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Access to Work isn't working; BASW urges government rethink

BASW is greatly concerned by the Government’s refusal to acknowledge well-recorded problems with its Access to Work program in its response to last year’s UN Report, which accused the Government of violating the human rights of disabled people with the scheme. 

Issues have been repeatedly raised, with increasing urgency, by the public to Citizen’s Advice Bureau, as well as to the media.

Equally, advocacy groups for disabled people’s rights and mental health professionals have expressed concern again and again, the most recent coming The British Psychological Society who called for a new watchdog to protect the human rights of disabled people, following the government’s apparent denial of the facts.

The message from BASW is clear: work capability assessments and Access to Work are not working, their effect is to confuse and dehumanize claimants, many of whom are among the most vulnerable groups in society.

Therefore, BASW joins the many groups opposed to the current sanctions regime and is calling on the Government to end its current approach and concentrate on developing a benefits system grounded in human rights.

BASW’s Head of Policy and Research, Luke Geoghegan, commented: “The human rights of disabled people are being violated in the name of balancing the books, this approach by Government has failed to curb spending but succeeded in punishing disabled people to whom society has a duty of care.

BASW is further calling for the Government to end its systematic dismantling of the network of groups and organisations that exist to protect the rights of disabled people.

While BASW welcomes all efforts to raise awareness of the continued attacks against the rights of disabled people, the specific suggestion of setting up a new independent body would be unnecessary and expensive.

It is BASW’s belief that an end to the chronic underfunding of organisations representing disabled people and the deliberate systematic cuts across the social care sector are the most effective way of protecting rights of disabled people.

This is in line with a mission statement co-produced recently by BASW England and Shaping Our Lives - an independent user-controlled organisation - that states: All disabled adults and social workers work together to improve wellbeing, using the social model of disability to overcome barriers, and using a human rights approach to ensure equal and full citizenship for everyone.

This position statement was developed by disabled adults and social workers working together as equal partners.

To achieve these aims BASW are using the social model of disability, whilst recognising that not everyone identifies as a disabled person, and by taking a rights-based approach based on the United Nations convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, the Equality Act and the Care Act 2014.

Furthermore, BASW are applying both the principles of Independent Living and the wellbeing provisions of the Care Act.

BASW CEO Ruth Allen said: “Social workers work alongside disabled people to protect their rights every day, and it is our perpetual responsibility to protect people's human rights and dignity in daily practice.

“We must also speak out collectively, as a professional body, against austerity-driven policies which are seeing the UK go into reverse on the rights and wellbeing of disabled citizens.”