Disabled Women and Access to Work

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2014 National Disabled Members' Conference
3 July 2014

Conference is concerned to learn that disabled people are being expected to take considerable responsibility for part funding the cost of their reasonable adjustments that have been approved by and provided through the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Access to Work Scheme (ATW). Self funding has an immediate and devastating impact on future work opportunities, it decreases members’ disposable income level, opportunities for independence are denied and social opportunities are removed for all disabled people. But for disabled women the impact is even greater as women’s financial status within society is pre-determined exacerbated by ubiquitous gender discrimination in skills’ worth, the availability of decently paid part time work so that women can meet other responsibilities, unequal pay for work of equal value the financial burden of child care for single female parents and the enforced poverty faced by so many due to government public funding cuts resulting in minimal wage increases.

Reports received by UNISON nationally illustrate self funding across a wide range of adjustment support, included in these reports are examples of underfunding through to expectations that disabled people have sufficient personal income to contract services and pay in advance for services. Members report experiences of under-funding for personal assistance support, hefty contributions towards the cost of a power chair on the basis that such a facility is used outside the workplace, and arrangements for taxi services under the ‘fares to work scheme’ demanding that monthly costs are met in advance and reclaimed after all journeys have taken place. The cumulative effect of all these factors is dragging disabled women deeper into poverty.

Government claims its reforms are designed to meet those disabled people most in need, it claims it is encouraging independence as a way of promoting disabled people’s rights and that its actions will remove the barriers faced by disabled people, including disabled women, who are potentially at a greater disadvantage. This mantra is underpinned by the British press and broadcasting who continue to exaggerate reporting on fraud.

This Conference instructs the National Disabled Members’ Committee to:

1)Raise grave concerns with the Department for Work and Pensions regarding the impact of shared costs and other processes which expect disabled members, especially disabled women members to part fund or wholly advance fund the cost of reasonable adjustment facilities to enable then to remain economically active.

2)Request an article to be placed in UNISON FOCUS and U Magazine highlighting issues to activists and members about issues that may exacerbate poverty for disabled women members using the Access to Work Scheme.

3)Produce negotiating guidance for branches to enable them to enter into discussions with employers to amend policies and procedures that require members of staff to enter into a shared funding situation.

4)Create a factsheet for disabled members to use with their branches in the process of applying for ATW or employer sponsored support in the workplace, ensuring that risk assessment is done as part of the process. Such guidance should be used in collaboration with disabled members, not on their behalf.

5)Liaise with all UNISON Service Group Executives with a view to issues being raised in negotiation with employers.

6)Work with Labour Link to seek to ensure that the Labour Party include these concerns in their forthcoming manifesto