Over 25,000 disabled people are being impacted by delays, causing job offers to be withdrawn and careers stuck in limbo as a result.

The RNIB is demanding that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) makes drastic improvements to the Access to Work scheme it runs to support disabled people to find and stay in work. In December 2022 there were 25,103 outstanding applications, an increase of more than 10,000 in 12 months.

The current lengthy delays, often as long as six months, for applications and claims to Access to Work are putting thousands of jobs at risk for people with disabilities or long-term health conditions. Many blind and partially sighted people are having job offers withdrawn or are unable to start work. 

For blind and partially sighted people, Access to Work can pay for a range of support, including Support Workers, adaptations to work premises and specialised equipment. The scheme also pays for travel to work where there are no practical public transport alternatives as well as awareness training for colleagues. 

David Clarke, RNIB Chief Operating Officer, said:  

"We are calling on the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), which runs Access to Work to take decisive and comprehensive action to cut the backlog urgently. RNIB has repeatedly raised concerns about their ongoing inability to administer the scheme since December 2021. Six months is far too long for people with sight loss to be without support, with many having job offers withdrawn or finding their careers in limbo due to the delays.  

"We have met with the DWP on numerous occasions to discuss the delays, but little progress has been made and the situation is rapidly worsening with 15,000 outstanding applications in December 2021 rising to 25,103 in December 2022. 

"The DWP needs to provide adequate resources to Access to Work so that support is put in place within four weeks of any application and claims are promptly processed.  

"The department could at the same time make efficiency savings by stopping their practice of making people go through an unnecessary renewal process if their needs haven't changed. They could also extend support packages while people are seeking a renewal, rather than suddenly cutting off support altogether as sometimes happens at present when a renewal is delayed by their own system. 

"The steps taken so far by the DWP to address the problem are clearly inadequate and RNIB believes that the ongoing delays in administration of the scheme are so significant as to risk being unlawful."