Delays in Access to Work scheme leaves thousands of disabled people with no financial support for employment
New figures show that the government’s Access to Work scheme, which funds support for people with disabilities in employment, is in crisis.
Applicants are waiting for months for a decision on their claims, with a waiting list that is more than twice as high as it was in February 2020.
In November last year, 25,289 people were waiting for a response from the Department of Work and Pensions.
Delays in the scheme mean people with disabilities are struggling to find and stay in jobs, as the scheme helps them receive the right equipment to work, alongside some extra disability-related expenses they face at work or during job interviews.
Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, Vicky Foxcroft, said: “Disabled people are being let down by this government; these statistics clearly show ministers’ failure to tackle the long waiting lists for the Access to Work scheme”.
Disability News Service reports people waiting up to 6 months for a decision on their application.
A spokesperson from the charity Scope said that the waiting time is costing people their jobs, as they either get fired or must quit due to the stress they experience without the right support.
The delays come at a time where people with disabilities are already struggling to make ends meet.
The Access to Work scheme was founded in 1994 to help people with disabilities find and stay in employment. If eligible, applicants can receive grants up to £65,180, although the average help in 2021 was just under £4,000 per person.
The scheme helps for expenses such as vehicle adaptations, mental health help, support staff as well as guaranteeing that workplaces meet disabled employees’ needs.
In March 2022, the disability employment gap – the difference in the employment rates of people who have a disability and those who don’t – was 28.2%. In order to shrink the gap, the scheme needs to function in a timely matter.
Epilepsy Action is working with other charities to push the government to take the necessary action to bring the waiting list down and ensure that people can get support through Access to Work quickly. If you have experienced delays with your Access to Work application, we would like to hear from you. Please share your experience with us by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
Epilepsy Action also has an Employer toolkit, which helps organisations to better support employees with epilepsy in the workplace.