The government’s commitment to supporting disabled people in employment has been questioned again, after a prominent disabled leader had his application for workplace support rejected.
Jaspal Dhani, chief executive of the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC), has been told he is not eligible for funding from the Access to Work (ATW) scheme because he has such a senior position.
He said: “I had applied to ATW for a support worker. Their response was that as I am the chief executive, the organisation should be able to afford to pay for the PA [personal assistant] I require.”
UKDPC employs the equivalent of only two full-time members of staff, including Dhani himself.
He said: “I explained that we are a very small organisation and we have very limited resources and the organisation certainly cannot afford to appoint the full-time PA I require.”
He is appealing the decision to turn down his application.
Although UKDPC employs a part-time member of staff to work in its London office, that role covers administrative duties, and is not intended to provide the support he needs as a disabled employee, while funding for the post could end shortly.
Dhani, a wheelchair-user, said: “I am a disabled person in full-time work and with an identified need for a support worker. If I cannot get the support I need from ATW, then I risk losing my job.”
The case comes at an embarrassing time for the government, as new figures published this week show the number of disabled people receiving ATW support fell from 37,270 in 2009-10 to 35,830 in 2010-11.
The number of successful new claimants has fallen even more sharply, from 16,520 in 2009-10 to just 13,240 in 2010-11, despite the government’s claim that its controversial welfare reform programme is aimed at helping more disabled people off benefits and into work.
Dhani said: “This is one of the fundamental issues that we have been trying to stress to the Department for Work and Pensions [DWP] in terms of their revision of the ATW scheme.
“They say they want to support disabled people into work, but the current scheme falls short and fails many disabled employees.”
A DWP spokeswoman said their ATW team was now re-examining Dhani’s case.
28 July 2011