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An important success for deaf people, but the fight is not over yet

May 21 2014

This week (19th – 23rd May) is Deaf Awareness week, and much needed it is too. Livability’s Enterprise Agency deals on a daily basis with people who have been affected by problems of not being properly catered for by employers or being marginalised in the workplace. Alice Morris, Head of the Enterprise Agency, knows how damaging these problems can be and explains how things might be about to improve and she is my guest blogger this week:

Alice Headshot low resNew research by Action for Hearing Loss shows that hearing loss has prevented 70% of those affected from achieving their potential at work and has made many want to retire early. This is clearly a huge problem. However, it seems that this week things might be taking a positive turn. Mike Penning MP, Minister for Disabled People, has made an effort to mend these problems by suspending the controversial ’30 Hour Rule’ for 3 months whilst it is under review as part of a wider rethink of the Access to Work scheme.

The ’30 Hour Rule’ stated that someone needing more than 30 hours communication support in a week from an interpreter would have to employ them full time. However, the amount being offered to them in benefits was only an hourly rate equivalent to a £30,000 salary. This amount, although seemingly ample, is still below the market rate for a sign language interpreter meaning that it is very hard for deaf people to hire a full time interpreter.

What’s more, there are very few interpreters who are willing to work for one individual on a full time basis. It is a very demanding job, especially if their client leads a busy day to day business life. It is, basically, very difficult to hire a full time interpreter under these requirements.

Or at least it was. Mike Penning’s suspension of the rule is a very positive step in the right direction as is the overall review of the Access to Work scheme. The economy faces many hidden costs for failing to fully cater for people with disabilities. From the work the Enterprise Agency we know how people who have had to adjust to a disability quite often have an even greater desire to work than those who have not. They are often more steely, determined and focused as well as being far less effected by minor set-backs – all traits which most employers look for and ones that are very beneficial for those who are self-employed.

A far more obvious point however, is quite simply one of fairness of opportunity. People who are disadvantaged or disabled often require support to reach a level at which they can thrive like anybody else. Being denied the opportunity to work also denies people access to society to some extent, as they are out of control of their own fate. The government must work to ensure that this is not the case in a country with as much resource as the UK and with such a proud history of welfare support.

A recent inquiry by the Work and Pensions Select Committee found that there is only 1 specialist advisor for every 600 jobseekers on Employment and Support Allowance (for people who are ill or disabled) compared to 1 for every 140 Job Seekers Allowance claimants (‘A Million Futures’, Scope, April 2014). This statistic shows quite starkly that the government have not done enough to help people with disabilities get into work. Suspending the ’30 Hour Rule’ is a very positive move from Mike Penning, and follows on from the positive work he has done in Parliament.

 The Enterprise Agency

The Enterprise Agency supports disabled and disadvantaged people into self-employment. Business advisers work one on one with people looking to set up their own businesses under the New Enterprise Allowance programme as well as providing workshops on topics as diverse as business planning, marketing and social media in business.

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