Kath remains a teacher thanks to Access to Work

Kath at work sat at her desk smiling at the camera.

The Government is being urged to do more to promote the Access to Work scheme, as our latest research reveals that thousands of people with arthritis and related conditions are likely to be missing out on the support they need to remain in the workplace.

A new study of over 1,500 people with arthritis and related conditions found that over half (59%) had never heard of the Government’s Access to Work scheme. A further 10% had heard of the scheme but did not know what it does.

The scheme, run by the Department for Work and Pensions since 1994, is designed to support people over 16 who have a disability or health condition with work-related needs.

At Versus Arthritis we know that employment can be positive for people’s physical and mental health and, with the right help in place, many with arthritis are able to work.

Kath is 43 and has had Perthes disease since she was a child and was also diagnosed with arthritis aged 12. She works as a teacher in Essex, where she lives with her son. Here she shares her story of Access to Work and how it has helped her to remain in work.

“Teaching is demanding on your body and your mind but it’s my passion. I’ve worked all my adult life and have been at the same school for 20 years. In 2014, the arthritis in my hands and back got very bad. My attendance became erratic and I was in a lot of pain. I was worried I might be forced to retire. This just seemed unimaginable at my age, and I had my five-year-old son to think of too. It was a real crisis point. I was told about Access to Work by a union rep and decided to apply, which was quite straightforward."

I was worried I might be forced to retire. This just seemed unimaginable at my age.

Kath

"My head teacher was present when the assessor came to meet me. The assessor explored my classroom and talked to me individually. I explained what I did on a daily basis. She thought that an ergonomic chair would mean I’d be in less pain, along with shelving at a different height, mirrors to save me having to turn my head so often, a foot stool, a hand-rest, and IT equipment that helps me view students’ work from my desk. She made some recommendations and sent a report to the school. Luckily for me, my head teacher is incredibly forward-thinking and made sure everything was ordered. I know discrimination takes place, but I haven’t experienced that in my school. I’m personally very proud of the school and my achievements and I hope to remain in teaching for the rest of my working life.”

We want everyone to receive high quality support from their employers, and if they need more, to know they can access the Access to Work scheme. You can help us make this a reality by supporting our campaign.

We are calling on people to share our powerful new report with local MPs and encourage them to raise the issues around Access to Work with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. To write to your MP and to find out more visit Work matters to me.