Does the DWP have a case to answer in Access to Work fraud?

Nicky EvansNicky Evans is a BSL/English interpreter and the co-founder of the Stop Changes to Access to Work campaign (www.stopchanges2atw.com). The campaign was established in November 2013 to oppose cuts being made to the government’s Access to Work (AtW) scheme which provides the support Deaf and disabled workers need to access employment. 

Does the DWP have a case to answer in Access to Work fraud?

Before we get into it, I’d like to make one thing very clear: I do not condone fraud. It is wrong and the people involved must be held accountable for this and brought to justice.

But what of the DWP’s role in all this?

Here is a system that isn’t accessible (to an extent that the end customer (the Deaf Access to Work user) can’t always understand the forms and needs support completing these), relies heavily on the customer to do the bulk of the administration and where any contact with the DWP has become so stressful that they feel unable to ask for support or advice when needed.

Having been involved in Access to Work campaigning in various guises over the years, I have been continually frustrated by the DWP’s lack of response to our concerns over fraud. I have attended meetings over the past three years with various senior DWP staff/Ministers and have fed back the concerns of both the deaf community and interpreters. Information being provided by advisors is continually inconsistent and interpreters who work for three different clients could be paid using three different processes.

Three years on and several fraud cases later the claim system has seen little or no improvement. 

Interpreters have asked continually for improvements to be made to the DWP’s finance system: our remittance notice often doesn’t arrive (it is still usually sent by post) so we can’t check amounts received or know which clients these relate to; a remittance notice often doesn’t record our invoice numbers; and we can’t speak to AtW to sort any of these issues out (as we are told we have to go through the deaf person – adding to their stress and workload).

Only this year I have been overpaid by a large amount of money and have spent the past two months trying to return this – to no avail. I am not the only interpreter to be overpaid. Interpreters are regularly overpaid, underpaid, part paid, not paid at all, owed late payment fees (which despite being a statutory entitlement, the DWP don’t seem to think it applies to them)… I could go on….

All this raises the question: what role has the DWP had in recent fraud cases? 

There has been a failure to respond to concerns or develop tighter financial controls as a result of these. As I said at the beginning, I do not condone fraud, but I do feel that the DWP must accept some responsibility for this. Systems so open to abuse following several cases of fraud have remained wide open. For a government who continually tell us there is a need for austerity and to balance the books, they should perhaps start by examining their own internal processes.

Letter from DWP on the privatisation of Access to Work

If you missed the news in the Mirror and the Stop Changes campaign letter… it’s worth catching up here and this is the response from DWP…

STOP CHANGES TO ACCESS TO WORK

You may remember our letter which we sent to DWP in response to the article in the Mirror last week about the privitisation of Access to Work. See our post here: http://stopchanges2atw.com/2016/02/04/privatisation-of-atw-letter-to-mr-duncan-smith/

Dear Sir/Madam

Thank you for your email of 4 February to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP, concerning Access to Work.

I hope that you will understand that Government Ministers receive a large volume of correspondence and are unable to reply personally on every occasion. I have therefore been asked to respond and I hope that the following is helpful.

On behalf of this Department, I would like to confirm that no decisions have been made on the future delivery model of Access to Work and there are no current plans to privatise the service.

The Autumn Spending Review settlement awarded Access to Work with a real-terms increase in resources and…

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Jenny Sealey gives her taken the current situation.

Frightening that AtW are just making any changes they can and these are the very ones that will affect all Deaf people and Deaf organisations.

Work with Deaf people? Well you don’t need an interpreter then as you don’t need to communicate with the outside world. Deaf organisations and services are really going to suffer.

If you’re not already following the StopChanges2AtW blog and updates then you really need to, they are the only ones really campaigning for change and trying to stop the AtW rot. Roll on six weeks, I really hope no one reading this is voting for the Tories or the Lib Dems.

STOP CHANGES TO ACCESS TO WORK

Watch video here.

Jenny Sealey met with the DWP on 30th March 2015. As you can see, she was less than impressed.

StopChanges2AtW have made it very clear that whoever is in government after the general election, we aren’t going away any time soon. Until we have the employment support that Deaf and disabled people need to be able to share their talent and skills and enrich our society, our campaign goes on.

Join us!

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Basic maths!

STOP CHANGES TO ACCESS TO WORK

We were pleased to read the article that appeared in today’s Guardian about Access to Work. Read it here.

We are campaigning for common sense.

This is very nicely outlined in this piece. Removing people’s support will cost more in the long run.

Still no proper response to the Work & Pension Select Committee recommendations or news from the government over their plans for the scheme.

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NUBSLI responds to Mark Harper MP statement on Access to Work

This post was originally on The Nub – NUBSLI’s news page – and was posted on 16th March.

NUBSLI are in full support of the responses made by the StopChanges2AtW campaign, a group made up of Deaf and disabled people alongside interpreters, who, as users of the service, we recognise as experts.

Further to this, we would like to add that the Crown Commercial Service are currently drafting a National Framework agreement. Government are on the verge at repeating the same mistakes made with Access to Work and the Ministry of Justice contract for interpreting services if they do not consult appropriately.

Access to Work has previously allowed Deaf people to use their awards in their own way. By asking Deaf people to use a national framework of agency providers, it will leave them with less choice and less control over their interpreter support. Rather than find alternatives to private providers, more of the total spend of Access to Work will be on agency costs.

The government does not have a good track record in personalising budgets and administering them effectively. This is often used as a way to cut funding. NUBSLI has concerns that Deaf people working in London and the South East will be affected more by the latest blanket decision proposed by DWP to cap costs.

Several recommendations from the Work and Pensions committee could have been taken on board by the Minister but again a failure to consult with interpreters and the Deaf community fully has resulted in solutions that will damage Deaf people’s access.

The announcement shows little understanding of interpreting provision. As a recent snapshot survey by NUSBLI showed, many interpreters are considering leaving the profession due to the government’s changes in funding for interpreting services. If interpreters are not paid fees at sustainable rates, as laid out by members in the NUBSLI fee guidance, then this will have a detrimental effect on interpreters’ ability to work, and access for the Deaf community as a whole which NUBSLI is working with its campaign partners to protect.

The use of an arbitrary external reference point such as the national average wage is another example of a blanket solution that is not based in flexibility, something that the DWP had promised. It is clear the DWP has not learnt from its mistake when it attempted a blanket solution of imposing a 30 hour rule only to suspend it later as it was unworkable.

We echo the statements made by Geraldine O’Halloran from StopChanges2AtW, who said:
“…the effect of this will be to introduce a limit on how far Deaf BSL users can participate and progress in employment”

And Ellen Clifford DPAC, who stated:
“It is further proof that the Disability Confident campaign is not about fulfilling potential but killing potential”.

The new cap has effectively placed a glass ceiling on Deaf people’s ability to progress in work and fulfil their potential. However, the decline in the interpreting profession likely to result from these changes will not only affect Access to Work provision but Deaf people’s ability to access every area of society.

Teresa Pearce MP restates her support for Stop Changes To Access To Work.

STOP CHANGES TO ACCESS TO WORK

21 March 2015

Statement of Support – Teresa Pearce MP

Read at the National Union for British Sign Language Interpreter (NUBSLI) national meeting.

“The purpose of the Access to Work (AtW) programme has always been to ensure that people are given the support they need in order to reach their full potential in the workplace. Unfortunately, the Government’s changes to the scheme have had a devastating impact on claimants. As both a local MP and a Member of the Work & Pensions Select Committee I am aware of cases where people have lost their jobs, struggled to get assistance, been subject to unexplained delays, and found their working days blighted by anxiety as the support on which they rely has been taken away from them. It is clear that the Government’s changes have made it harder for deaf and deafblind in the workplace. This is unacceptable.

Recent news that the…

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Stop Changes To Access To Work – Response to Ministerial Statement

STOP CHANGES TO ACCESS TO WORK

Mark Harper, Minister for Disabled People has today released a statement regarding Access to Work. The statement comes in response to the Work and Pensions Select committee report into Access to Work published on 19 December which made comprehensive recommendations to improve the programme and address changes which have had a devastating impact on deaf and disabled people’s ability to stay in employment.The statement also concludes an anxious eight month wait for the outcome of the Ministerial review into the ’30 hour rule’.

The contents of the statement are a mixed bag: whilst there are some areas which, if used correctly could be seen as positive, thereare also areas of huge concern.

Wewouldwelcome measures to give greater flexibility over how customers useawards butthere is too little detail in the statement to ascertain whether the proposed process of offering personal budgets will…

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