Minister ends hopes of awareness drive for Access to Work initiative

The government has no plans to increase promotion of the Access to
Work scheme for disabled people despite evidence of lack of
awareness among service users and businesses.

Work and pensions secretary Andrew Smith said the government was
already spending at record levels on initiatives to encourage
disabled people back into work.

He said: “Work centre interviews are held with all applicants to
the benefit system and we want to ensure that all staff working
with disabled clients are aware of it.”

Access to Work, run by Jobcentre Plus for the Department for Work
and Pensions, offers help with transport, workplace adaptations and
equipment for disabled people already working and those seeking
jobs. Despite its popularity, the scheme has been dogged by delays
and accusations that many of those eligible are unaware of it.

Stephen Alambritis, parliamentary spokesperson for the Federation
of Small Businesses, has publicised the scheme to his members but
said lack of awareness remained a problem.

“There is a need for a wholesale government push on it,” Alambritis
said. “One easy way could be to print something about it on the
bank statements of all employers.”

– The three pilot sites for the government’s Pathways to Work
scheme will go live this month. The £100m project – being
tested in Derbyshire, south Wales and Argyll in Scotland before a
further four go live next April – will offer greater financial
incentives for disabled people to find jobs, including an extra
£40 a week benefit during their first year.

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