Access to Work campaign update: We are making progress but more needs to be done
Thanks to your campaigning, progress is being made to bring down the number and duration of Access to Work delays.
The Access to Work scheme, run by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), provides practical and financial support to disabled people, including many blind and partially sighted people, to find and retain employment. It provides crucial support, such as specialist equipment, support workers and awareness training for colleagues.
For more than a year, we’ve been calling on the DWP to take comprehensive and urgent action as Access to Work delays have placed the jobs of many blind and partially sighted people at risk.
We’ve been campaigning hard for the DWP to #FixAccessToWork, including meeting with the Minister for Disabled People, Tom Pursglove MP. At our Spring parliamentary drop-in event, which the Minister attended - alongside nearly 60 other MPs - he told RNIB the Access to Work scheme is high on his agenda.
We are pleased the DWP is listening to your concerns and making practical changes; it has put additional staffing in place and tells us that it has refined its processes to speed up its decision-making. This seems to be making a difference as application waiting times have nearly halved to an average of three months.
However, this is not enough progress and we know that thousands of people are still without the support that they need to start or stay in a job.
“With 22,809 outstanding applications in June 2023, down from over 24,000 in March, it’s positive to see the numbers dropping but there is still much more that needs to be done to bring Access to Work waiting times down to an acceptable level,” said Sophie Dodgeon, RNIB’s Head of Policy and Public Affairs.
RNIB understands Access to Work has plans to bring down waiting times further over the summer. We’ll continue to monitor the DWP’s progress and the impact the delays are having on blind and partially sighted people.
An important tip is that if you are making a claim prior to starting a job, include your job’s start date in your application to trigger prioritisation of your application by the DWP.
We encourage blind and partially sighted people experiencing issues with Access to Work applications, or claims, to complain directly to the DWP and let their MP know about their experience using our new online template letters. For advice and support with Access to Work, people can also contact the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999, to be referred to the RNIB Employment Team.
Further improvements to Access to Work: sight loss training and new online claims portal
Alongside our campaigning, we are helping to improve the Access to Work scheme by delivering sight loss training to Access to Work staff.
We hear from people with sight loss that assessors lack specialist knowledge of sight loss issues. We are pleased to have the opportunity to improve advisors’ understanding of sight loss and the support and adjustments blind and partially sighted people need through the roll out of our ‘Understanding Sight Loss for Professionals’ E-Learning Training to all Access to Work staff.
In addition we will be giving training sessions for Access to Work Case Managers to keep them up to date on the Assistive Technology people with sight loss use in the workplace.
At the same time, we welcome the new online Access to Work service launched last week, which can be used to manage claims and should help to make the scheme more efficient for blind and partially sighted people. This portal allows claims to be submitted online and lets members of the scheme monitor their grants, and previously submitted claims, and report some changes of circumstance. Paper forms can still be used.
We will be monitoring the rollout of the online service to ensure it is accessible for all people with sight loss.