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Disabled people are to march on Downing Street in protest over changes to the Government’s crucial ‘Access To Work’ scheme.

Campaigners say changes to Access to Work will mean that deaf and disabled people will “become restricted to unrealistic budgets for support that does not meet their needs”.

According to hard-of-hearing users of the scheme, “the budgets are insufficient to fund qualified interpreters and personal assistants and prevent personal choice or control, placing jobs at risk.”

Access To Work provides crucial financial support to disabled people to help enable them to move into employment or remain in their current job.

The introduction of “arbitrary rules” in relation to costings and eligibility “has changed the relationship between Access to Work and the individuals it supports”, say campaigners in a petition signed by more than 13,000 people (correct at the time of publication).

They now plan to deliver the petition to Downing Street on 26 September and are urging many more people to add their names and join the march.

Steve Emery, a deaf British sign language user, says that without the support he receives through Access To Work he would not be able to do his job as a project manager at Citizens Advice.

In a campaign email seen by Welfare Weekly, Mr Emery says: “Like many other Access to Work users, I have experienced no end of problems in getting the support I need due to Government changes which have meant that for many deaf and disabled people, their jobs have been put at risk and their working lives made a misery.”

Campaigners claim that rather than costing the Government money, Access To Work “brings money into the treasury”.

Part of the petition reads: “Access to Work isn’t a benefit and doesn’t incur a cost to government – in fact it brings money into the treasury, yet Deaf and disabled people are having their support allowance capped or cuts made (meaning they can no longer afford to use qualified interpreters or the support they need).

“This places jobs at risk and has already resulted in job losses and demotions. People currently in work are potentially being forced out of work and onto benefits, which goes against everything the government is telling us they are trying to achieve.

“Deaf and disabled people bring a vast amount of skill and talent to our workforce that we can’t afford to lose. We want to ensure that full support is provided, and people are enabled to gain, maintain and progress in their chosen careers.

“Personal choice and control needs to be handed back to the experts on Deaf and disabled access needs in the workplace – the individual Deaf and disabled people who use the scheme

“We want to ensure Deaf and disabled people are not subjected to a glass ceiling due to lack of support.”

More details about the event can be found here.

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