Access to Work

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2015 National Disabled Members' Conference
19 June 2015
Carried as Amended


The Access to Work (AtW) programme is a fund that helps disabled people start a new job, or remain in employment, with practical support that goes beyond “reasonable adjustments”, which employers are required to make by law. Without AtW many disabled people would be prevented from doing their jobs because of the barriers they face; for those looking for employment, they wouldn’t stand a chance in such a competitive marketplace, as employers will be concerned about extra costs involved if they employ a disabled person.

The Works and Pensions Select Committee inquiry report – “Improving Access to Work for Disabled People” – stated that staff from the Department for Work and Pensions often failed to understand the needs of disabled people and that the AtW programme was helping only a minority of the people it could benefit, due to inadequate funding and a lack of awareness of the programme. The previous Government didn’t respond to the report, however, The Department for Works & Pensions’ Impact Assessment of this report was published the day after the General Election. One of the areas covered was “Value for Money Reforms” and the first option proposed was to set a cap on the maximum value of support per user. The Impact Assessment also states that “we must achieve a balance between meeting customer need and achieving value for money for the taxpayer”.

Until now, individuals could seek an unlimited award to assist them into work but from October 2015 there will be a cap on how much the £108m fund can pay to people who use it. As of October 2015, Access to Work will provide awards up to a limit set at one and half times average salary (a limit of £40,800 per person per year), This could be particularly damaging to those who need expensive equipment to function in the workplace. It also affects those who have PAs and people who use taxis to go to work. The Government wants to make £12billion in welfare savings and those using AtW are going to find it more difficult to receive the funding they require.

Under the new proposals, disabled people may not have put in place the reasonable adjustments they require which could affect their performance at work and some employers will interpret this as a capability issue, which could lead to dismissal.

When the public sector is faced with massive cuts to their budgets and staff are being made redundant, disabled people are more than likely to be the ones who will be selected for redundancy. Now that the Department for Works & Pensions is openly talking about “value for money for the taxpayer” disabled people are more vulnerable than ever.

Conference calls upon the National Disabled Members’ Committee to:

1.Raise grave concerns with the Department for Work and Pensions regarding the findings of the Impact Assessment on the Improving Access to Work for Disabled People Report.

2.To update (if necessary) the UNISON Branch Guidance on “Using the DWP’s Access to Work Scheme for Disabled Members” and to promote to members/activists so that they are aware of the process for applying for AtW or employer sponsored support in the workplace.

3.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;

4.Publicise the AtW scheme in UNISON eFocus and U Magazine using case studies of where it works well but also highlighting issues that disabled people face when they are unable to put in place adjustments they require for them to effectively do their job.

5.Work with the appropriate UNISON structures to ensure that the issues regarding changes to AtW provision are widely known so that they can be raised in negotiation with employers.