Gaining Access to Work
If you can use your skills and knowledge to earn some money this may be the best way to maximise your independence and do the things with your life that you really want to.
A job can be more than the means to an easier life financially, it can also help make you feel more included and provide you with friends and a life outside of work. You should not assume that if you have health problems or profound disabilities that this necessarily means you have to live off benefits. If you think that you are not going to keep on working because of your health or that you will never be able to find a job suitable for you, there are a number of schemes to help you get and keep a job that are worth looking at.
Access to Work
Access to Work is a scheme funded by the government that provides advice and financial assistance to you and your employer or potential employer to overcome the impact of poor health or disability on your ability to do your job. It can help with things like travelling to work or a support worker to assist you at work. Specific help may be given if you have a mental health problem, to help you cope with the stresses created by your condition. You can apply if you already have a job or a job-related training placement or if you have been offered one of either. You can also apply if you are self-employed. If you have been doing your job for more than 6 weeks you are only likely to receive partial funding of the measures needed to allow you to continue.
If you want to see if you might be eligible then go the Access to Work Eligibility Checker. There are Regional Centres that will provide further advice and where you can get an application form for Access to Work. Alternatively you can talk to the Disability Employment Adviser at your local Job Centre. Once you have made an application an Access to Work adviser will contact you to take it further.
If you are approved it will be the responsibility of your employer to purchase any equipment etc required and then claim it back from Access to Work. Employers with over 9 employees are also expected to contribute to the cost of any support or equipment arranged. The funding will not be made available for ever, and would normally be reviewed between one and three years after the initial award.
For people who need a bit more intensive and ongoing support to find suitable employment in the first place, there is the Work Choice programme. This follows a pattern of three modules, where the first module is aimed at providing people with the basic skills required to find and keep a job, and assistance to decide what kind of job to look for. Once successful more intensive support will continue to be provided, without necessarily any time limit, including the provision of an ongoing support worker. Many people on Work Choice will initially enter some form of “supported employment”, which are companies or work places specifically set up to help people with disabilities earn their own money through productive work. Ultimately the aim is, however, to help people get an ordinary job if they can. If you want to find out more details contact your local Job Centre Plus office (find out where that might be here).
There are a number of voluntary organisations who help with the provision of supported employment. Most sources of help available will be very locality-specific, and you are likely to need to make enquiries locally to follow up on any of these ideas. If you do want to find out more we suggest that you look at sources of advice and information first.
As with everything else the important thing is to carefully consider what the consequences of your situation are, what you want to do about it, what you want to achieve, and what resources you have available. Then with this information make a plan.