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RNIB joins calls on Government to change the benefit system and employment support

RNIB has joined a coalition of sight loss charities, which are calling on the Government to make the benefit system and employment support fit for purpose for blind and partially sighted people.

The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) long-awaited consultation, Shaping Future Support: Health and Disability Green Paper, closes this week and presents an important opportunity for the Government to hear from disabled people about their experiences of claiming benefits and receiving employment support.

Along with Glaucoma UK, Macular Society, Retina UK, Thomas Pocklington Trust, Visionary and Vision Foundation, we have issued a joint statement calling on the Government to deliver far-reaching changes.

For far too long, many blind and partially sighted people have struggled to navigate the benefits system and live within its means. Our recent survey showed a staggering 43 percent of people with sight loss through their own experiences and verbal evidence were not listened to and taken seriously by benefits assessors. If the Government is serious about building trust, we need a better-informed and more compassionate approach to benefits assessments.

Overcoming barriers to employment is one of the biggest challenges faced by people with sight loss; only one in four registered blind and partially sighted people of working age are in employment. Together we are calling for much-needed action from the Government to break down these barriers.

Our joint statement highlights:

  • Decision-making for benefits and support must respect and listen to individuals, giving proper weight to their own evidence, and for assessments to also make the best use of pre-existing evidence from experts like healthcare professionals.
  • The eligibility for out-of-work benefits, determined through the Work Capability Assessment, needs to be amended. This includes the potential to learn braille never being used as a reason to exclude someone from meeting “the severe and enduring conditions criteria” in the Work Capability Assessment.
  • The concern that there is no mention of the Equality Act throughout the Green Paper, especially as recent research showed that 23 percent of employers said they were not willing to make adaptations to employ someone with a visual impairment, despite legal obligations under the Act. We want to see the Government place much greater focus on addressing attitudes in the workplace and educating employers to put an end to this shocking situation.
  • The DWP should provide regular specialist sight loss training to jobcentre staff and Access to Work assessors, in order to deliver support that meets all of an individual’s needs.
  • The call for there to be Disability Employment Taskforces in each region, including people with a diverse range of disabilities.
  • Government action to close the disability employment gap must come with a greater understanding of the needs of people with different conditions and detailed data collection, to ensure no one is left behind.