Deaf News: Access to Work 30 Hour rule suspended by government pending review

Posted on May 14, 2014

The Minister for Disabled People, Mike Penning MP, has today announced a review of the impact of Access to Work on deaf people. The three month review will take place over the summer and involve key organisations working with and for deaf people.

The announcement follows the launch of the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s general inquiry into Access to Work. The idea for the review was developed by the UK Council on Deafness and presented to the Minister by Stephen Lloyd MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness.

In a meeting with representatives of the UK Council on Deafness, the Minister also suspended the rule that has restricted deaf people’s access to communication support such as sign language interpreters.

The ’30 hour rule’ will not be applied to any new claims to Access to Work during the review. And anyone whose support was reduced due to the application of the rule can have it reviewed.

Describing it as “the arbitrary rule on 30 hours”, the Minister said he was not comfortable with it after UK Council on Deafness members and his constituents had told him about deaf people beginning to lose their jobs.

The rule said that someone needing more than 30 hours communication support a week could only claim at an hourly rate equivalent to a £30,000 salary. That is significantly below the market hourly rate for a sign language interpreter.

It means deaf people have been struggling to find communication support and therefore do their jobs. In some cases employers have been unable to keep their deaf employees.

Jim Edwards, chair of the UK Council on Deafness, said: “This is excellent news for deaf people who are in work or trying to find it. It’s also a great example of what deaf people and the organisations who work for and with them can achieve when we pull together.

“We now look forward to working with the Minister to deliver the review. Mike was clear he cannot do it without us.

“The first step is to tell him about the other problems that are affecting deaf people at the moment. As well as suspending the 30 hour rule, there may be other immediate action he can take.”

A spokesperson for the Stop Changes to Access to Work Campaign, a group that launched a petition against the changes, said:

The Stop Changes to AtW campaign are delighted at the announcement of the suspension of the 30 hour rule, and the announcement of an inquiry into the impact of AtW on Deaf people.

“We will be watching carefully to make sure that the rule really isn’t used during the inquiry, and that people who have had it imposed on them, are reviewed speedily and fairly, with support meeting their work needs reinstated.

“We will contribute to the inquiry, as well as the the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s general inquiry into Access to Work, and support Deaf people to contribute as well.

“The rule hasn’t been scrapped however, just suspended during the enquiry, and so we will continue to campaign on this issue until it is, and personal choice and control are handed back to the experts on Deaf work access needs – the individual Deaf people who use the scheme.”

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