A half-hearted response to its own review of employment support has raised concerns that the government is set to reject proposals to boost a vital programme that supports disabled people in the workplace.
When Liz Sayce, chief executive of RADAR, published her review for the government last month, she focused strongly on the need to expand and improve the Access to Work (ATW) scheme.
But when the government published its response to her review this week, it failed to state whether it accepted the ATW recommendations.
Instead, the government response makes several references to concerns that Sayce’s ATW recommendations could put “additional pressure on funding at a time when resources are limited”.
Sayce’s report recommends that the number of disabled people receiving ATW should double, so that the scheme changes from being the “government’s best-kept secret” into a “well-recognised passport to successful employment”.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman told Disability News Service: “Sayce recommends that if we spend the money differently we can support an extra 35,000 disabled people into work.
“However, no decisions have been made. [Maria Miller, minister for disabled people] rightly points out that if implemented in full, the Sayce recommendations would have a significant impact on how support is delivered.
“That is why before taking decisions in these areas, we are seeking views through a public consultation.”
Marije Davidson, RADAR’s public affairs manager, said Sayce had made “a strong case” in her report that investing in ATW made “economic sense”, and had suggested how it “can be used better so that less money is wasted in the system and more goes directly to support for disabled people”.
She said: “We would be extremely concerned if the government ignored the evidence that Access to Work is a highly cost-effective way of supporting disabled people in work.”
There have been increasing concerns in recent months over reports of disabled people facing tighter eligibility criteria when trying to claim ATW, along with union fears that the scheme is under serious threat due to government spending cuts.
Government statistics show that the number of “new customers” granted ATW funding fell sharply in the first three quarters of 2010-11.
The closing date for the consultation is 17 October.
14 July 2011