Apprentices and Volunteers – They Also Need Access to Work!

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2012 National Disabled Members' Conference
5 July 2012

This Conference is concerned that government claims it is aiming to improve work opportunities for disabled people as part of its overall welfare reform strategy by expanding the number of volunteer opportunities as a route into paid work and by improving young people’s opportunity to access the skilled labour market through apprenticeship schemes; neither unpaid volunteers nor apprenticeship opportunities are eligible for support to disabled people via the access to Work Scheme. Many young disabled people use volunteer and apprenticeship routes to gain experience and skills which will assist them in securing future employment but without the resources provided by Access to Work they are facing barriers which will stop them from progressing in their chosen careers. Organisations that provide volunteer and apprentice opportunities may argue that direct funding for adjustments are complicated, time limited, dependent on other adjustments in learning situations such work placements and may be deterred from opening up opportunities to young disabled people. Denying volunteers and apprentices equality of opportunity through adjustments will have a marked negative impact on the future workforce profile, it will lead to a reduction in diversity, generate new levels of poverty and perpetuate the segregation of disabled people.

The Big Society is a Government policy which encourages people to undertake voluntary work, for example, volunteering to work in a community run local library. If the Government is fully committed to the Big Society everyone should be able to participate if they wish to and if that means that reasonable adjustments have to be provided to enable people to do so, Access to Work resources therefore should be required to fund packages for apprentices and voluntary workers.

We must not exclude disabled people from participating in society just because they choose to work in an area which doesn’t attract a full wage or unable for impairment related reasons such as fatigue to be able to meet the demands of full time occupation. Many young people, who on starting their working lives need to be encouraged to be economically active and make a contribution to the economy and given all the support they need which includes the necessary reasonable adjustments required to enable them to undertake the job.

This Conference instructs the National Disabled Members’ Committee to make representations to the Department of Work and Pensions that apprentices and volunteers should be eligible to receive Access to Work resources for the reasonable adjustments they need to enable them to learn, achieve qualifications and prepare for the experience of paid work.