Work and Pensions Secretary visits our Peterborough office
On 18 December 2019, the Work and Pensions Secretary, Therese Coffey, visited our office in Peterborough, where staff provide services for blind and partially sighted people across the country.
RNIB staff speak about their work and concerns
Ms Coffey spent time with staff who told her about the urgent action the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) needs to take, to improve its services for blind and partially sighted people. Ms Coffey also watched Christmas letters being transcribed into alternative formats such as large print, audio or braille.
Our Director of Services, David Clarke, was pleased that Ms Coffey was able to see some of the work we do first hand.
Accessing benefits and support
However, much of our resources are used to assist blind and partially sighted people to navigate the complex and often inaccessible processes to obtain the information, advice, guidance and support needed to live and work.
This includes benefits claims, Access to Work and services offered through Jobcentre Plus. Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) processes, in general, are not accessible for blind and partially sighted people, and we will continue to press the DWP to resolve this.
Our Legal Rights Service has supported many benefit claimants, to appeal decisions made by the DWP, in particular for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) claimants. We have had substantial success in these appeals, and we are keen to see decision-making in this area improved.
Afterwards, the Work and Pension Secretary recorded a video in which she said it was good to visit RNIB, to understand more about how the DWP can improve the accessibility of the forms they have, and how they can understand better some of the challenges caused by policies like digital by default (the system which means you can only apply for Universal Credit online).
Earlier this year, the DWP launched sight loss awareness training for Jobcentre staff, as a first step towards tackling the difficulties that some blind and partially sighted people face when accessing benefits. RNIB contributed to the content of this training, and we would be keen for this and other improvements to be rolled out more widely.
David Clarke said that:
Our research shows that only one in four blind and partially sighted people are in employment, and that finding and staying in work is one of the biggest barriers faced. With the number of people with sight loss set to double by 2050, urgent action is needed and we hope that this visit will help drive real and meaningful progress at the highest level of Government.