Two of the government’s main employment programs for the disabled were heavily criticized by two disability activists in a parliamentary hearing.
The Commons Labor and Pensions Committee heard evidence of its investigation into the disability employment gap, the difference between the proportions of people with disabilities and the non-disabled at work.
Yesterday (Wednesday), among others, Fazilet Hadi, Head of Disability Rights in the UK, and James Taylor, Executive Director of Strategy, Impact and Social Change at Disability Charity Scope, gave testimony.
Hadi (pictured as testimony) told the committee that she loved the Access To Work (AtW) program, which finances work-related adjustments such as workers and travel expenses, and that she would not have been able to work without it.
But she said she hated the way it was run.
She said securing support from AtW has felt like a “struggle” over the past few years, “like I have to prove something, like I don’t seem to be the expert on my needs”.
And she said disabled people were often “just beaten” by DWP officers working on AtW.
She said, “There is a kind of feeling that you are trying to get something that you are not entitled to.
“There are far too many forms, there is far too much bureaucracy, they are not fast, they have not moved with the times.
“I really have nothing to say about the praise for the way it’s managed.”
She added, “I don’t know if it’s an attitude or a leadership thing, but the implication for a disabled person is that a good system makes it difficult.”
Hadi said she had heard of employers who “moved away” from the system.
She said, “Some of us want to work for small employers, and access to work would be vital as we want to get in as full members of the staff group without the employer believing we are costing more.”
But she said there was a sense from AtW that disabled people “take the piss” and “that you are not being honest and that you do not know about your own needs.”
“I’ve been using AtW for 30 years and I think I know what I need from it.”
Later in the session, Taylor criticized the government’s Disability Confident program.
The much-criticized program aims to encourage employers to “think differently about disabilities and take steps to improve the recruitment, retention and development of people with disabilities”.
However, the Disability News Service announced earlier this month that DWP had announced that its contractor Capita’s personal independence payments department had gained top-tier membership in the Disability Confident program, just as a coroner was advising the company into deciding one young disabled mother implicated for suicide.
And four years ago, the DWP declared itself just a few days before it was found guilty of “serious and systematic violations” of the UN Disability Convention.
Taylor told the committee yesterday that while Disability Confident is “a very good program to promote disabled people in the workplace,” it has had a very limited impact on the number of employed people with disabilities.
He said the system was seen by employers as “too dependent” on self-assessments of “how well they actually employ disabled people”.
And he said anecdotal evidence Scope heard from disabled people working for employers with disabilities “indicated that their employers did not particularly support them despite joining the Disability Confident program”.
At the beginning of the evidence, Hadi told the committee that she was getting “quite tired” [DWP] say they don’t know what works “when it comes to working with disabilities.
She said, “We are now in 2021 and they’ve had an awful long time figuring out what works.”
She said it is not “rocket science” and it works to provide personal assistance and to provide it quickly to disabled people.
She said, “I don’t really know what you’re waiting for to find out.
“I think we know what works and if they talked to disabled people and had personal support they would see the results.
“It needs more money and then things will work out.”
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