Government figures have revealed a significant drop in the numbers of disabled people being accepted and continuing to receive Access to Work support, the Government Programme to support disabled people in employment.
The Government is keen to refer to Access to Work in the rhetoric they use to justify their approach to disability. At the Disability Capital conference in October the Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller, said that whilst the government was “reforming” the benefits system they were also supporting disabled people into employment through investing in Access to Work. The Sayce Report in June 2011 recommended using savings from closing Remploy services to invest in Access to Work. The report gave the figure that for every £1 spent on Access to Work, the State recoups £1.48. Spending on Access to Work makes a profit for the State. At a time of austerity it would seem logical to think that the Government would be making an effort to support and promote Access to Work.
Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) reveal a different picture. Figures show that just 2,320 ‘new customers’ were helped by the Access to Work (AtW) scheme in the first quarter of 2011-12, an average of 773 disabled people receiving new support every month. In the first half of last year, the government was helping about 1,283 new customers a month. This fell to 980 a month in the third quarter of 2010-11, and then again to an average of just 867 a month from January to March 2011. The new figures also show that the number of existing AtW ‘customers’ – those continuing to receive support – has dropped by almost 4,000, to just 18,570.
While the rhetoric sounds good, the figures confirm what many of us have long suspected: that the government has no intention of following up its empty words and investing further in Access to Work. Access to Work staff are clear that they have been given a direction of travel to limit resources and taper off support wherever they
can. This fits with the government’s ideology of reducing state “dependency”. Whereas the government may talk about getting disabled people into employment, they are not prepared to use state-funded support to get us there. This ideology is already costing disabled people jobs, it is denying us equality and moreover is costing the state profits it can ill-afford to turn its nose up at.
The DWP’s Access to Work official statistics are available at: http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/workingage/atw/atw1011.pdf
Sources for this article include Disability News Service www.disabilitynewsservice.com