NUBSLI was delighted by the work done by the Work & Pensions Select Committee (WPSC). The report has explained very thoroughly the problems that have occurred with the administering of the scheme over the past two years, and has highlighted areas where work is urgently needed.
BSL interpreters have been hit hard by the catastrophic changes made by this Government in the past two years which have had a detrimental effect on the Deaf community. BSL interpreting has developed into a profession over the past 30 years. There is a general consensus that along with the introduction of the Access to Work scheme, the development of the BSL interpreting profession has played a vital role in improving the life chances of Deaf people in the UK
In the short time that NUBSLI has been formed, it has consistently raised concerns over the changes to Access to Work and was pleased to have been able to gather information by means of Freedom of Information requests to inform its work. A number of NUBSLI members assisted in this task and we would like to acknowledge their work. This was then shared with relevant MPs.
The report has demonstrated that groups with high support needs were unfairly targeted by government changes to the scheme. The majority of cases affected were from BSL users
NUBSLI strongly supports the recommendation that the DWP undertakes a cost-benefit analysis of Access to Work expenditure in order to assess:
“… its likely long-term impacts on social security expenditure and income tax returns. We believe that such a study is likely to produce an overwhelming case for substantial additional funding for Access to Work, which we recommend be presented to HM Treasury at the earliest possible opportunity. Our hope is that HM Treasury will be able to announce substantial additional funding before the next Comprehensive Spending Review.”
The Committee has highlighted the fact that £95 million of funding promised to Access to Work has not yet materialised from the closure of the Remploy factories. We support the recommendation that DWP provide further explanation of the whereabouts of these funds which were due to be reinvested in the scheme. We would like to remind people that in terms of overall spending by the DWP, £100 million remains an insignificant amount and we would like to see this increased substantially.
NUBSLI concerns supported by the Committee
Each of the following concerns raised by NUBSLI in its submission to the Committee have been supported:
- The 30 hour rule is scrapped with immediate effect.
- Deaf people and interpreters are fully consulted on any policy and/or guidance that affects their working practices.
- Access to Work, Deaf people and interpreters need to work collaboratively to ensure the standards and working practices are maintained and of advantage to all parties
- Minimum standards are agreed for interpreting provision
- Coworker provision is reinstated immediately and incorporated into any new policy/guidance ensuring the ongoing protected health and safety of interpreters.
- Consistency is improved.
- Access to Work must be made accessible to Deaf users.
We welcome the further recommendation made by the committee which was consultation with NUBSLI, who have minimum fees, to:
“… establish suitable maximum permissible hourly, half-daily and daily rates for BSL interpretation funded by Access to Work, based on robust research.”
NUBSLI will also be involved in the Access to Work stakeholder forum and the Innovation and Technology group.
New National Framework Agreement risks repeating previous mistakes.
The Crown Commercial Service are currently drafting a National Framework Agreement. Government are on the verge of repeating the same mistakes made with Access to Work and the Ministry of Justice contract for interpreting services if they do not consult.
The report illustrates what happens when government does not consult with users and service providers and the problems this then creates.
NUBSLI calls for:
- All recommendations made in this document to be realised by the Government.
- An urgent review of the Crown Commercial Service draft in light of the findings and mistakes made by Access to Work.
- NUBSLI minimum fees to be adopted by all providers of AtW services
- Employer contribution to be abolished completely to encourage employer engagement across the board.
- A cessation to privatising interpreting services and taking advice from companies who have a vested interest in services being taken by AtW applicants.
We fully anticipate that any financial analysis of Access to Work will show the benefit that the scheme brings to the Treasury and should these findings be proven would request for an immediate move for Access to Work to be subject to the AME/DEL switch to enable the service to grown in line with demand as per the Committee’s recommendation.
NUBSLI are aware that austerity has been used as an excuse for the cuts to the scheme. We strongly refute this notion and will be raising awareness within both the Deaf and interpreting communities and continuing our work, creating solidarity with grassroots organisations and our Unions.