The excellent Stop Changes 2 Access to Work campaign goes from strength to strength. You MUST join the march on Saturday 26th September.
If you haven’t caught up yet with the release of the Work and Pensions Select Committee report and its recommendations, published on 19th December, here is a round up.
With over 350 submissions of evidence to the committee, some in BSL, it was shown just how many people had experienced problems with Access to Work, either as users of the scheme or as professionals supplying a service.
Even the oral evidence sessions caused a furore with no access for Deaf people and some evidence sessions not being televised. Or they were but there was no interpreter present.
The report set out several recommendations which organisations can now use to further lobby ministers to implement.
The report highlighted how damaging actions taken by this government have been and how little consultation they did prior to detrimental changes which could have so easily been avoided:
– imposition of the 30 hour rule for support workers on BSL interpreters leaving Deaf people struggling to employ interpreters who did not want to be employed
– applying guidance as a rule and changing the guidance so frequently that users were left with no knowledge of what it was
– targeting high cost users and cutting support without warning
– imposing review periods of three months leaving people unsure about whether to book support or not
– changing the address to a mail handling centre without notifying anyone so invoices were late by more than two months causing providers to borrow money to pay their mortgages and nursery bills
– there are many more examples…
The Committee is to be applauded on its clarity. NUBSLI has found it hard to gather information when so little is made available by the DWP. In meetings where interpreter organisations are present, internal figures are quoted which when asked for in freedom of information (FOI) requests seem to disappear. In a culture of secrecy and obfuscation it has taken months of work on FOIs by NUBSLI members to get to the bottom of how the AtW budget is worked out and what it is set at along with a general lack of available statistical information. The Office for NationalStatistics has not called the DWP the worst department for nothing. This work is still ongoing as answers to FOIs by the DWP tend to reveal little.
Under this government you can also trace the changing statements made online. In 2012, the government accepted the recommendations made by the Sayce report. After that you can then see via published statements and answers to questions in Hansard that previously protected budgets become protected over longer spending review periods, millions go missing and the same recommendations from Sayce are still being made about how government should view AtW.
Budgets which are protected, then changed to have protected averages over three years amount to a lot less when spend in the first year means budgets in the following years are protected at a far lower amount. Especially when announcements are made in the second year when spend has already occurred. To anyone looking at the figures there was nothing protected. After averages are worked out the AtW budget was actually cut by millions in the very year the government accepted recommendations, made announcements and was effectively cut again the year after.
Another shock this year was the missing millions thankfully picked up again by the Committee. £80 million in fact. This could have nearly doubled the AtW budget, in the way that was talked about as not being possible in the last evidence session by the Minister of State for Disabled People, Mark Harper MP. The previously promised increase in AtW spend has not materialised. What is more shocking is that the only people campaigning about this are Stop Changes and the organisations involved in supporting the campaign such as DPAC and NUBSLI.
There was another £15 million promised that later, in announcements, become spread over three years which does not appear to be included in the spend.
For organisations and parts of the media to talk about interpreter salaries without challenging the government about cuts, or worse being in agreement with making cuts, has done a disservice to the Deaf community and has been nothing but damaging. At best this is ignorance, at worse working to a government agenda that align’s with ones own rather than the wider community.
There are recommendations by Sayce that are elaborated on in the Committee’s report such as the way AtW is viewed by the government and how budgets are calculated and spent.
– AtW produces a return on investment by way of lower benefit claims and should be treated as such within overall DWP budgets (look up the DEL-AME switch)
– AtW produces a return on investment by way of increased tax payers in work so HM Treasury could give money back to DWP to reflect this
Let’s hope we do not have a repeat of 2012 where recommendations are ‘accepted’, statements made but yet the reality gets worse.
Let’s hope we see a materialisation of the £95 million and budgets are actually doubled as promised.
Let’s hope, really hope, that everyone agrees that talk of cuts are nonsensical, government is challenged on this, that they see AtW as an investment and we should all work together to make the recommendations in the report a reality.
Work and Select Committee press release and report
Stop Changes response to Committee’s report
NUBSLI response to the Committee’s report