Legal challenge issued against capping employment support for deaf and disabled people

By agency reporter
December 12, 2017

On Tuesday 5 December 2017, court papers in a legal challenge were served on the Department for Work and Pensions over its introduction of the Access to Work cap, a measure which limits the amount of support that individuals can be awarded by the once flagship disability employment scheme.

The launch of the challenge comes a week after the government published its disability employment strategy with the ambitious target of getting one million more disabled people into work. It also follows publication in October of research commissioned by Inclusion London which found evidence of systemic problems with Access to Work.

The cap which will fully come into force in April 2018, disproportionately impacts on Deaf BSL users and disabled people with high support needs, effectively removing employment support from those with the most complex needs and placing them at a disadvantage when trying to get into, stay in and get on in paid work. The case is being brought under the Equality Act 2010 with funding from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Claimant David Buxton said, “This case is being brought because the government has made the decision to limit my career by denying me the funds to pay for the linguistic access I need to be able to fulfil my job.  Access to Work is a fantastic grant which allows Deaf and disabled people to remain in employment and doesn’t make the disabled employee a ‘no-no’ on the grounds of cost. 

"For me as a Deaf person, and a CEO, this means using professional Sign Language Interpreters at high level meetings with various authorities, policy makers, staff and members.  Putting a cap on the AtW grant makes no economic sense.  For every £1 I am awarded for AtW, I give back in taxes by virtue of being employed. It doesn’t stop there, in being employed, I give work to a number of interpreters, and, at other times to Palantypists who are all contributing in fulfilling ways and paying taxes too.  The impact of AtW is far-reaching and extremely positive.  Awarding AtW makes sense, a cap on AtW awards doesn’t.”

Solicitor Anne-Marie Jolly from law firm Deighton Pierce Glynn who are taking the case, said, “As a result of this case, the government’s decision to cap Access to Work funding will finally be exposed to the scrutiny of the High Court. Government decision-making around Access to Work has historically been lacking in clarity and transparency. In keeping with that history, the decision to cap the scheme was made with no formal consultation or adequate evidence base, despite its profound impact on those affected. Mr Buxton’s claim makes the case that the Access to Work cap breaches Deaf and disabled people’s human rights and right to be treated equally. The cap perversely impacts on those with the most demanding jobs and highest support needs, the overwhelming majority of whom are Deaf BSL users, preventing them and their employers or businesses from reaching their fullest potential.”

Campaigns and policy manager Ellen Clifford from Inclusion London, whose Disability Justice Project is supporting the legal challenge, said, “The cap is already having a serious negative impact on Deaf and Disabled people’s employment. On the one hand, the Government says they want to reduce the disability employment gap and get another million disabled people into work, yet here is a disability employment scheme with a track record of success and it is being cut and changed to a point where it is no longer a viable form of support. Deaf and Disabled people are frustrated and anxious at the risk of unemployment and benefit dependency, which will come at a much higher cost to the State than the support package they need to remain in work.”

Geraldine O’Halloran, co-founder of #StopChanges2AtW said, “The idea put forward by the government that employers will pay for the support that Deaf and Disabled people need in order to do their jobs on an equal basis with non-disabled people is nonsense. However much an employer values you, the majority of employers don’t have the spare money to effectively pay to take on Deaf or Disabled staff. Yet in the bigger picture it benefits the government to invest in disability employment support with research showing that the Treasury makes a surplus on investment for every pound invested in Access to Work and that’s before the wider benefits of savings to the NHS and social care are taken into consideration.”

Read the report Barriers to Work: A survey of Deaf and Disabled people’s experiences of  the Access to Work programme in 2015/2016  here

* Inclusion London https://www.inclusionlondon.org.uk/

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