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Urgent action needed to tackle Access to Work delays, RNIB tells Minister in joint letter

RNIB has joined forces with sight loss sector charities to write to Mel Stride MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to highlight the recent increase in outstanding Access to Work applications and emphasise the need for immediate action.

Please find the text of the letter below and a link to take action if you’ve received poor service from Access to Work.

Dear Secretary of State,

Joint letter from the sight loss community calling for urgent action to tackle Access to Work delays

As members of the VI Charity Sector Partnership, we are writing to express our alarm at the ongoing delays to the Access to Work scheme and call for urgent Government action.

For many blind and partially sighted people, Access to Work is highly valued and support through the scheme is very important for entering the job market. However, the timeliness of this support – as well as its quality – is often crucial in the world of employment.

As you will be aware, for almost two years, people applying to Access to Work have faced significant delays in accessing the support they need. For many blind and partially sighted people, these lengthy delays are severely compromising their ability to secure, or maintain, employment.

We are grateful to the Minister for Disabled People, Tom Pursglove MP, for recognising that the delays are unacceptable. Although the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has put additional staffing in place, we strongly feel not enough progress has been made to bring down the delays, with thousands of people still without the support that they need to start or stay in a job.

It now on average takes three months from an initial application to assessment and determination of an application. While we recognise this is an improvement on the waiting times at the start of the year, three months is still too long and is jeopardising the job opportunities of blind and partially sighted people. As a sector, we continue to see job offers being withdrawn from people with sight loss who rely on the scheme, but cannot access the support they need for their job. We are also seeing individuals in work facing performance management or job losses due to the delays.

We were shocked to recently learn that the number of outstanding applications to Access to Work has increased. Parliamentary questions showed that on the 19 September there were 22,432 outstanding applications to the scheme, an increase in over 650 applications in just three weeks. At this rate and assuming the numbers do not rise again, 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 not good enough, especially amid a cost of living crisis, and goes against the Government’s ambition to see more disabled people in work.

The employment gap for blind and partially sighted people is twice that of other disability groups. As a sector we are working hard to close this gap, but are becoming increasingly concerned that the delays to Access to Work have made the employment barriers people with sight loss experience worse.

As the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, we call on you to take action to urgently speed up the processing of applications to the scheme. This will require the DWP providing 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.

Yours sincerely,

Matt Stringer, CEO, RNIB

Adrian Bell, CEO, Blind Veterans UK

Joanne Creighton, CEO, Glaucoma UK

Andrew Lennox, CEO, Guide Dogs

Cathy Yelf, CEO, Macular Society

Tina Garvey, CEO, Retina UK

Charles Colquhoun, CEO, Thomas Pocklington Trust

Fiona Sandford, CEO, Visionary

Keith Valentine, CEO, Fight for Sight / Vision Foundation

Lisa Hopkins, CEO, SeeAbility

Sharon Schaffer, CEO, Support 4 Sight

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 using our template complaint letters.

Make a complaint to Access to Work now