Select Committee on Work and Pensions Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Association of Disabled Professionals

SUMMARY

  1.  Self employment is an option for disabled people but it must be properly supported.

  2.  Getting back to work has bureaucratic barriers in the way.

  3.  As has been indicated in past studies work must pay when coming off benefits in particular with self employment.

  The Association of Disabled Professionals (ADP) is delighted to submit evidence to the enquiry on "Reform of incapacity benefit".

  The Association of Disabled Professionals was established in 1972 and exists to provide a forum to enable disabled people to share experiences of successful personal development, employment opportunities, self employment and valued work, and to help create conditions for other disabled people to realise their ambitions. ADP works to the social model of disability.

  Disabled people want, need and benefit from services and support being provided to them by other disabled people. They do so in the same way that many women want services provided and issues addressed by other women.

  This response is twofold. The first deals with self employment and the second part deals with issues around employment.

1.  SELF EMPLOYMENT

  For various reasons, working for employers is not an option for many disabled people. Consequently many of them are happy to consider self employment. Unfortunately our evidence shows that disabled people do not get the information on self-employment from mainstream agencies in the format that they need. They often come to the ADP as a last resort. ADP is the only national organisation of disabled people providing assistance to other disabled people on issues associated with self-employment and entrepreneurship. By this we mean disabled people providing advice to other disabled people and others.

  The ADP has operated the Disabled Entrepreneurs Network for five years and the main issues are:

    —  Mainstream funders, providers and stakeholders, who provide services to disabled people, demonstrably fail to understand both the needs of disabled people and the experience of disablement. This leads to failed communication and inappropriate service provision.

    —  Too often it is assumed that potential entrepreneurs have the intellect and education to operate a business. It needs to be understood that not everyone including non disabled people, women, black and ethnic minority people and disabled people has the same intellectual and educational background when providing information.

    —  Potential entrepreneurs who are disabled people want immediate access to bespoke advice on an "as and when basis" at anytime of the day or night. (e-systems and telephone)

    —  Many disabled people want to talk to other disabled people who have experienced a similar situation.

    —  Little or no support for disabled entrepreneurs or budding entrepreneurs between the ages of 30 and 50 years and after their six month course has ended.

    —  Lack of funding—seen as a "bad risk" by lenders and all too often have difficulty in accessing any form of grant.

    —  Lack of or incorrect information given about Access to Work Scheme (AtW). Even when you get the right information, there are bureaucratic barriers placed in the way.

  The business issues of disabled people are common to entrepreneurs everywhere, the way disabled people access help and information differs, as does the preferred reply format and the type of "soft" help needed eg advocacy, motivation, risk management, welfare advice, "access to work". Currently, the way in which service providers seek to meet the needs of disabled people fails because of underlying stereotypes, social discrimination and lack of empathy which combine to close down channels of communication rather than open them up.

  There is a need for partnership working between the mainstream agencies and fringe specialist organisations such as the ADP/Disabled Entrepreneurs Network. There needs to be recognition that not everyone knows the answers and that should not be recorded as a failure of the advice given.

  Staff within mainstream agencies such as business link and Jobcentre Plus needs more awareness training around entrepreneurship issues, writing business plans/finance etc but there is very little information from the DTI that passes direct with unemployed potential entrepreneurs. To this end we suggest:

    —  Training is given on disability awareness.

    —  Consideration is given to a co-ordinated structure between the mainstream agencies and others to streamline the process of a smoother transition into self employment.

    —  Ensuring the availability of assistance after the first six/12 month period.

  Continuous advice after the six/12 month period of introduction is not easily available or accessible. The Prince's Trust is often able to give advice to people under 30 years but there is little or no provision for those disabled people over 30 years. Such business advice is expensive for a one-person band or fledging business.

  There does not appear to be any widespread availability of "better off" calculations or advice about benefits whilst self employed. Indeed enquiries to us suggest neither is being given.

2.  EMPLOYMENT

  ADP advises many people who have come to ADP as a last resort, having been to other organisations who have given unhelpful or incorrect information or who are inexperienced at giving information. Indeed, some enquiries are extremely distressing.

  The issues are:

    1.  Access to the job centres—many disabled people cannot access the job centres because of their disabilities and/or cannot afford to get there—many have no other income and need to hire support workers to get to the job centre. Often advisors do not think to offer home visits.

    2.  Inappropriate information—incorrect format, incorrect time and incorrect way.

    3.  Lack of or incorrect information given about Access to Work Scheme (AtW). Even when given the right information, there are bureaucratic barriers placed in the way.

    4.  People with mental health difficulties are often inappropriately supported as they need many hours of tailored advice. Many advisors do not allow enough time in one appointment.

    5.  With today's technology many disabled people may be able to work from home but because of some employer's ignorance, trust and policies are often barred from doing so. Indeed ADP has been very successful in employing a disabled person working from home.

    6.  Regulations such as working time directive, health and safety regulations can cause difficulties to disabled people when they seek employment or when they become disabled whilst in work. For example a difficulty infollowing or carrying out lifting and handling procedures is often used to exclude disabled people from the health professions, even if it is unlikely that they will have to carry out the procedures. (It is argued that it is on the grounds of "Health and Safety".)

3.  PERMITTED WORK RULES

  1.  Currently the incapacity benefit permitted work rules enable people to earn £78 per week which at 16 hours per week equates £4.85 per hour—the minimum wage. Few people on incapacity benefit will start up in business with this incentive. Flexibility needs to be built in to include the expenses of trading. Indeed those people on income support the earnings limit is only £20 per week which is barely four hours work a week and buys very little these days.

  2.  Because of their impairment some clients are only able to work for less than 16 hours a week but earn more per hour than the permitted work rules. The working tax credit is applicable to people working 16 hours per week or more. It gives little incentive to those highly qualified people trying to get back to work.

  3.  Disabled people cannot take up many public appointments as they breach the permitted work rules in terms of remuneration not time. We would suggest that ways are found to enable people to take up appointments without penalty. For example for some people equating the remuneration over a longer lead time instead of a weekly basis.

  ADP hopes that these comments are useful for your inquiry.

Jane Hunt

27 September 2005



 
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