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: https://stopchanges2atw.com/2016/02/04/privatisation-of-atw-letter-to-mr-duncan-smith/
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.
Ministerial Correspondence Team
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: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/iain-duncan-smith-blows-200k-7303072
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. (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmworpen/481/481.pdf) 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 (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/426416/future-of-access-to-work-equality-analysis.pdf) 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
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: https://stopchanges2atw.com/take-our-survey/
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 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…
Marchers lining up outside Parliament.
Stop the Cuts banner (with Claire Hill, our fab stenographer)!
…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.
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!):
Friday’s Disability News Service: http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/marchers-to-warn-pm-that-access-to-work-cap-will-discriminate/
Photos on Demotix by Peter Marshall: http://www.demotix.com/news/8659800/deaf-and-disabled-march-retain-their-access-work#media-8659780
Photos on Demotix by Philip Robins: http://www.demotix.com/news/8656063/deaf-and-disabled-london-protest-access-work-funding-cuts#media-8655746
Finnish Deaf news! http://areena.yle.fi/1-3049395 (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.
Update about the AtW march, and how you can support us from home!
Are you ready to march for access to work on Saturday 26th September? Are you ready to tell the government to stop the changes?!
There are things you can do to support our campaign, whether you can make it to the march or not…
Don’t forget your placard!
We have some banners and placards to share with everyone, but if you want to bring your own, the more the merrier!
Your placard could say STOP CHANGES TO ACCESS TO WORK or STOP THE CUTS … or whatever you like!
Sign our petition!
If you haven’t signed our petition, please do! It’s here – https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-changes-to-access-to-work – and we’re trying to get 20,000 signatures by Saturday, so please ask everyone you know to sign it too!
Our official hashtag is #stopchanges2atw so please use that when you tweet about the march, or about access to work! (We’re on Twitter as @stopchanges2atw)
If you’re coming on the march, please be aware that there will be at least 3 film crews there:
• Our own crew, provided by the lovely Ted Evans, so that we can have a record of the day.
• See Hear! Yay!
• Unfortunately, a crew from a programme called “Britain on the Fiddle” is coming. We’ve told them they are not welcome – it’s about benefit fraud, and is nothing to do with AtW. We can’t stop them, though. So, if someone wants to interview you, please be aware that you should check where they’re from. We don’t support this programme, but it’s your choice!
Finally… Our amazing speakers (and MC)!
We’re thrilled that John Walker has agreed to be MC for the rally after the march! We’re equally thrilled with our line-up of fantastic speakers (in BSL and English, with STTR captions):
Jenny Sealey (Stop Changes to AtW), Jane Aitchinson ( Unite the Resistance), Jeff McWhinney (former MD of Significan’t), Sean McGovern (TUC Disabled Workers’ Committee Co-Chair/Unite the Union), Tracey Lazard (Inclusion London), Dawn Marshall (Director, Becoming Visible), Ray Johnson (People First), Jen Smith (NUBSLI), Jane Cordell (Director, Result CIC), Roger Lewis (DPAC).
It’s going to be brilliant! See you there!
Meet at 12 noon at Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London SW1P 3JY:
Click here to see Welfare Weekly’s Disabled To March On Downing Street Over ‘Access To Work’ Changes article (7th September 2015).
You may have seen our amazing flyer, created by the wonderful David Ziggy Greene who is Private Eye’s resident cartoonist. Please feel free to circulate this.
Our “March with us” page has a poster version for you to download and print and another smaller version for use on the web.
Shambolic Access to Work changes force yet another Deaf employee to lose their job.
Come march with us for Access to Work on Saturday 26th September 2015.
Meet us at Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA. We will march to 10 Downing Street at 1pm and have a rally at Richmond Terrace afterwards.
The Department of Work and Pension’s Access to Work scheme is supposed to make sure that Deaf and disabled people are able to work on an equal basis to non-disabled people.
But… they are cutting our access, so we are losing our jobs and finding it even harder to get new ones.
We want to work and to have careers, but the Government won’t let us.
Enough is enough. Join us on 26th September. Get our voice heard!