Minister of State for Disabled People, Work and Health
– Cap on Access to Work Awards
The UK Council on Deafness and the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Deafness have held a positive meeting with the Minister for Disabled People, Sarah Newton MP, to discuss the cap on Access to Work awards. The Minister described Access to Work as a fantastic scheme and indicated the Government desire to see it grow from year-to-year. She acknowledge that there were concerns around the cap and welcomed the meeting as a chance to hear the evidence from those affected.
Jim Fitzpatrick MP, Chair of the APPG, welcomed the meeting as a chance to re-open the dialogue with the Minister and highlighted the cross-party desire to re-establish the ability for Access to Work to support people at work whatever their work access needs. Stephen Lloyd, Vice-Chair of the APPG, notes the high unemployment rate which existed within the BSL community and said that there is an absence of role models for young deaf people. He argued that imposing a cap on Access to Work had the potential to knock the deaf community back and remove fifty years of progress.
Darren Townsend-Handscomb, Chair of the UKCoD Employment Group, presented evidence from the DeafATW survey which collated the experiences of those people either capped already or who expect to be capped when the transition period ends at the end of March. UKCoD Chair, Craig Crowley, provided evidence that the current cap is insufficient to meet the need of deaf people – highlighting the unanimous concern about the cap that is coming from the sector. Toby Burton, Chief Financial Officer for the Economist, also spoke about the lack of role models for young deaf people and said that the Access to Work cap could undermine young people’s ability to go as far as their talent allows them. He welcomed developments such as remote interpretation, but said that there is not a technological solution which would allow deaf people to secure their access needs within the cap.
UKCoD have agreed to work with officials within the DWP to provide further information from the research on the impact of the cap. We have offered to work constructively with the Government and appreciate that Access to work needs to retain scrutiny of claims and encourage more cost-effective ways of working – but believe that there are alternative solutions to the current cap which would not limit the career possibilities for deaf people.
The Minister indicated that a decision needs to be made shortly (the transition period for the cap ends at the end of March) and we will press for the Government to communicate this decision clearly to recipients of Access to Work and the wider Deaf community.