Select Committee on Social Security Minutes of Evidence

Letter to Committee Secretary from the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR) (SG36)

  Please find enclosed the transcript of evidence given by RADAR to the Social Security Committee and Employment Sub-Committee last week. I have suggested certain amendments in accordance with your guidance note, ie where I believe there to have been some inaccuracies in the reporting of the evidence.

  I would like to take this opportunity to thank the joint inquiry into the Single Work-Focused Gateway for providing RADAR with the opportunity to contribute oral evidence towards this important piece of work.

  It was evident that Committee members were aware of the need to examine the initiative with considerable care and ensure that the Single Work-Focused Gateway is perceived by disabled people as a tool to employment and not as a threat to benefits.

  This will inevitably depend on how it is seen by, and delivered to, disabled people. In addition, and a point touched on during the session but worth emphasising here, is that there is a need for the Single Work-Focused Gateway to be linked to the wider process of enabling disabled people to become work-ready. This requires a continuum of support and information that allows disabled people to obtain the assistance often required to access opportunities like voluntary work, casual jobs and work experience, which are widely seen as traditional routes into employment. Specifically, RADAR would like to see an Access to Work type mechanism available to disabled people who are not in paid employment but wanting to access vocational activities.

  Increasing the employment opportunities for disabled people will also require further consideration on the eligibility criteria's of local authorities for providing services to disabled people in, or seeking employment. Means testing employed disabled people and only providing "home care" services within tight time scales often creates additional disincentives and barriers to employment. RADAR has always argued that an inter-agency approach is needed to get disabled people into employment and this means removing disincentives to earning and increasing the flexibility of service provision.

  The Committee asked RADAR to provide specific examples of the type of training that should be provided to Personal Advisers. RADAR is happy to do so and is pleased that the inquiry recognises the fundamental need for appropriate and sufficient training for Personal Advisers of the Single Work-Focused Gateway.

  It is essential that the elements of training provided to Personal Advisers enable disabled people to play an active and integral role in the interview process. This can only be achieved if an environment of trust can be created and maintained between the Personal Adviser and the client. This will require an understanding, by Personal Advisers, of disability issues and an ability to communicate with disabled people in a constructive way. RADAR would advocate that Personal Advisers receive training in both disability etiquette and the use of positive language.

  A disabled person's employability is dependent on a range of dynamics, some of which may not be explicitly linked. For example access to transport and the provision of local authority services can have an effect on a disabled person's employability but are not always discussed when exploring employment opportunities. RADAR would like to see Personal Advisers given training on the identification of barriers to employment often encountered by disabled people. This will require Personal Advisers having knowledge on how the different agencies work in providing services to disabled people. As was stated in our evidence RADAR believe that there is value in appropriate disabled people being guest speakers during Personal Advisers' training sessions to provide an overview of individual disabled people's experiences of disability and barriers into employment.

  Personal Advisers will require extensive knowledge of benefits for disabled people and other sources of financial support, such as Access to Work and the Independent Living Fund, that can affect a disabled person's ability to gain employment. In addition Personal Advisers will require access to specialist advice on benefits issues. RADAR was recently informed of a disabled person who was misinformed, by a member of the Employment Service, about eligibility for therapeutic earning. The case was pursued by the Benefits Agency and caused extreme concern to the claimant. The case highlighted the very serious consequences of providing inadequate information.

  Those acting as Personal Advisers should have some knowledge of the equipment and services used by disabled people and the effect this can have on a disabled person's ability to pursue certain types of employment. For example, a person who wears a hearing aid may have difficulty with a job that involved communication with large numbers of people at once and an electric wheelchair user may not have the battery capacity to undertake employment that requires considerable travel on a daily basis. In addition a disabled person who does require personal support may find it logistically difficult to pursue employment that requires large amounts of time away from the area where the service is provided.

  The above illustrates some of the specific training that RADAR believes should be provided to Personal Advisers of the Single Work-Focused Gateway. At present a number of national and local organisations provide disability awareness training. RADAR has a well-established consultancy arm and would be happy to discuss ways in which we can help, either directly or by referring to high quality trainers.

  RADAR is in contact with the Employment Service concerning the development and delivery of a training programme for Personal Advisers.

  I hope the enclosed is of some interest[11]. RADAR would be pleased to assist the inquiry further in its work.

Neil Betteridge

Head of Projects and Campaigns

18 May 1999

11   Not printed. Back

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