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Enough is enough: Delays in Government scheme continue to threaten blind and partially sighted people’s jobs

On behalf of the VI Charity Sector Partnership, RNIB is demanding urgent Government action to tackle unprecedented delays to the Access to Work scheme which are placing the jobs of many blind and partially sighted people at severe risk.

The Access to Work scheme

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. However, for almost two years, people applying to the scheme have faced significant delays in accessing the support they need, including crucial support such as specialist equipment and support workers.

It now on average takes three months from an initial application to assessment and determination of an application. For many blind and partially sighted people, these lengthy delays are severely compromising their ability to secure, or maintain, employment.

Although the DWP has put additional staffing in an attempt to tackle the backlog, not enough progress has been made to bring down the delays, and thousands of people are still without the support that they need to start or stay in a job.

Our findings

“At the beginning of September, there were still a staggering 21,780 outstanding applications to the scheme, only slightly down from 22,809 in June. At this rate, we predict it will take at least another four years for the DWP to bring Access to Work waiting times down to an acceptable level. This is just not good enough, especially amid a cost of living crisis, and is at real odds with the Government’s ambition to see more disabled people in work.” Sophie Dodgeon, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at RNIB.

Mike Bell, Head of Public Affairs and Campaigns at Thomas Pocklington Trust, added: “We’re grateful for the work RNIB has done with us to shine a spotlight on the continuing challenges faced by blind and partially sighted people trying to get into the workplace. This is about getting people into jobs, something the government says it wants, so we struggle to understand why bureaucratic barriers are being allowed to get in the way.”

While the Government is proud of its record in seeing more than one million more disabled people in work compared to five years ago, the gap in employment for blind and partially sighted people still lags behind and is twice that of other disability groups. Delays in the processing of applications to Access to Work support have only made the employment barriers people with sight loss experience worse.

It is time for the DWP to provide adequate resourcing to Access to Work so that support can be put in place within four weeks of any application, and so blind and partially sighted people can finally access vital support in a timely manner.

Have you received poor service from Access to Work?

If you are blind or partially sighted and have experienced delays or inadequate support from Access to Work, we encourage you to complain.

We’ve created pre-written template letters which you can personalise and will be sent to the Access to Work Complaints Team and your MP.

Take action now to tackle Access to Work delays