So. Once again, the Government is pressing ahead with it’s grand idea of saving money from the Welfare Budget. A laudable plan you may think. Well, not when it’s at the expense of help for disabled people to have the ability to live independent lives.
As announced in May, the Government now wants to go ahead with its plan to cap or cut the amount of money disabled people can receive through the Access to Work (AtW) scheme. But the Government has also said that it wants to get disabled people off out of work benefits and into employment.
Until recently, I have always worked but I could not have done so without the help of Access to Work funding. That funding enabled me, and my employers, deal with the additional costs we both experienced due to my impairment. That funding helped my employers obtain the office equipment I needed to work which they would not have had to buy had I not been disabled. Equipment such as a mouse pad instead of a mouse, a handset shoulder cradle for my phone, an office mobile with larger than average keys and numbers and a remote control door opener for the main office door. AtW also meant I was able to get a much better electric wheelchair than the NHS could provide so I could make it up to the bus stop from my home on my own, travel on the bus to and from work alone, get round the office easily and safely and be confident that I would still have the battery power I needed left at the end of the day to get home and have a life when I got there too. Thanks to AtW I have been able to work for the last twenty-five years. Thanks to AtW the Government have received Income Tax and National Insurance from my monthly salary. Thanks to AtW I have been able to support my family. AtW has been invaluable.
More widely, AtW has also been invaluable for many other disabled people I know. Visually impaired colleagues have been able to get computer programmes which have enabled them to use office computers. Other colleagues have been able to employ their own personal assistants to help with things such as filing and other office duties. Hearing impaired colleagues have been able to pay for the services of sign language interpreters and palantypists for meetings and conferences. Mobility impaired colleagues have been helped with the cost of minicabs to and from work if they have been unable to use public transport due to their impairments. The list goes on and on.
So, that’s why I don’t get it. That’s why I don’t understand this rush to cut. It seems to me that the Government and especially Iain Duncan Smith and the Department for Work and Pensions are being so unbelievably stupid it’s not funny. Even a 5 year old should be able to see the illogicality of these latest ideas. Surely, if the Government wants to see more disabled people in work then it should ensure the help is there for us and for the employers who want to give us a job. Cutting or scraping AtW does not make sense. It will just make things so much more difficult.
Just when benefits and tax credits are being reduced and disabled people are being told to find a job and go out to work, why get rid of this life-line. Instead, why not put more money and more resources into AtW so that more disabled people can afford work and more employers can afford to give them jobs. In the long run it would be money well spent. By putting more support in place for working disabled people, more will be able to get off benefits and start paying into the public purse through their taxes rather than taking money from the public purse through welfare benefits. Just for once, cutting may not be the answer. Just for once take a chance. Just for once try investing and see what happens – it may surprise you.