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May 2024

UK Council on Deafness welcomes Work and Pensions Committee focus on impact of Access to Work changes on deaf people

The UK Council on Deafness has welcomed the Work and Pensions Committee’s focus on the problems deaf people have faced due to the way Access to Work has been operating.

The report of the Committee’s inquiry into the scheme, published this morning, specifically mentions how the application of the ’30 hour rule’ has threatened the employability of deaf people.

David Buxton, chair of the UK Council on Deafness Access to Work group, said: “This report, and yesterday’s statement by the Minister for Disabled People, are testament to the way deaf people and organisations have worked together over the past year.

“Hundreds of deaf people submitted evidence to the inquiry, many more than usual, and that is reflected in the report. Whilst improvements need to be made to the scheme for all disabled people, it’s clear deaf people have borne the brunt of changes to the programme.

“As Dame Anne said, it would be unacceptable for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to try and control costs by targeting a particular group and threatening their ability to stay in their jobs. We don’t think that was the intention, but unfortunately that’s what it seemed like to deaf people.

“The application of the 30 hour rule, capping of hourly rates and refusing to fund a second interpreter when necessary all showed the DWP didn’t understand how sign language interpreting is provided and used, as the Committee recognised. We are therefore very pleased the Committee recommends introducing a specially trained team to deal with high cost awards, and that it receives intensive training in deaf awareness and the solutions available.

“We also hope Access to Work follows the recommendations that the guidance on employing a support worker should not apply to sign language interpreting and to fully review the awards of everyone who has suffered as a result.

“Of course, many deaf people don’t use sign language. Whilst many of the problems have related to interpreting, it’s important the DWP doesn’t lose sight of the variety of support needed.

“We now look forward to working with the DWP to finish its review and begin to make the changes that will mean more people benefiting from Access to Work. We are also talking to them about making the case for additional funding to the Treasury and hope they will follow the Committee’s recommendation to carry out a cost-benefit analysis of Access to Work.”

The UK Council on Deafness was pleased to note many of the recommendations made by the Committee are in line with its own vision for Access to Work. They include

  • consulting people who use Access to Work before changes are made;
  • greater clarity on how decisions are taken and appeals and complaints can be made;
  • establishing an online system;
  • better disability awareness training, with specific attention to deaf awareness;
  • better knowledge of the support and technology available for deaf people;
    guidance in BSL; and
  • making it possible for people to contact Access to Work via video relay.