It’s 10’oclock, I’ve just got home from work because of a late meeting, I’m not feeling well, and I’ve just come across a horrible leak. And it’s not the watery kind that can be fixed by a plumber. It’s a Government memo, leaked to the Daily Mirror that reveals a potential privatisation plan that could seriously undermine the careers of many disabled people. And it’s left me feeling worn out and alarmed.
The memo reveals that the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has paid consultants £200,000 to look into selling off Access to Work, the scheme that provides crucial support for working disabled people.
Firstly let’s be clear about what Access to Work is, and more importantly what it’s not.
The Daily Mirror report describes Access to Work as: “helping the disabled and long-term sick find a job.” This is inaccurate – the scheme doesn’t help disabled people find work, it provides crucial practical support employed disabled people need in order to do their job safely and effectively.
It’s not a benefit or a mandatory work programme – it’s a scheme that ensures equality of opportunity. It supports disabled people in a wide variety of roles, at all stages of their careers.
Access to Work covers the cost of my support worker while I’m working. This enables me to undertake a full time job as a manager and company director, to progress in my career, and to be financially independent. The funding from Access to Work doesn’t come direct to me – it pays my support workers’ wages through my employers. Both my support worker and I pay tax on our earned income, putting money back into the economy like everyone else.
If I didn’t get Access to Work funding, the organisation I work for wouldn’t be able to fund my support, so I wouldn’t be able to do my job, and I wouldn’t have an income or be able to contribute to the economy in the way that I do. Instead I’d need to claim benefits in order to live, and social services would need to meet the cost of my support worker. Most importantly, I wouldn’t be able to achieve my ambitions, which would have a hugely negative impact on my wellbeing.
Access to Work works! It’s widely accepted that it brings money into the Treasury – £1.48 for every £1 spent. Why should a private company be allowed to profit from administering it?
I’m writing this late at night, when I’m tired and ill and have work tomorrow, because threats to Access to Work pose a very real risk to my livelihood, career and quality of life. You only need to look at the appalling track record of private companies administering schemes relating to health and disability such as Atos, Circle Health and Maximus to understand the disastrous impact this could have on the lives of working disabled people.
To sell it off makes no sense and in my view seriously jeopardises careers, equality and the wider economy. You can find out more about the campaign to stop changes to Access to Work here – please join it!