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Access to Work

Volume 566: debated on Tuesday 16 July 2013

This Government are committed to increasing the number of disabled people in employment and building on the important work of Liz Sayce to improve and strengthen the Access to Work scheme.

Last summer we established an expert panel to advise the Department on how best to take forward Liz Sayce’s recommendations. Today I wish to announce a set of improvements to Access to Work following the panel’s final phase of work.

We know that personalised support is key to securing successful employment outcomes for disabled people. Access to Work aims to offer all customers a tailored service, so we will grant advisers more flexibility and discretion to make personalisation a reality. Access to Work advisers will be able to:

Offer up-front payments to customers who need their award in advance in order to take up or remain in employment;

Build tolerances into awards where needed to give customers who require a more flexible package the confidence that support is available.

This Government recognise the important role work experience can play as a route into employment. While Access to Work already supports Youth Contract work experience, I can announce today that we will set aside £2 million from the access to work budget to support disabled people to access a range of opportunities that help them get ready for employment. These will include traineeships, sector-based work academies and supported internships.

We also want to support disabled people who seek out their own opportunity with an employer. Access to Work already supports disabled people undertaking a Jobcentre Plus work trial. To provide disabled people with more choice about their route into employment, we will extend Access to Work to individually established work trials where there is a realistic prospect of employment after the trial.

Liz Sayce described Access to Work as the best-kept secret in Government. We have undertaken a 12-month targeted marketing campaign and positive results are coming through. We will continue to market and promote Access to Work for young people and for people with mental health conditions. We will also continue to up-skill staff and raise awareness of the scheme within Jobcentre Plus.

We recognise that more needs to be done to help those who acquire a disability while in employment to prevent them from falling out of work. We have already announced plans for a new health and work assessment and advisory service in 2014. We will ensure that this service has full awareness of Access to Work as well as the means to conduct a smooth handover to the programme, where appropriate.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mike Adams OBE and the expert panel for their invaluable insight and contribution to the reform of this important programme. We will keep listening to experts and users of the programme in order to continuously improve its operation.