Deaf News: Human rights lawyers challenge Iain Duncan Smith to publish criteria applied to Access to Work applications

Posted on December 4, 2014



Human rights lawyers at law firm Leigh Day have sent a pre-action letter to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith.

This letter asks the DWP to publish a document explaining the rules that need to be followed when people apply for Access to Work funding.

The letter has been sent on behalf of the Stop Changes to Access to Work campaign: a group made up of Deaf people and disabled people and interpreters.

Apparently, there is already a document, over 700 paragraphs long, that explains Access to Work criteria, but it is not publicly available.

Leigh Day claim that the lack of available guidance on the scheme is unlawful. Ugo Hayter from law firm Leigh Day who are representing the ‘Stop Changes to Access to Work’ group said:

The failure by the Department of Work & Pensions to publish clear guidance on such a crucial scheme is, we believe, unlawful. Access to Work users, who depend on the support provided to them by the scheme, are having their support arbitrarily cut or suspended, this is putting their employment and their businesses at serious risk.

The Secretary of State should now ensure his department deals with this matter urgently. It should publish clear AtW guidance and resolve the many outstanding claims.

The Stop Changes to Access to Work group have come together to coordinate a united response to the government in light of recent changes to the Access to Work scheme which they say have created additional barriers to Deaf and disabled people seeking employment, and placed jobs and businesses at significant risk.

Access to Work provides vital support to Deaf and disabled people, such as travel grants, special aids or equipment and support workers, removing barriers to employment. It transforms lives and safeguards careers.

The Stop Changes campaign say:

As a scheme [Access to Work] should be celebrated on a par with our NHS. We should be extremely proud of AtW, we should all be defending it and holding it up as a model for other countries to adopt, not destroying it.

This government’s agenda isn’t to support, it is to demonise communities to justify cuts. Deaf and disabled people achieving in employment and being successful in their own businesses flies against what this government would have you believe: that Deaf and disabled people are scroungers and a drain on society.

They would have you believe that interpreters are profiteering from the public purse, rather than being highly trained, skilled workers performing a vital role.

They don’t want you to know about the Deaf man who was forced give up his role as a director of his own business and replace himself with a hearing person, or the woman who is having to sell her shop as she can’t communicate without interpreting support.

They don’t want you to know that highly successful Deaf and disabled people in work are being forced out of work and on to benefits. We do.

Leigh Day are helping the campaign challenge what they say are unlawful government actions. The DWP have 14 days to respond or legal action will be taken in High Court.

You can support the campaign by signing this petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-changes-to-access-to-work 

You can also donate to the campaign here: www.gofundme.com/stopchanges2atw

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