Disability employment programme's funding changes 'to boost small businesses'

Changes to the Government's disability employment programme are set to help disabled entrepreneurs and small businesses, ministers believe.

Announced this week, the changes will help meet the cost of specialist equipment and other additional expenses faced by disabled workers.

It is hoped the move will help further narrow the gap between the UK's disabled and non-disabled employment rates.

The Access to Work programme will provide support as well as financial contributions towards the travel expenses faced by disabled workers and the costs of specially adapted equipment.

And it means firms employing up to 49 people will no longer have to contribute towards the extra costs incurred by disabled workers, a move which will save them up to 2,300 per person using the fund.

Disabled workers will also get more choice on the equipment they need to do their job, with Access to Work advisers taking a more flexible approach to deciding what can be funded.

Meanwhile, disabled job hunters seeking to establish their own businesses through the New Enterprise Allowance will be able to get Access to Work funding as soon as they are in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance.

A package of measures, recommended by the Access to Work expert panel, will also be implemented by the Government. These include paying for equipment to be physically transferred between sites.

Employers will be encouraged to find more imaginative ways to support disabled workers with a fast-track application process brought in to speed things up where appropriate and the panel will continue to look at future reforms.

Esther McVey, the UK's minister for disabled people, said the changes were aimed at making support more widely available and giving disabled workers the chance to have the same job choices and career progression as everyone else.

She said: "Work is more than a job - it's one of the best ways to increase independence, life fulfilment, social engagement and is central to someone's identity.

"And although the disability employment rate has increased over recent years, there is still more we need to do to close the gap with non-disabled people."

Copyright Press Association 2012