Access to Work crisis: Claimants face court action over unpaid bills


Disabled people are being threatened with legal action by a company exasperated by the government’s failure to pay invoices agreed through its Access to Work (AtW) scheme.

One self-employed AtW claimant, Jane*, has told how ergonomic office furniture suppliers Back Care Solutions warned her and other claimants whose invoices had not been paid by AtW that they faced being taken to court.

The purchase of a piece of office equipment to help Jane at work had been agreed with AtW, and the furniture was delivered two months later by Back Care.

But several months afterwards she received an email from Back Care threatening her with legal action over the unpaid invoice.

And AtW – which provides funding to support disabled people faced with barriers in the workplace – is failing to respond to Jane’s increasingly desperate attempts to persuade it to pay the invoice.

She said: “I don’t want to have to go to court. The way [Back Care] put it in the email they sent was that the invoice had not been paid and they are trying to run a business and that AtW is one of their main clients.”

DNS has learned that the company has threatened similar legal action against other AtW claimants, although Back Care will not confirm how many individuals are affected.

A Back Care spokesman said: “It isn’t really something we want to comment on. If it is to do with Access to Work invoices not being paid, that is something for AtW really.

“It is something between AtW and the company that they are paying the invoices for or on behalf of. It is not something we would want to comment on.”

There are concerns that other companies – also losing patience with the administrative problems at AtW and its failure to pay its bills – might also be threatening legal action against AtW customers over unpaid invoices.

So far, DWP has not commented on the concerns.

Over the last year, DNS has run a series of stories on disabled people concerned about AtW administrative problems, delays and cuts to funding.

Last month, the Commons work and pensions committee concluded that AtW had been undermined by “poor administration”, and relied on “inefficient and outmoded paper-based processes”, while its new central call centre system “does not work well for many service-users”.

*Not her real name

16 January 2015