How Access to Work has helped me

Note: another post that’s not been properly proof read.  sorry, exhaustion and pain levels mean if I did have to carefully edit, the post would never see the light of the internet.

At the point of writing I have had three access to work assessments. All of which have resulted in me being able to stay in work.  There is talk about reducing the support available through Access to Work, which seems ridiculous alongside the focus that the government is placing on making everyone work.

I’ve written this post for two reasons really.  Firstly, if you have a disability and haven’t contacted Access to Work, I hope it encourages you to.  The amount that your employer pays towards equipment etc is dependent on the size of the business and it’s all things they would need to put in place under the Equality Act 2010.  Secondly, it’s to illustrate just how important Access to Work has been in my life.  I am not exaggerating when I say I’d have had to retire on ill health two or three years ago if it wasn’t for Access to Work.

In the UK, an Access to Work grant can pay for practical support if you have a disability, health or mental health condition to help you:

  • start working

  • stay in work

  • move into self-employment or start a business

Note, there is a different system in Northern Ireland.

At the point of assessment one, I was struggling with the basics of my job – writing, typing, holding the phone and I needed a more supportive chair. Without this, my condition would have got worse more quickly and I would have had to leave my job within a year. Possibly sooner.

Assessment one (2012ish) provided me with:

  • Ergonomic keyboard
  • Ergonomic mouse
  • Footrest
  • Ergonomic chair tailor built for me
  • Headset
  • Headset splitter
  • Dragon software
  • Pen again pens and refills
  • Dictaphone

At the time of assessment two, my condition had worsened significantly and my legs were much more affected by pain whereas previously my hands, wrists and shoulders were the focus. Without taxis to and from work, I couldn’t get there – getting public transport involves more walking than if I just walked to work, which is not an option. If it wasn’t for access to work, I would have to pay £10 a day on travel. And putting that in the context of a part time local authority job, it’s quite a significant amount. So again, if it wasn’t for access to work, I’d probably have had to leave my role in December 2014.

Assessment two:

  • Taxis to and from work
  • Taxis to meetings in work
  • Advised about free software
  • New headset (as my condition has worked)
  • New footrest (as we’ve moved office and the desk is higher)
  • New ergonomic keyboard
  • New ergonomic mouse

Assessment three is less dramatic in terms of keeping me in work. My new chair helps reduce pain in my entire body but as my pain has increased considerably at the same time it’s had less of an impact. But if I was still in my old chair, the pain I’m in when I’m at work would have been far too high for me to work.

Assessment three

  • A new chair (as a result of anorexia my chair from a the first assessment a few years ago was no longer appropriate)

And yes, despite all the access to work support i am still having to reduce my hours but without it, I would have lost my job years ago.

So I hope I’ve illustrated just how much of a difference access to work can have. But we do need to keep in mind that there won’t always be a suitable aid or adaption to help someone find or stay in a job. There are just some disabilities which are not compatible with employment. And in my experience, these are people, like myself, who would love to work or keep working but just can’t.

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