StopChanges2AtW statement on the DWP increasing the AtW cap
Since 2013 we have been campaigning for a cessation to the changes being made to the Access to Work (AtW) scheme. Although the scheme was never perfect, working better for some impairment groups than others, when it worked, it worked really well, supporting Deaf and Disabled people to not only get into work but to progress in their careers on a more equal playing field with non-Disabled colleagues. It’s success was in large part due to a social model approach, seeking to remove barriers to employment created by the costs of support, equipment and adaptations required to enable Deaf and Disabled people to meaningfully participate in employment.
Since the publication of the Sayce report in 2011, the government have attempted to reduce individual awards and restrict support. Publicly they have claimed they are looking to reduce what they describe as “high value awards” in order to reach a larger number of people. However, research commissioned by @StopChanges2AtW and Inclusion London found that the majority of respondents reporting cuts were actually those with “low value awards” (under 5 hours a week). Reduction of awards across the service is also just one element within much wider problems to Access to Work that have adversely impacted on the employment opportunities of Deaf and Disabled people, placing jobs at risk, leaving Deaf and Disabled people and they interpreters and PAs they employ in debt and creating additional strain on people trying their best to stay in employment.
The impact of these changes undermines the government’s own target of getting an extra million Disabled people into employment. Measures to limit spending on Access to Work such as the cap also fail to make financial sense given that Access to Work brings more money into the Treasury than it costs, in addition to savings to the NHS and social care budgets. The Sayce review – a government commissioned report – found that for every £1 invested in AtW, £1.48 is returned to the Treasury. Although the Government now dispute this figure, they accepted it at the time, using the Sayce review as the basis for justifying the closure of the Remploy factories.
Since setting up, StopChanges2AtW has met frequently with Government ministers as well as the strategic and operational heads of Access to Work, secured two Work and Pensions inquiries into AtW (the most recent in December examining the cap), initiated two legal challenges against the Department for Work and pensions (the first secured publication of the Access to Work guidance on the DWP website, the second against the cap has been accepted for judicial review due to be heard in the high court on 26 and 27 June), organised a march through London to hand in a petition to Downing Street signed by over 15,000 people, co-ordinated a parliamentary launch for our report into current problems with Access to Work (Barriers to Work) and recommendations for improving the scheme (Improving Access to Work) widely signed up to by Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations and trade unions and worked with politicians from across different parties to raise our issues in Parliament.
During this time we have seen the 30 Hour rule scrapped, the idea of additionality (e.g where Deaf people who work in Deaf organisations were told that they couldn’t get Access to Work support because if the organisation employed a non-disabled person they would still need an interpreter to work with their Deaf clients) scrapped and now in this latest last minute change, the cap (which was previously set at £42,100) raised to £57,200. Each of these U-turns are an admission by government that their changes to the scheme are simply unworkable. They highlight the discriminatory approach that has been taken and the priorities of a government who still fundamentally do not understand the needs of Deaf and disabled people.
Whilst we appreciate that the raising of the cap will help some, it does not acknowledge that government cannot be allowed to discriminate is such an arbitrary way.
We do not feel that raising the amount of the cap goes far enough and want it scrapped altogether. Government have been asked on numerous occasions to provide a full cost analysis of the scheme as well as looking at other options to change the way the scheme is funded (e.g the AME/DEL switch). They have ignored every request to undertake this piece of work.
AtW brings in a return to treasury. There is no justification for any changes to be made to the scheme. We will continue to fight for a fair system that provides access for all, regardless of need.