Helen Oxlade: Why I’m marching for Access to Work (BSL)

Posted on September 21, 2015

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Hello! I’d like to talk about the march for Access to Work that’s going to be held in London at the end of this week – on Saturday 26th September – I’ll be there!

The Stop Changes to AtW campaign is so important.

To watch Helen’s blog in BSL, click play below, or scroll down to read in English!

In brief, Access to Work (AtW) is a government fund that helps deaf and disabled people to work on an equal basis with everyone else.

For example, if I want to talk to someone who can’t sign, AtW covers the costs of BSL/English interpreters – I won’t need to pay for that myself. The funding also covers equipment like minicoms or video cameras that you might need in order to access work equally.

The AtW scheme has been running brilliantly for years. I’ve been successful when I’ve applied, and then had no problems in the admin side, sending receipts and claim forms etc to AtW.

Having a named AtW officer to contact and work with was great and kept things running smoothly; in fact, thousands of people have successfully applied for AtW funding.

Then, a year or so ago, problems started to arise. At first, AtW staff became slow to respond to emails… then there were delays with processing claims forms. It got worse. People started having their AtW applications rejected, even when they had previously been successful. It was bewildering!

The amount of hours of AtW funding I got was reduced, and I was told that I was only able to spend up to £30 per hour, which was sometimes impossible.

Some people actually quit their jobs because they couldn’t face battling with AtW any longer. Others lost their jobs; businesses went downhill; lots of really bad things happened.

Although there has been a campaign against this, and for example, the ‘30-hour rule’ AtW cap has been removed, things are still far from sorted out and changes are still being made.

Other services have been cut too, not just AtW. So, I went on the big anti austerity march in London back in June – there were about 200,000 of us, not just deaf people! It was great, and seems to have made an impact.

So, this Saturday, it’s deaf and disabled people’s turn to march together with a clear message; stop the changes to AtW!

Why make changes to AtW anyway?! Did you know that for every £1 the government spends on AtW funding, they get £1.48 back? That’s because people in work pay tax rather than claiming benefits. Oh, and interpreters pay tax too!

Access to Work means we don’t need to claim housing benefit, or JSA etc – we can just get on with our work.

At the end of the day, we aren’t costing the government loads of money by getting AtW funding. They’re actually profiting from us… remember that 48p!

So that’s why I’ll be marching against the changes to AtW. And I hope to see you there! Please do come!

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The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. It is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.

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