ACCESS TO WORK (ATW)

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Conference
2011 National Disabled Members' Conference
Date
8 July 2011
Decision
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that many disabled people are able to lead a fulfilling working life due to the physical adaptations, computer equipment and appropriate office furniture which has been partly funded by AtW.

From September 2010 AtW changed their rules and now only provide funding for highly specialised equipment and support workers, therefore, employers will have to pay for the additional costs which are incurred making reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled people can undertake their jobs without any barriers.

For many disabled people, AtW support is critical in their day to day employment. Many people who have used AtW the process hasn’t been easy as they’ve had problems with their employers actually part funding their adjustments and have had to fight for their rights. It is frightening to think of what will happen now when employers will have full responsibility for 100% funding bill for reasonable adjustments. Specialist equipment is likely to be very expensive which will add an extra burden of expense on employers which in turn will make it more difficult for members to obtain funding. With savage cuts to funding currently being faced by many employers they may hesitate before appointing a disabled person as they will see it as a drain on their finances.

Conference is concerned that disabled people who are already in employment will be reliant on their employer to provide the reasonable adjustments they require and which were previously part-funded by AtW. Disabled people must be given the support they need to do their jobs, without this they will be unable to work on a level playing field with their colleagues. Local Authorities, the NHS, the third sector – they’ve all had their funding savagely cut and with this comes redundancies. If disabled people haven’t had the reasonable adjustments they require and aren’t working to the best of their ability because of this, an employer may interpret their underperformance as a capability issue and ignore the fact that adjustments haven’t been made. This situation makes disabled people very vulnerable and more than likely they will be the ones who will be selected for redundancy.

Conference calls upon the National Disabled Members’ Committee to

1. Write to all branches highlighting the changes in provision by AtW to make them aware of the changes to funding and the impact this may have on their disabled members who are in receipt of this support;

2. Ensure that activists are aware that disabled people will be disproportionately affected by the cuts and where redundancies are taking place that they ask for an Equality Impact Assessment;

3. Update UNISON guidance on AtW in light of the September 2010 changes, publicise this widely in branches.

4. Where access to work is unavailable, encourage stewards to pursue reasonable adjustments for the disabled person.”