Government plans to cap the amount of financial support available to help disabled people into work, could deter employers from recruiting disabled people, campaigners claim.
From October 2015, the amount a disabled person can claim through the Access To Work scheme will be capped at no more than one and a half times the national average salary – currently £40,800 a year.
Access to Work provides support for disabled people to move into paid employment, stay in work or become self-employed. However, the money cannot be used to cover business start-up costs.
Payments are made in the form of a grant that can be used to help pay for specialist equipment, workplace adaptations, transport costs and other forms of support.
The average Access to Work grant is around £3,000, but a half of all users receive less than £1,000. Only 1% of users are awarded grants greater than £35,000, but these account for 15% of the entire Access to Work budget.
Campaigners argue that the Government’s “short-sighted” proposal may mean that employers could be put off from recruiting some disabled people.
Campaign group Disability UK said: “Even now, with no cap, the scheme makes the Government money. For every £1 spent on Access to Work, £1.48 comes back to the Exchequer in tax, national insurance or savings to the benefits bill.
“This short-sighted change will mean that employers may avoid recruiting the best people for the job, and that’s a waste of talent, resources and energy.”
The Government says the cap will save £3 million, which they claim could be used to help support even more disabled people into work. They also argue that the introduction of Personal Budgets will allow Allow to Work users more freedom to decide how grants should be spent.
Tory Minister for Disabled People, Mark Harper said: “We have invested an extra £15m in Access to Work since 2012 and user numbers are rising steadily. I hope these changes will help many more to join them in getting into, and staying in, work in the future.
“Access to Work plays a crucial role in supporting disabled people in employment and I want to see many more people benefitting from it – particularly people with mental health conditions who can face significant barriers to work and are currently under-represented in employment.”