Cheap loans to boost AT at work

30 April 2018

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should set up a Motability-type scheme to provide low cost loans to buy assistive technology (AT), according to a recently published report on AT and employment by the Work and Pensions Committee.

The DWP should allow Personal Independence Payments to be used to lease or buy AT, in the same way as it can now be used to lease a car, the cross-party Committee argues.

Users of the scheme should be offered a consultation before buying equipment, with expert assistive technology advisers, to ensure they are buying the most appropriate and cost-effective equipment.

The DWP need not administer the scheme, but should ensure that whoever does so works in line with the principles of providing a public service.

Assistive technology is becoming cheaper and increasingly mainstream, says the report, and has the ability to close the gap between number of disabled and non-disabled people in work.

"Assistive Technology is a silver bullet. It has the power to help huge numbers of people overcome disability and get a job, transforming their quality of life,” said Alex Burghart MP, a committee member.

But employers and disabled people continue to perceive AT as costly, bespoke equipment, and its development is being held back by outdated attitudes, MPs note.

Their report calls on the Government to create a fifth Industrial Strategy Grand Challenge on Assistive Technology and bring together a consortium of AT developers and entrepreneurs, users, employers and support providers to bid for funding, to bridge gaps in provision.

To encourage employers, the report recommends the DWP dedicates a section of its Disability Confident portal to assistive technology.

To encourage government to be more accessible, the DWP is urged to create a central standard for accessible systems in government departments, publishing an annual report on compliance that ranks departments from most to least accessible.

Opportunities for disabled people to understand the potential benefits of assistive technology while looking for work are limited, the report says. It recommends DWP introduces mandatory training on AT for workplace coaches.

In addition the report recommends DWP undertakes an assessment of suppliers of assistive technology support in order to develop a more extensive market linked to the Flexible Support Fund, which enables Jobcentre Plus to cover job seekers’ travel expenses, training courses and clothing for interviews.

Read the full report here.