The coalition government has backtracked on a high-profile pledge to allow disabled people to secure funding for workplace adjustments before they apply for a job.
The government had repeatedly promised to reform the Access to Work programme so that disabled people could show potential employers that they already had funding in place for adaptations and equipment at work.
The coalition’s “programme for government” in May stated: “We will reform Access to Work, so disabled people can apply for jobs with funding already secured for any adaptations and equipment they will need.”
The pledge was repeated by Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, at a meeting of the all-party parliamentary disability group in June.
But when Miller announced details of the scheme today, she revealed that it would simply provide a standard letter that disabled people could print out from the government’s Directgov website and then show to an employer.
The letter begins: “Dear Customer. This letter confirms that you may be eligible to apply for Access to Work. You can print it off and show it to potential employers when looking for work.”
Miller said the change would “give disabled people the confidence to apply for jobs, safe in the knowledge that they are already eligible for support”.
She added: “Employers will also be reassured that support is available towards costs beyond what is reasonable for them to meet.”
A DWP spokesman confirmed that the government would not be extending the measure any further than just making the letter available to download from the website.
He said: “We do think it is a good thing and will speed up the process a bit. Employers will recognise this letter.
“I think the fact that you may be eligible goes pretty far. You can’t always decide [in advance] what level of funding they will get.”
Marije Davidson, RADAR’s public affairs manager, said they were “very disappointed” that the coalition was not implementing the commitment in its programme for government.
She said: “Enabling disabled people to bring a letter to their prospective employer will help to spread awareness about the Access to Work scheme.
“However, this does not go far enough, and we call upon the government to give disabled people and their prospective employers more certainty about the type and extent of support that will be available, as well as to ensure that disabled people have access to support from the time that they start their employment.
“Currently disabled people may have to wait a long time for approval of support after they’ve started their job.”
Anne Kane, policy manager for Inclusion London, accused the government of “playing games with disabled people’s need for better lives and better independence”.
And Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance, also expressed concern at the government announcement.
9 December 2010