Several years ago I was employed as a Support Worker. This is a role which is paid for via a Government scheme called Access To Work. ATW can be used for many things; to pay for a support worker to help visually impaired people to get to meetings or conferences (a Guide dog can do lots of things but can’t read maps), the purchase of specialist equipment, or the provision of highly skilled BSL interpreters, for instance.
Nowadays I work primarily as a performer. A while ago I was in a play with a brilliant actor who happened to be deaf. He trained at Jaques Le Coque and as well as being very talented he also looked exactly like the character. He was the best person for the job and the fact that he was deaf was irrelevant to the production – indeed he was actually playing a character who could hear. In order to help us all communicate during the rehearsal process, a palantypist was employed through the Access To Work scheme. A palantypist is a very quick typist who uses a phonetic keyboard to provide a verbatim, almost immediate, account of what is said. As you can imagine, seeing your words on screen as soon as you’ve said them was often very amusing for numerous reasons and I have fond memories of the time we all spent communicating and working together. It was without doubt one of my favourite rehearsal rooms to have ever been in. It was playful, constructive, hilarious & interesting & the end result – the play – was great.
The Access To Work scheme is not a charity. It’s not something wishy-washy. It’s a practical scheme to encourage & enable paid employment. It helps professionals to carry on being professionals. It encourages employment. Putting a cap on Access To Work will make it harder for working people (especially those who use BSL interpreters) to do their jobs. It will encourage unemployment & (ultimately) segregation.
The Access To Work scheme has been proven to recoup money for the Treasury. For each £1 spent by ATW the Treasury recoups £1.48 in Income tax, National Insurance and Benefits savings, therefore capping can not be about saving money. As with many things this Government are keen to do we must keep asking why. If putting a cap on how much is spent will not save significant amounts of money then what is their motivation for doing it?