The Work and Pensions Select Committee has published its report, Improving Access to Work for disabled people the report highlights the benefits of the AtW programme as ‘an important element of specialist employment support for disabled people’. The Committee also highlights weaknesses in DWP’s administration of the programme and calls for more transparency of criteria for making awards and the appeals process. ERSA is particularly pleased to see that the Committee’s report reflects many of the recommendations made in ERSA’s submission to the inquiry, specifically the need to open access to AtW to better support jobseekers and the importance of supporting those with mental health needs.
Points of particular interest are:
- substantial unmet need exists amongst people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders, young disabled people trying to enter work for the first time, and people found fit for work as a result of the Employment and Support Allowance eligibility process.
- Recommended that DWP undertake research to establish the likely level and range of currently unmet need and a cost-benefit analysis of Access to Work expenditure.
- Recommendations to make available AtW statistics, reflecting awards and health conditions.
- Recommendation to look at employed cost sharing arrangements, and links to Disability Confident campaign.
- Recommendation for DWP to publicise the Access to Work Workplace Mental Health Support Service (WMHSS) to mental health service providers, and open up referral routes to employers and advisers.
Commenting on the Committee’s report Kirsty McHugh, ERSA Chief Executive said:
“The Work and Pensions Select Committee report on Access to Work makes important points about the need to extend the reach of the service to support more people with mental health needs, young people with a disability or health condition looking for their first job and jobseekers who have been through the WCA and are now looking to return to work.
“ERSA is also pleased to see the Committee has reflected concerns raised in our submission, which highlighted the lack of transparency regarding how awards are made and the availability of guidance for both employers and those looking to access the support.”
“Overall Access to Work is an extremely valuable service, which can make the difference to an individual staying in, or finding work and It is therefore crucial that all those that could benefit from Access to Work are aware of the service, of the support it can offer to them and are able to easily apply. “