Action on Access to Work

Written by: Louise Coupland, Employability Development Officer, the ALLIANCE

Published: 02/12/2014

Louise Coupland, the ALLIANCE, has her say on adiverse and complex employability landscape.

The UK government has statutory responsibilities for the provision of employment services including those delivered through competitive tendered contracts and the Access to Work programme. The Smith Commission’s deliberations have once again highlighted the complexities of the current set-up, in which policy decisions and expenditure management lie with various stakeholders across the political and delivery frameworks of Scottish Government, UK Government, European Union and Local Authorities- all with specific roles to fulfil.

With the number of people living with long term conditions continuing to grow, an ageing workforce and employees adopting multiple roles within organisations/ externally as parents, carers etc, raising awareness of good practice and Access to Work among people with long term conditions and employers has never been so poignant. The dynamics of the workforce are changing and it is paramount that employers are accepting of reasonable adjustments, receptive to open/ two way dialogue with employees and supportive in their management styles. However, for many people with long term conditions Access to Work can be the liberator to starting or remaining in work. The grants can pay for things including: adaptions/specialist equipment, public transport, support worker or job coach in the work place, communicator at job interviews, and condition awareness training for colleagues.

For the last few years, Access to Work has been branded as the ‘best kept secret’ across third sector organisations in Scotland. Last year some of our members ran workshops and training sessions trying to shed the light on the scheme however, the capacity available to support this work is limited. Information published by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) shows that only 8per cent of the people who receive Access to Work payments live in Scotland, only 6per cent of the funds spent on the scheme have gone to people north of the border, provoking a further outcry for devolution of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) service, in regards to both employability services and Access to Work.

SNP MSP Kevin Stewart said: “The revelation that disabled people in Scotland are not getting their fair share of support is a clear cause for alarm. While people of course need support that matches their individual circumstances, the substantial difference between the Scottish and UK average is a cause for concern that cannot be overlooked. These figures are further evidence of the fact that people in Scotland are losing out thanks to Westminster’s decisions. We need the opportunity to do things more effectively in Scotland.”

Greater devolved responsibilities would allow more cohesion and greater localisation of service delivery for the whole employability landscape. A significant role for the third sector across employability service delivery and Access to Work distribution would maximise the sectors strengths, particularly those supporting individuals who are in desperate need for support in achieving or remaining in employment.

Access to Work is significantly underused and there is an urgent need for people with long term conditions and employers to become educated in the grants to enable a more inclusive and supported workforce.

The ALLIANCE has published its response to the Smith Commission which was shaped by members’ and will be launching a campaign in February to aid the spreading of good practice in the workplace, building on the successes of My Skills, My Strengths, My Right to Work project.

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