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Disability Rights Disabled campaigners take government to court over Access to Work fund cap

‘Discriminatory’ cap makes a mockery of Tory claims to want to help disabled people into work

DISABLED people are taking the government to court over a funding cap on its Access to Work scheme, which they say discriminates under the Equality Act.

Bringing the case with the help of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, campaigners have warned that limiting funds available though the programme to £43,100 has a “serious negative impact on deaf and disabled people’s employment.”

They say that it will limit specialist support such as sign language interpreters and would have a disproportionate impact on those with complex needs.

David Buxton, one of the claimants bringing the case, said the cap makes no economic sense and is denying him the ability to access work, as he cannot afford to pay for linguistic support.

“For every pound I am awarded for Access to Work, I give back in taxes by virtue of being employed,” he said.

It comes just two weeks after Prime Minister Theresa May announced a strategy aiming to get one million disabled people back into work.

Ms May said the NHS and employers would work together to break down barriers to work faced by disabled people.

Included in the plans were reforms to the Access to Work scheme, with the cap due to come into effect from April 2018.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) claims the cap will let more people access support and said funding is increasing.

But a study by disabled rights group Inclusion London found that 90 per cent of those hit by the new cap are deaf. The number of deaf people approved for Access to Work funding rose by 13 per cent last year.

A scathing United Nations report has also found that government austerity, particularly relating to welfare, amounted to “systematic violations” of the rights of people with disabilities.

Inclusion London spokeswoman Ellen Clifford explained that the cap was already having a serious and negative effect on disabled people’s employment.

“Deaf and disabled people are frustrated and anxious at the risk of unemployment and benefit dependency, which will come at a much higher cost to the state than the support package they need to remain in work,” she said.

Julie Fernandez has brittle bone disease and is a wheelchair user who had previously struggled to get Access to Work funding. Her support worker is funded through the scheme until October 2018, however she nearly lost her support due to an administrative error.

“Some days I sat there crying. My career of 25 years could have been over,” she said.

“Because of the difficulties I’ve had with Access to Work over the last couple of months I’ve actually lost weight and feel sick every day with worry.

“There’s lots of challenges that come with being disabled. With the right support, many of us can work and play an active part in the communities we live in.

“But everything’s getting harder. The problems with Access to Work are reflected in the cuts impacting on disabled people around benefits, social care and other services.

“We are seen as a burden in our society because the government thinks we cost too much money.”

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