Protect Access to Work

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2014 National LGBT Conference
26 September 2014

Conference welcomes the Access to Work (ATW) service which supports disabled people, reduces discrimination at work and removes barriers to employment. This vital service is now under threat. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people already face a range of barriers to work including biphobia, transphobia and homophobia all of which can negatively impact on employment, especially in relation to asserting rights. Disabled LGBT people face additional challenges and often are concerned about being stigmatised and further isolated if they disclose non-apparent disabilities. For disabled Black LGBT employees their experience of discrimination at work could be further compounded and the implications of the changes to the access to work service could be even more devastating.

Conference notes that a late 2013 restructure, while including some changes that we had long fought for, has resulted in a number of concerns. Large numbers of new applicants, and those whose cases are under review, are experiencing delays in receiving a service. People are reporting lost paperwork, incomplete assessments and significant time-lags before receiving vital resources. There are many cases where disabled people have been unable to start jobs or continue in employment because of this.

Instead of having a personal advisor allocated to your case, there is a new call-centre to navigate. This can cause more delay, difficulties in communication and a depersonalised service. Additionally disabled people are reporting that support staff can no longer act as advocates so people are having to make complex and stressful calls themselves.

Conference further notes that disabled people can be expected to part fund the cost of reasonable adjustments that have been approved for them by and provided through the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) ATW scheme. Self- funding has an immediate and devastating impact on future work opportunities, it decreases members’ disposable income, opportunities for independence are denied and social opportunities are removed. Deaf people are facing reduction in payments for workplace interpreters. Deaf LGBT people, already experiencing the LGBT impact of austerity, as set out in the NatCen research for UNISON, face multiple hurdles.

Conference rejects the Tory-led government claims that its reforms are designed to meet those disabled people most in need or that it is encouraging independence as a way of promoting disabled people’s rights. The reality of people’s experiences is very different.

This Conference instructs the National LGBT Members’ Committee to liaise with the national Disabled Members Committee, working with them to:

1)Raise these serious concerns with the DWP regarding the impact of shared costs and the restructure of the service;

2)Support disabled LGBT members to share case studies and experience of changes to ATW to highlight the issue at branch and national level.

3)Liaise with all UNISON service group executives with a view to issues being raised in negotiation with employers.

4)Work with Labour Link to raise these matters with the Labour Party, seeking commitments for the next Labour government.