Campaign letter to Sir Malcolm Bruce & Iain Duncan Smith.
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.
The Stop Changes To Access to Work Campaign Group.