Relief over government’s Access to Work driving U-turn


The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has rewritten rules that were making it harder for disabled people to use a key employment support scheme to find and keep work.

The new rules had been highlighted by the Essex-based disabled people’s organisation ecdp in August after it was contacted by members and staff concerned by the new restrictions on Access to Work (AtW) funding.

The updated rules, introduced on 1 August, meant disabled people driven to and from work by their personal assistant (PA) were no longer able to claim AtW funding for that travel if they were being driven in their PA’s car.

Instead, they would have to insure the PA to drive their own car – if they had one – or a company car, or use taxis, or ask their PA to apply for a minicab licence.

The DWP claimed the new rules were introduced to comply with new Department for Transport (DfT) guidance on private hire vehicle licensing.

They came at a time when the government has been defending its commitment to the AtW scheme – only last week, government figures revealed alarming new evidence of a slump in the number of “new customers” helped by AtW.

Following coverage of the new AtW rules by Disability News Service and in other media, ecdp was contacted by other disabled people and organisations concerned about the implications of the changes.

The DWP has now agreed to return to its original rules, so that those using AtW to pay support workers to drive – using the support worker’s own car – will be able to continue to do so.

Mike Adams, ecdp’s chief executive, said: “We are delighted that DWP has reviewed the position and responded in such a positive way.

“We know that many disabled people with good jobs were concerned that the change in guidance would force them to give up the support that enables them to work.

“This commitment from DWP to ensure that this barrier does not prevent disabled people working with unnecessary constraints and at cost to the public purse, will be welcomed by disabled people in Essex and beyond.”

A DWP spokeswoman said: “The bar on AtW being used in this way was intended to protect support workers and disabled people from any possible prosecution by licensing authorities under a strict interpretation of the DfT legislation.

“Having considered and discussed with DfT their supplementary guidance we have concluded we can revert to our earlier position and this took effect from 12 October. AtW staff have contacted any individuals affected by the change.”

3 November 2011

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