The Department for Work and Pensions released figures this week which showed that 27,610 people in England, Scotland and Wales were receiving AtW funds to make their workplace more accessible during the first three quarters of 2012-13, compared with 27,420 in the same period of 2011-12.
The number of new claims also rose, from 7,370 in the first three quarters of 2011-12 to 7,750 claimants in 2012-13.
The first quarter of 2012-13 saw 2,460 new claims, the second quarter 2,500 new claims and the third quarter 2,790.
The number of new customers helped by AtW in the third quarter (2,790) was also a sharp rise on the same quarter of 2011-12 (2,390).
Esther McVey, the Conservative minister for disabled people, admitted last October that AtW spending had plummeted from £107 million in 2010-2011 to just £93 million in 2011-12, while the number of disabled people claiming funding had fallen from 37,000 in 2009-10 to just over 30,000 in 2011-12.
But the AtW figures now appear to be starting to edge upwards again.
And McVey said this week that government efforts to provide AtW funding to more people with mental health conditions were beginning to have an impact.
The number of new and existing claims from people with mental ill health has increased by almost 30 per cent compared with the first three quarters of 2011-12.
Last year, DWP launched an online marketing campaign to raise awareness of AtW, particularly among young disabled people and those with mental health conditions, and to improve understanding of the scheme.
McVey said: “Through our online marketing campaign we’re making sure people with mental health conditions know more about the employment support that’s available – because a mental health condition shouldn’t be a barrier to getting or keeping a job.
“I’m encouraged by the figures, but we know many more disabled people could benefit, so I’d urge them to see how the scheme might help them get or stay in work.”
Marije Davidson, policy and research manager for Disability Rights UK, said: “I think it’s too early to say whether the numbers are turning the corner as we need to assess the trend over a longer term, but certainly the signs are encouraging.
“We are in particular pleased to see that more people with mental health conditions are getting Access to Work, as they were traditionally not well-supported.”
But she added: “We would like the government to go further and make Access to Work more available to young people in unpaid work experience and supported internships, as well as promote peer support [for people using AtW].”
To find out more about Access to Work, visit: https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work.
25 April 2013