Press release: Business Disability Forum responds to proposed reforms to Access to Work scheme

12 March 2015

London, UK  Today, Mr Mark Harper, Minister for Disabled People, unveiled plans for reforms to the Department for Work & Pensions 'Access to Work' (AtW) scheme. 

Business Disability Forum (BDF) welcomes the Minister's acknowledgment that improvements need to be made to the quality of service provision, the number of disabled people supported and transparency of decision-making processes.

We also welcome the introduction of personal budgets for disabled people with on-going awards for travel or support, which will provide users of the scheme with increased choice and control over how they use their awards.

BDF also supports the removal of the currently suspended '30 hour guidance' rule governing personal support workers, which had a detrimental effect upon disabled workers with support needs.

The Minister's admission that more needs to be done to support people with mental health conditions through AtW is encouraging; currently, the AtW Workplace Mental Health Support Service (WMHSS) offered via Remploy is operating at 50% capacity. As recommended by the Work and Pensions Select Committee in December 2014, an increased uptake in the use of WMHSS could be made possible by enabling a more flexible approach to the referral process, which would allow employers and third parties to refer individuals to the service.

BDF is concerned, however, about the introduction of caps on the value of awards, which are set to come into effect from October 2015. We are concerned that introducing a limit on the total value of an award disregards the support requirements of individuals and their own circumstances, potentially impacting an individual's access to the support they need to gain and stay in employment. Introducing a cap on the value of awards also misrepresents the principle behind the scheme, which is designed to be a labour market intervention and not a benefit.

BDF is also concerned that the Minister did not reference plans to implement reforms that make it easier for businesses to engage with AtW, such as workplace based assessments involving employers and disabled employees, which would in turn make it easier for disabled people to remain in employment. 

George Selvanera, BDF’s Director of Policy, Services and Communications, is available for comment on the Minister’s proposed reforms.  

ENDS

  1. BDF is a world leading business membership organisation bringing together large private and public organisations to build increasingly disability smart businesses. Formerly called the Employers’ Forum on Disability, the company has more than twenty years’ experience of working with public and private sector employers and service providers. For more information about BDF please visit: http://businessdisabilityforum.org.uk/about-us.
  2. For media enquiries or interview opportunities, please contact Ashley Teaupa, Interim Communications, Marketing and Events Manager on 020 7089 2463 or email ashleyt@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk