Government scheme is hindering Norwich deaf man’s work

Matt Talbot working at Equal Lives at Framingham Pigot. Photo: Bill Smith

Matt Talbot working at Equal Lives at Framingham Pigot. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Bill Smith - Archant

A deaf man has said a government initiative intended to support disabled people at work could eventually make his job with young people 'almost impossible'.

Dad-of-two Matthew Talbot, 36, from Eaton, is profoundly deaf and needs an interpreter in office hours to run a youth forum at Equal Lives, which inspires teenagers and young adults to become more independent.

But Mr Talbot said over the past six months the Department for Work and Pensions' Access to Work scheme, which pays for his signer, had become increasingly difficult to access.

He said the department promised help with funding to continue with interpreters, but instead of helping young people Mr Talbot had spent much of his time responding to requests about what work he is doing.

'It would be easier to put a CCTV camera in the office to see what I do. It's like Big Brother,' he said.

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A spokesman from the Whitehall department stressed the important of getting decisions right when allocating funding, which may mean asking for more information.

But for Mr Talbot, the endless requests to justify his use of an interpreter is tiresome.

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He said: 'I spend so much time giving them details about what I am doing. I receive endless requests for detailed information on what I do every minute of the day. It's been a real challenge to deal with the workload of all this – let alone the work I'm expected to do with disabled young people in my day job.'

A DWP spokesman said Access to Work helped more than 30,000 disabled people to take up and remain in employment each year.

He said: 'It is important that we get decisions right, which may mean we sometimes need to request extra information from claimants, but we regret any delays that may have happened in this case. We have apologised to Mr Talbot and are working to resolve any issues.'

Mark Harrison, the chief executive of Equal Lives, described the situation as a 'farce', saying: 'Access to Work are imposing cuts on disabled people's funding by stealth with no evidence.'

What do you think? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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