Arthritis and employment – MPs hear from us about improving the Access to Work scheme

A group of Versus Arthritis staff at a parliamentary event.

We were in Parliament on the 2 July, speaking to MPs about our new report, Working It Out: Demanding More from the Access to Work, and why it’s so important that people with arthritis get the workplace support that they need.

The impact of arthritis on work

Over 17.8 million people across the UK live with arthritis and related conditions, more than half of whom live with pain every single day. All too often, arthritis goes unseen and unchallenged, but it isn’t trivial. Arthritis slowly steals life’s fundamentals, eroding someone’s quality of life, independence, mental health and ability to work.

Only 63% of people with arthritis are in work, compared to 81% of people with no health problem. Nearly one in five people with arthritis give up work because of their condition. But more can be done to support those who are able to work, which is where the Access to Work scheme comes in.

Why Access to Work is so important

The Access to Work scheme can provide vital support for people with arthritis to stay in and return to work. This help can range from equipment to transport to support staff. However, we have found that too many people with arthritis aren’t even aware that this scheme exists, or face difficulties using it. This can leave people with arthritis unable to work, or unnecessarily struggling.

That’s why its so important that MPs hear about the impact of arthritis on work and the simple changes we need to see to the scheme, outlined in our new report, so that more people with arthritis can benefit from its life-changing help.

Versus Arthritis in Parliament

We launched our new report at our parliamentary event and were joined by our campaigners Kath, Robin and Georgia, who shared with MPs their experiences of working with arthritis and Access to Work.

Kath, a teacher in Essex who was diagnosed with arthritis at the age of 12, gave a fantastic speech about the impact arthritis has had on her career:

“Access to Work entered my world via my union representative… I began to seek ways of moving forward to avoid ill health retirement. "I was beginning to understand that there could be a way of remaining in teaching with my arthritis."

"A collaboration of support spearheaded by Access to Work became the driving force for my successful return to work…The scheme must be integral to all those working with arthritis."

The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Justin Tomlinson, praised Kath’s speech and pledged that his team would meet with us to go through our recommendations “line-by-line”.

Thank you for your support

The Minister also highlighted that this issue had support from politicians from all parties, which really helps us make our case in Parliament that action must be taken. This couldn’t have been achieved without your support, calling on your MPs to attend this event and the recent debate on arthritis and work too.

But we’re by no means finished. You can sign our open letter to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, calling on them to make urgent changes to the Access to Work scheme so that more people with arthritis can stay in work.