in Access to Work

NUBSLI responds to Mark Harper MP statement on Access to Work

This post was originally on The Nub – NUBSLI’s news page – and was posted on 16th March.

NUBSLI are in full support of the responses made by the StopChanges2AtW campaign, a group made up of Deaf and disabled people alongside interpreters, who, as users of the service, we recognise as experts.
Further to this, we would like to add that the Crown Commercial Service are currently drafting a National Framework agreement. Government are on the verge at repeating the same mistakes made with Access to Work and the Ministry of Justice contract for interpreting services if they do not consult appropriately.
Access to Work has previously allowed Deaf people to use their awards in their own way. By asking Deaf people to use a national framework of agency providers, it will leave them with less choice and less control over their interpreter support. Rather than find alternatives to private providers, more of the total spend of Access to Work will be on agency costs.
The government does not have a good track record in personalising budgets and administering them effectively. This is often used as a way to cut funding. NUBSLI has concerns that Deaf people working in London and the South East will be affected more by the latest blanket decision proposed by DWP to cap costs.
Several recommendations from the Work and Pensions committee could have been taken on board by the Minister but again a failure to consult with interpreters and the Deaf community fully has resulted in solutions that will damage Deaf people’s access.
The announcement shows little understanding of interpreting provision. As a recent snapshot survey by NUSBLI showed, many interpreters are considering leaving the profession due to the government’s changes in funding for interpreting services. If interpreters are not paid fees at sustainable rates, as laid out by members in the NUBSLI fee guidance, then this will have a detrimental effect on interpreters’ ability to work, and access for the Deaf community as a whole which NUBSLI is working with its campaign partners to protect.
The use of an arbitrary external reference point such as the national average wage is another example of a blanket solution that is not based in flexibility, something that the DWP had promised. It is clear the DWP has not learnt from its mistake when it attempted a blanket solution of imposing a 30 hour rule only to suspend it later as it was unworkable.
We echo the statements made by Geraldine O’Halloran from StopChanges2AtW, who said:
“…the effect of this will be to introduce a limit on how far Deaf BSL users can participate and progress in employment”
And Ellen Clifford DPAC, who stated:
“It is further proof that the Disability Confident campaign is not about fulfilling potential but killing potential”.
The new cap has effectively placed a glass ceiling on Deaf people’s ability to progress in work and fulfil their potential. However, the decline in the interpreting profession likely to result from these changes will not only affect Access to Work provision but Deaf people’s ability to access every area of society.