Some disabled employees are to receive a 36% increase in Access to Work grants to assist them at work from next month.
From 1 April 2018, people can claim up to £57,200 annually to help pay for additional support in the workplace –£15,000 more than the current cap of £42,100.
Access to Work provides financial support to ensure someone’s disability or health condition doesn’t hold them back at work, and can cover workplace adaptations, assistive technology, transport and interpreters.
Increasing the amount people can receive annually will ensure that more disabled people, particularly from the deaf community, are able to benefit from the grant and achieve their career aspirations.
Work and pensions secretary Esther McVey said: “By extending this grant we’re ensuring that many more disabled people can reach their career potential, which is a key part of our commitment to getting one million more disabled people in work by 2027.”
A statement from the UK Council on Deafness said: “This will help deaf people whose first language is British Sign Language (BSL) to access the communication support so vital to enabling them to thrive and succeed in the workplace.”
The Government aims have one million more people with a disability in work by 2027. In a statement it said it would introduce the following measures:
- discretion in exceptional cases of multiple disability, to consider award limits averaged over a longer period – for example, where a person’s ongoing need for a support worker may be below the cap but when coupled with a periodic need for say a wheelchair, would exceed the cap in that year;
- introduction of managed personal budgets to enable greater choice and control for customers in the way grants are spent;
- taking applications 12 weeks ahead of a job start date rather than the current six weeks to allow more time for support to be agreed and put in place;
- continuing to invest in our digital improvements such as developing the facility to submit invoices online;
- allowing more flexibility in how people can use Access to Work to support short periods of work experience where there is a likelihood of a paid job in the near future.
However, campaign group Inclusion London described the cap as inappropriate and discriminatory. “Any cap hits those with the highest support needs, effectively penalising deaf and disabled people with the highest support needs and impacting most on certain impairment groups.”
It said the new cap is still a fixed limit set in an entirely arbitrary way. Costs for specialised equipment and interpreters tailored to individuals’ needs can exceed this amount or vary from year to year.
“There is no financial reason for a cap given that investment in Access to Work makes a return on investment to the Treasury through taxes, without taking into account the added cost benefits of savings to the NHS or social care budgets,” it added.
Speaking at an event to drive awareness of autistic talent, Sarah Newton, minister for disabled people, health and work, said the Government wanted to encourage employers to access much-needed talent, particularly those potentially facing skills shortages post-Brexit.
“It’s important that everyone has the ability to reach their full potential. We have record levels of people in employment but still plenty of job opportunities. It’s not acceptable that there are so many talented people that with some support could be in employment,” she said.