Sep 242011
 

Sayce Consultation Response from Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC)

Question 1

Do you agree that funding should follow the individual so they can work where they choose, rather than the Department funding specific workplaces or facilities?

The ‘independent’ Sayce consultation is a remarkable volt face from the government and a shameful collusion by a disability charity in an agenda that will do very little, if anything to aid disabled peoples’ employment, conversely it appears to seek backing to make more disabled people unemployed through the closure of Remploy factories.

The government and government departments are not helping disabled peoples’ prospects of work through prejudiced reportage of Work Capability Assessments , nor allowing headline after headline stating that disabled people are ‘work shy’, scroungers’ or ‘fiddling’ the benefits system. Would you employ such a person?  In addition, comments made by MP Phillips in June that disabled people should admit they should work for lower than minimum wage only add to the low appreciation of disabled peoples’ talents and skills by potential employers.

DPAC argues that funding should follow the individual; the individual should be able to work where they choose. This is a common sense equality principle. However, the disability movement have been calling for this for decades: it has not been achieved and is unlikely to be achieved by this government with its attitude towards disabled people.

How exactly do disabled people find employment in a climate of cuts to public sector jobs, (incidentally a large employer of disabled people), in a time when the hallowed private sector is cautious about employing non-disabled people?  The recent round of cuts to public sector jobs have seen the highest increase in women’s unemployment levels included in those statistics will be disabled women: where is the government program to support them? Where was the support for disabled peoples’ employment in the public sector from the government?

It is not a simple fact of closing down Remploy and technical colleges to produce the option of disabled people being ‘able to work where they choose’.  This is an entirely naive approach and constitutes a thinly veiled cuts and privatisation agenda carried out under the guise of supporting disabled people, many of whom are:

1. Disabled people are being forced to give up the jobs and business’ they already have because of the removal of Disability Living Allowance (which the government initially wrongly identified as an ‘out of work benefit’), and mobility cars via Atos Work Capability Assessments. The situation re DLA is set to get worse with the governments’ claim to remove at least 20% of the case load from DLA when the new Personal Independence Payment begins.

2.  Disabled people with complex needs are unable to gain extra support by employing personal assistants in work because they cannot claim Independent Living Fund (ILF) due to the closure of the fund to new applicants.

3. Are being hit through the covert cuts to the Access to Work Fund (AtW)

4. Are unable to sustain any semblance of independent living due to the cuts in Adult social Care from Local authorities, the removal of support services including Sure Start, Mental Health support, the removal of funding from user-led organisations such as People First Lambeth (losing 90% of funding)

5. Cuts and caps to housing benefits, meaning many disabled people and their families are living in intolerable conditions for a relatively wealthy country, lack of accessible living accommodation.

The much repeated mantra from Minister Miller of claiming that the government will support those with the greatest needs is almost a better myth than the notion that losing Remploy and technical colleges and putting the money into Access to Work will produce some form of mass employment for disabled people.

For disabled people who want to work to be able to access the open employment market, they need more than the closure of Remploy and closure of technical colleges-in fact saving them would do much more good for disabled people the longer term. The government is intent on the privatisation of services, the cut and thrust of the open market and each surviving on their own merit, rather than supporting disabled people, as its past record shows.

The current economic climate suggests very strongly that disabled people will be less likely to find employment than previously regardless of the words of government that they will support disabled people into work. So far based on Department of Work and Pensions figures, from the Employment Support Allowance (ESA) support group of disabled people just 5% over a period of 2 years have found employment.

We can, quite rightly, ask if the government’s notion of employment support is proving severely faulty and answer: yes

Question 2

Do you agree that any funding released from reforms to specialist disability employment programmes should be used to expand the Access to Work programme?

If not, please say how you think the money should be spent to help more disabled people into work.

Reforms to specialist disability employment should not be carried out at a time of recession-the vision of Nirvana will not happen. Instead the closure of Remploy factories will simply place more disabled workers on the unemployment registers and the conveyer belt of continuous ESA assessments, reassessments and reductions to social support income.

There are recommendations in the Sayce report that some areas of Remploy can be put under self directed management by workers, but no concrete proposals on how this will be achieved, nor are there any clear guidelines on how these workers will be supported. The only thing gleaned from this attack on Remploy workers in the absence of a review looking at management practices, or checking what exactly went wrong, is that Remploy leaves the government subsidised world to enter the private sector, if it survives at all, which is unlikely given the key themes of the Sayce report.

The Access to Work (AtW) program has suffered a series of cut-backs since 2010 when it produced a list of things that it would not fund, and which it expected employers to fund.  There have been further reports of reductions, for example Essex Coalition of Disabled People (ECDP) discovered that ATW would no longer fund drivers; the CEO of United Kingdom Disabled Peoples’ Council (UKDPC) was told that he would not get any support from AtW because of his position in the organisation, there have also been reports of AtW calling workplaces to check on workers, and a regime of targeting those with learning difficulties with the aim of reducing support. AtW needs a thorough analysis of its activities, before it moves to opening itself up to the private market and provision of aids and equipment on the internet as stated in the government response to the Sayce report. Privatisation does not immediately secure efficiency nor best value for disabled people.

Helping more disabled people into work can only be achieved if there is work for disabled people to do, if employers are enlightened enough not to believe the bad publicity that the government ministers and various newspapers continue to peddle. An alternative to pouring more money into AtW is to decentralise AtW to local levels where staff work in unison with Centres of Independent/integrated Living (CILs) with CILs adequately funded for their expertise- this will create employment for disabled people too.

However, even this is to miss the point that for disabled people to work a set of structures must be in place including support from social services, support to employ Personal assistants ( not just in the workplace), support for housing, a recognition of the extra costs of being disabled or having long term health issues- all of these are being removed by the current government.

Question 3

As resources are limited, it may not be possible to implement all of the recommended improvements to Access to Work straight away. Which ones do you think should be the priority as funding becomes available?

  • Paying for a temporary replacement worker for a small- or medium-sized business when a disabled person is off sick because of their disability.
  • Creating a system so that disabled people could know the value of Access to Work support they could get before they get a job
  • Training Jobcentre Plus advisers to give more support and advice to employers.
  • Helping customers to develop independent travel skills so that some people will need Access to Work travel support for a shorter time.
  • Working more closely with user-led organisations to improve the service.
  • Extending Access to Work support to cover more work-related training, for example unpaid work experience.

‘Paying for a temporary replacement worker for a small or medium sized business when a disabled person is off sick because of their disability’! Will give the message that all disabled people are also sick and will be more likely to take time off work. In addition, according to the social model which the government and presumably disability charity RADAR claim to follow: people do not own disability, they are disabled by attitudes, environment, lack of accessible information, and so on.

The proposal posed here shows a fundamental misunderstanding of disability, the social model and employers existing attitudes.

Creating a system so that disabled people could know the value of Access to Work support they could get before they get a job

The second proposal re individuals are told or advised of an indicative budget would appear to be helpful- yet it would not need the closure of Remploy or technical colleges to implement. Indicative budgets are already in operation in most L.A.s for community care assessments and other bodies under personalisation. What this proposal hides is the covert proposal to introduce the resource allocation system (RAS) into AtW just as in L.A.s. The introduction of the RAS will likely have the same effect in AtW as in L.A.s with some getting lower awards than previously.

Helping customers to develop independent travel skills so that some people will need Access to Work travel support for a shorter time:

Appears to be another scheme to reduce monies for the extra costs that disabled people face due to inaccessible transport systems. A factor admitted and catered for in the current Disability Living Allowance, while it lasts.

Again, the focus is on the individual failure of disabled people to negotiate transport systems are highlighted. In reality many disabled people are perfectly capable of developing ‘independent travel skills’ while the system, staff attitudes and a lack of investment into access needs an make such skills redundant.

Working more closely with user-led organisations to improve the service.

Yes- but the government, its bodies and the minister for disabled people must learn to distinguish between large charities FOR disabled people (making vast amounts of money) and Centres of Independent /Integrated living run and controlled by disabled people. It is the later that constitute user-led in the real sense of employing 75% plus of disabled people and having the same at decision making level, all are focused on disability from a social model perceptive and are not impairment specific. RADAR incidentally, is not a CIL.

Extending Access to Work support to cover more work-related training, for example unpaid work experience.

No, the increase in people, and especially disabled people caught up in schemes in which they are used as free labour without training, prospects or a future is high enough. The notion of ‘work experience’ and what that actually means in today’s climate needs to be spelt out and monitored more closely. For example ‘work experience’ of stacking shelves at supermarkets for disabled people with degrees who are likely to lose benefit if they decline the invitation are an exercise in manipulating figures, inducing fear and dehumanising under the guise of support.

Question 4

Do you agree that change is needed to Remploy, as part of an overall approach of redistributing available funds? Do you agree that the best way to achieve this is to allow viable parts of Remploy to leave the public sector and for direct government funding of Remploy to be phased out?

No, Remploy factories should continue to be subsidized, it is the management and board structure that should be removed with control going to disabled people as workers and their unions

Question 5

Do you agree that disabled people working within Remploy’s Enterprise Businesses should be given the opportunity to own and run these businesses free of government control and funding? Do you have any views on how to support this transition?

Yes see above

Question 6

Do you agree that Remploy’s Employment Services should be sold and transformed into a mutual, social enterprise or other model? Do you have any views on how to support this transition?

Remploy workers and their unions should be consulted on this , they should have been consulted from the first: if this is not carried out the process will open up the market to big disability charities such as the Shaw Trust ,  Leonard Cheshire, MENCAP, MIND or Disability Works UK ( a consortium of charities running workfair type schemes allowing them to be paid vast amounts by the government via the tax payer in contracts). It may be that RADAR could also produce a tender.

Question 7

If you do not agree with the proposals in the Sayce Review, please tell us your ideas for the future of Remploy.

See questions 4&6

Question 8

Do you agree with the recommendation that the Department for Work and Pensions should not directly fund Residential Training College as a distinct facilities-based programme?

No

Question 9

If you agree that the Department should no longer fund the Residential Training Colleges directly, how do you think that a transition to alternative sources of funding should be achieved?

Question 10

Do you agree that supported business places should not receive special protection after the current Work Choice contracts expire?

No, people will simply be made redundant and others recruited on another supported business placement by a different provider who wins the contract.

Question 11

Do you agree that in the longer term Work Choice and Access to Work should be merged into a single programme, delivered through individual budgets?

No, Workchoice is restricted to 21,000 applicants across the UK in one year. The press hailed Workchoice as the answer for those with complex needs and low educational attainment, yet those with degrees are being offered this too. Both Workchoice and AtW are offered through IBs in Trailblazer areas- this does not appear to be working either.

Question 12

Do you have any other suggestions for improving or changing specialist disability employment support not covered by any of the above questions?

The real point that needs addressing is that specialist disability employment should not exist. If successive governments had applied programs, education to employers, and education to the public in an effective manner, as suggested by the disability movement, we would not need to hear such phrases. The employment report is delivered at a time when the government is intent on getting disabled people into work, reducing or withdrawing individuals’ Disability Living Allowance and either reducing or losing other streams which had an effect on disabled peoples’ extra costs in being in employment. Rather than suggesting that barriers have been taken away as many government and ‘independent’ consultation papers seem to suggest; these actions reduce peoples’ likelihood of working. The Independent Living fund provided P.A.s for those facing complex barriers- and helped them get into the workplace-it is now closed.

It is ironic that the ‘independent’ Sayce report seeks to remove the specialist or segregated employment in Remploy factories (backed by the rather dubious claim that 100% of disability organisations said Remploy factories should close), while at the same time the coalition government seeks to substantially increase levels of segregated schooling.

DPAC proposes that the costs of the reports, individual payments, meetings and committees attached to the Sayce report are made transparent, the current rumour is a cost of 2 million pounds– DPAC suggests that this figure may have been of more use if half was put into Remploy factories with the remainder making up for the increasing cuts being administered to AtW which is curtailing disabled peoples’ opportunities to work.

Debbie Jolly for DPAC

A copy of this as Word document is available DPAC_Sayce Consultation Response