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Minister for Disabled People hears first hand the experiences of blind and partially sighted people

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been seeking views to inform the development of the Government’s Health and Disability Green Paper and its National Strategy for Disabled People.

To ensure the voices of blind and partially sighted people are heard by the DWP, our Policy Team, Employment Team and Legal Rights Service invited people to attend a session with Justin Tomlinson MP, the Minister for Disabled People, and DWP officials.

What issues did people raise?

The discussion was revealing, with people sharing their stories and experiences of DWP services. They discussed the changes needed to make the benefits system easier to navigate by blind and partially sighted people. They shared views on improvements to the health assessment process and employment services, as well as Access to Work. Additionally, experiences of accessing DWP services during the coronavirus pandemic were shared.

These issues will be familiar to many blind and partially sighted people; some are long-standing issues we have been raising with the Government.

What we’re calling for

With our experience of supporting blind and partially sighted people in their attempts to access benefits they are entitled to - and in finding and retaining work - we’ve made clear to the DWP that assessments need to be holistic and of better quality, applications and communication need to be accessible, data collection needs to reflect the experiences of blind and partially sighted people, and that staff need ongoing disability awareness training that covers less common disabilities.

"Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, hearing your lived experience has been extremely insightful… It will help identify the areas we need to focus on so that customer experience is improved."

Justin Tomlinson

Our Policy Officer, John Dixon, thanked those who took part, and emphasised the importance of the issues they raised:

"I’m very grateful to the participants for sharing their experiences with the Minister and his officials, and for bringing the problems they face to life. Many of the issues raised by our panel will be familiar to blind and partially sighted people, being long-standing barriers to fair and equal access to benefits and employment. It’s important for us to make sure that their voices continue to be heard by those in Government so that the needs of blind and partially sighted people can be reflected in any reforms."

Get in touch if you need support

If you are blind or partially sighted and have questions about accessing benefits or employment, you can get in touch with our Sight Loss Advice at [email protected], by calling our helpline on 0303 123 9999, 8am to 8pm on weekdays and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays.