'The Access to Work Scheme is a positive move towards making our workplaces more inclusive– but we can not stop here' - DWP Minister
Justin Tomlinson MP, Minister of State for Disabled People, writes on the DWP's Access to Work Scheme following recently released statistics.
For many disabled people, finding and keeping a job can be unfairly challenging. Barriers such as the additional cost to business of employing a British Sign Language translator or ensuring workplaces are fully accessible can mean that millions of British adults are effectively locked out of the workplace.
All businesses worry about the bottom line, so I understand concerns about how much it can cost to make reasonable adjustments to help new, and existing, colleagues.
This is where our brilliant Access to Work scheme comes in. It enables businesses to be more accommodating by removing the financial burden that employing someone with additional needs may incur. It also allows disabled people to enjoy a long and fulfilling career, without having to worry about how they will do their job to the best of their ability.
Access to Work provides reasonable adjustments to help people with physical, mental health and learning disabilities assimilate into the workforce. Each person can receive almost £60,000 a year towards equipment, support workers, interpreters and workplace adaptations. Support is highly personalised to make starting a new job as stress-free as possible.
By employing disabled people, employers gain access to an additional talent pool made up of nearly seven million working age adults. Businesses can also boost the morale of their staff and bolster their reputation by committing to providing equal opportunities. In a world where consumers increasingly seek out ethical businesses, the opportunities and benefits of employing disabled people are amplified.
So it’s encouraging that more people than ever before have received funding through Access to Work. Without this extra support, many of these people might not be in work at all, missing out on all the benefits the right job can bring.
New figures released today show 36,240 people received an Access to Work grant last year.
And last year we spent over £129 million Access to Work – a real terms increase of £15 million since 2010.
Someone who knows how life-changing Access to Work can be is Ross, who now works for Lloyds Banking Group. Ross uses an electric wheelchair but he knew that his skills would be an asset to potential employers. The support worker budget awarded through Access to Work means Ross now makes a living, owns a home, goes on holidays and lives life on his own terms.
As well as helping businesses with the financial burden, we are also supporting them to attract, recruit and retain more disabled people through the Disability Confident scheme. More than 12,000 organisations have already signed up, putting themselves on the map for disabled jobseekers and showing that attitudes really are changing.
These are positive moves towards making our workplaces more inclusive and diverse – but we can’t stop here.
I want Access to Work to continue to break records. For that to happen, more people need to know about the scheme. So let’s spread the word to anyone who could benefit about the scheme and make sure that more disabled people are supported – year after year – with their workplace ambitions.
You can find out more about Access to Work here with braille and easy read versions available.
Justin Tomlinson is MP for North Swindon and Minister for Disabled People.