on apprenticeship and work experience schemes if, at the end, they are unable to gain employment due to the costs faced by employers to fund their support. We are doing everything that we can, but we need your support.

What can you do?

1. Write to your local MP using our template letter, or even better, write your own letter explaining why this change is wrong.

2. Get everyone you know to sign up to the campaign! This will affect everyone. Other AtW users, as well as anyone that pays tax – the new system could potentially force people out of work and on to benefits!

3. Get everyone you know to sign up to the campaign… Yes, we’ve already said that… We’re saying it again because it’s so important! Numbers put pressure on MPs and organisations to take action. Let’s get the numbers of this petition up!

Sign and share!

Reminder: If you are having any difficulties with AtW there is a fantastic resource available to help you complain: www.deafAtW.com.

Tom Watson MP on Twitter.

Our thanks to @Tom_Watson for his recent tweet in support of our campaign:

@tom_watson: Access to Work changes are having a perverse impact on deaf people and BSL interpreters: http://t.co/umelY1XlZbhttp://t.co/EiH0gAvlXX

It’s great to know we have managed to get more awareness about the issue.

Have you been in contact with your local MP yet? Use our template letters or even better, write your own explaining why this issue is so important. Keep signing and sharing!

Campaign letter to Sir Malcolm Bruce & Iain Duncan Smith.

Dear Supporters,

Below is a copy of our campaign letter, which we have now sent. We are aware that it has been received and are awaiting a response. As soon as we get one, we will let you know! In the meantime please continue to sign and share the campaign!

Dear Sir Malcolm Bruce MP & Iain Duncan Smith MP

Access to Work (AtW) is a government grant that enables people to work and should be commended and more widely publicised. It is an amazing resource that we can be very proud of, as it allows for equality for Deaf (and disabled people) in the workplace, who have the opportunity to gain, maintain and progress in employment. However, access to work is now indiscriminately implementing guidance that is preventing Deaf people’s “access to work”.

Access to Work Guidance Version 19 paragraph 304: “If a support worker is required full-time for more than 30 hours or more per week, Access to Work will normally fund on the basis of an annual salary rather than an agency worker employed on an hourly basis.”

Deaf people have said that the implementation of this policy:

Does not meet their employment access needs; e.g. to use interpreters with different skills in different settings, and by being impossible to implement.

Reduces their employability; e.g. that employers will have to employ two staff for every Deaf person they employ, with all the additional on costs etc. This is a particular issue with employers who currently employ several Deaf people.

Is impossible to implement; e.g. due to work patterns being unsuitable for a single staff interpreter (long days and evenings, weekend work, travel), and that interpreters are unable to work full time with one client, due to health and safety, professional practice/ development requirements and salary.

Is underfunded; e.g. even if able to employ an interpreter the salary would not attract suitably qualified and experienced interpreters, the budget for on costs falls far short, and additional costs of employing freelance interpreters (e.g. where two interpreters are required, for unsociable hours, to cover sickness) are hugely underestimated.

The Sayce report (2011) stated that: AtW reaps net benefits to the Exchequer – an estimated return to the Treasury of £1.48 for every £1 invested, with even higher returns to society overall (including improved health and well-being). We can see no justification for the current 30 hour ‘rule’.

AtW is intended to meet the cost of disabled people’s employment access needs. This can only be achieved through an individual and person centred approach, rather than arbitrary cost comparisons. Further the way it is being implemented, along with the lack of process to challenge decisions, that Deaf people say are unworkable and don’t meet their employment needs, are resulting in very high degrees of stress with a real risk of Deaf people losing their jobs.

Given the seriousness of these issues, and that AtW are not responding to the concerns of either individuals or organisations and campaigns of Deaf people, we felt that we needed to bring this to your attention through a public campaign. Our campaign attracted over 2,500 in the first 24hrs, indicating the level of concern.

What are we asking for?

An immediate cessation to the imposition of the ‘30 hours employment rule’. Reinstatement of awards sufficient to book freelance Support Workers for those people who have had budgets reduced to a salaried Support Worker rate, but who have been unable to recruit a support worker.

To halt and reverse unworkable decisions that don’t meet Deaf people’s needs. Where AtW does not meet an individuals stated needs, the decision letter explicitly identifies what AtW consider their assessed needs to be, and how the award meets these. Where the individual has raised issues concerning the award, there should be a specific response explaining how those issues are either not relevant, or are addressed. This should be required in line with the expectation that Deaf people are the expert in their own access needs.

The opportunity to work with AtW in order to identify potential cost savings whilst continuing to meet Deaf people’s needs. That there are meaningful opportunities for Deaf people, employers, and interpreters to work collaboratively with AtW and DWP to see where costs reductions can be made whilst meeting Access to Work service users needs.

A clear complaints process. The immediate introduction of a clear process for Deaf and disabled people to complain and escalate complaints (including ICE and PHSO), with proactive information and signposting provided by AtW at each stage, accessible to British Sign Language (BSL) and English users.

That AtW advisers and Guidance are provided sufficient training and support to understand Deaf people’s needs. Communication preferences, communication support, and the significance of the difference between qualified registered BSL/English interpreters and other non ‘profession’ support workers. There is a clear lack of understanding surrounding interpreting being demonstrated by this guidance.

We are sure that given your previous support for the scheme and for supporting disabled people into employment and off benefits, that you would not want to see one of your flagship programs that uniquely provides real access to employment for disabled people through a person centred approach, undermined by indiscriminate application of policy, and lack of consideration or process. We would welcome the opportunity to meet and discuss these issues in greater detail. We look forward to receiving a response at your immediate convenience.

Yours sincerely

The Stop Changes To Access to Work Campaign Group.