Access to work scheme
Feb 7, 2024
What is the access to work scheme?
The Access to Work scheme is a government initiative in the United Kingdom that provides support and financial assistance to disabled people and people who have a health condition, to help them overcome workplace-related barriers. Under the Access to Work scheme, eligible individuals can receive personalised support, which may include funding for special equipment, adaptations to the workplace, travel expenses, or the provision of a support worker. The goal is to ensure that people with a disability or health condition have equal opportunities in the workplace and can perform their job effectively with the necessary accommodations and assistance. The scheme is available for those who are employed and also self-employed people who meet the earning requirements. In this Blog, Ryan shares his experience with access to work and what it has meant for him.
Losing my independence
I was in full-time employment working in a school for many years, trying to manage my lifelong condition of having Muscular Dystrophy. That was until I had an accident at work, resulting in me falling and seriously breaking my hip in the process. What followed was my life being uprooted and flipped on its head, resulting in me leaving the job I loved and being unemployed at home for the foreseeable future. I went from being fully independent, to suddenly having to rely on people and equipment to help me through my day-to-day life.
I also had to stop driving as a safety measure. As well as this, I needed to organise an electric wheelchair through Buckinghamshire wheelchair service, to help me maintain some independence and safety whilst moving around. It was a complete minefield to get my head around. Which in turn took a huge toll on my mental health. I felt trapped, vulnerable, and scared of navigating this new inaccessible world, having to rely on strangers I didn't know.
Getting my freedom back
Over time I found my independence was slowly coming back with every new piece of equipment that was given to me. I could safely navigate my outside environment, solo in my electric wheelchair. But that left one problem, how do I travel and get back out into the world without the transport for my electric wheelchair? Which is my freedom in itself. So I contacted Motability to get my WAV order underway and open my world even further. The only problem was that I was still mid-lease on my current vehicle, so knew the process was going to be a long one.
That's when I came across the Access to Work scheme.
Where the government can help with costs and support to help people like myself get back into employment. Some examples of ways they can help include:
Providing specialist equipment and assistive software.
Offering assistance with Support workers, like a BSL interpreter, a job coach or travel buddy.
Costs of traveling to work, if you cannot use public transport.
Adaptations to your vehicle so you can get to work.
Physical changes to your workplace.
This was the answer to my prayers of returning back into employment and having purpose again. This time round I’d have the safety and freedom of my electric wheelchair. I contacted Access to Work and was given a case worker, who put everything into motion to get me back to work. My previous boss was overjoyed with the idea of me returning but not only that I was returning to the job I loved so much.
So it was decided, I was going back to my job working in a school.
I chose a local taxi company, which specialised in disabled taxis. The taxi drivers are fully trained in safeguarding you for your entire journey, plus ensuring you make your way home back into your property before they drive off.
The Big Return
Everything was in place and I had my starting date ready to go. It was a daunting thought, going back out into the wide world that I once knew and navigated with ease. Knowing that this time I had to rely on people I didn't know to help me navigate if I needed it. I was traveling to work without my wife, who is my full-time carer, and this was daunting!
I felt my anxiety grow and I was scared of situations in my head that may never even happen. As soon as I met my driver, those nerves and feelings of anxiety went out the window. I felt confident in the driver's ability and training, plus quickly built up a friendship with him.
Once I returned to work, my employees made me feel back at home and where I belonged. The children although they had grown a few years, all remembered me and made me feel like I was back with a purpose. I have grown in confidence and have no problems asking others for help or assistance. I have found ways of keeping myself independent in my job role and navigating the outside world with confidence and ease.
Some final thoughts
When returning back into the workplace after an accident or disability, it is also your role and responsibility to make sure changes are made within the workplace to help keep you safe. We can't expect our employers to know exactly what should be in place, therefore using your initiative is vital.
Make sure there are foldable ramps in place if needed for fire escapes and entrances. Disabled toilets to be available to you if needed. Plus any equipment that needs moving from a higher level in order for you to access it at your preferred height. Think about all the things that would make your work life more comfortable.
So if you are ever considering returning back into work, then please do research into the Access to Work scheme. You'll be surprised at what help is available and how easy it is to get your independence back and find your purpose again.
More details on the access to work scheme can be found here Access to Work: factsheet for customers