Access to work – A case study

What is Jobcentre Plus?

Jobcentre Plus is part of the Department of Work and Pensions offering a service to people of a working age.

What is Access to Work?

If you are thinking about recruiting a disabled person, you will know they have the skills and potential to do the work, but there may still be practical problems to overcome.

Access to Work (AtW) is available to help overcome the problems resulting from disability. It offers practical advice and help in a flexible way that can be tailored to suit the needs of an individual in a particular job. AtW does not replace the normal responsibilities of the employer to implement Health and Safety regulations or replace the responsibilities required by the Disability Discrimination Act.

As well as giving advice and information to disabled people and employers, Jobcentre Plus pays a grant, through AtW, towards any extra employment costs that result from a person’s disability.

For further details see www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk and click on ‘Looking for a Job?’ ‘Help for Disabled People’ ‘Access to Work’ Access to work

But what about what I can’t do?

Reverend Alex Gowing-Cumber is an Anglican Priest serving in the parish of Ralyeigh, Essex

Throughout life, despite the wonderful gift of dyspraxia, dyspraxic individuals find themselves coming up against daunting barriers and obstacles to everyday living and managing in the workplace.

Most parents, teachers, carers and specialists in the field are familiar with the developmental delays associated with the early years of a dyspraxic person’s life. However the problems continue after leaving school at 16 when heading for the workplace, stepping into a senior role at 36 or at the pinnacle of their career at 56 when they maybe contemplating retirement. I remember those thoughts of frustration, if I had been more organised, better at time management, if only I could have learnt to follow direction accurately and arrive at interviews and meetings on time. If only I could have looked tidier seemed more confident. If it weren’t for all those barriers perhaps I would have reached the point in my career where I imagined I would be by now instead of getting this far before my disability got in the way and hampered my progress.

In these early years of the 21st century’ inclusion’ is the buzzword oozing forth in every direction? It would be inconceivably politically incorrect, not to put assistance and equipment into place in most walks of life to compensate for mobility issues or sensory impairments. But what about assistance and equipment to empower people to compensate for the difficulties that poor short-term memory, concentration span, organisational ability and fine motor skills create in the work place. In the last year I have dealt with a number of dyspraxic adults in college and the work place, being forced out of their chosen path simply because of ignorance on the part of employers and educational institutions about their disability. I’ve seen a gifted probation officer, sound engineer and nursery nurse all removed prematurely from their chosen vocation due to ignorance.

On a more positive note I have spent the last 12 months on a department for education and skills working party, exploring disabled student allowance. A year on I’m pleased to report that in future disabled students officers in our colleges and awards officers in our local education authorities will better understand the process of assessing and appropriately supporting dyspraxic students in the successful completion of their courses. I like many dyspraxic adults drifted for a while in terms of finding appropriate understanding and support especially after completion of my first degree, when the impact of my statement of special educational need no longer seemed to mean anything to the education authority. With the support and good will of my wife, friends and thankfully a referral to excellent help from a clued up Occupational Therapists, I completed my master’s degree and despite many struggles got through the first few years as a clergyman in the Anglican Church! With the encouragement of my Occupational Therapist in the light of dyspraxia and other health and disability issues with which I’m blessed, and with the help of a good advocate from a charity for disabled people, I was able to make contact with the disability officer for my region, from a department called Access to Work. A service available to support people both employed and self-employed reach they’re full potential regardless of their disability. I don’t think they had ever dealt with a dyspraxic priest before, especially one who was presented along with a letter from somebody from social services, saying something along the lines that it was important that my disability didn’t prevent me from having a normal career path. In a nutshell, should dyspraxia be an obstacle to me one day (god willing) becoming an Archdeacon or Bishop even! There’s much I can do and do well, the pastoral and sacramental side of ministry is a great joy and privilege, but arriving at the right location at the right time with the right set of paper work is no easier now, than it was some 20 years ago when I was packed off to a boarding school with a statement of special educational need, to find myself becoming easily bewildered and frequently in the wrong place at the wrong time. I can sit in meetings and puzzles solve and lateral think, but remembering and actioning tasks immediately afterwards is quite another issue, as is putting names to faces. On a good Sunday I can juggle babies, holy oil and candles and baptism water, on bad Sundays I cant shave unaided without cutting my face to pieces and getting my clerical collar on right so it doesn’t look like one of those medical support collars dogs wear after a trip to the vet! I still pursue much academic study, and it’s not difficult for me to end up with overdue books from numerous libraries. Fortunately, only once did I ever find myself studying happily in Cambridge when I should have been taking a wedding in Essex? Fortunately by that point there had been enough disclosure that colleagues were able to rally round and come up with plan B! The access to work scheme is the stabilisers on my disability. If somebody’s is at least 80 % able to pursue a career and the only thing between them and smooth and normal career progress is there disability then help is at hand. After initial introductions to the access to work team and the collection of some case history, thorough cognitive and ergonomic assessment of myself and the geography of my working environment took place. The end result is that I now have funding in place both for a personal assistant and also I have been resourced with a selection of equipment, both technological in for example the form of a voice activated personal organiser (actually designed for the blind) and a desk, chair and office lighting which work best for me given the style of my posture and the impact on my alertness caused by some forms of electric lighting. My case was something of a first, in that it sort to enable a professional person who functions at a high level progress beyond the frustrations imposed by my disability. Many earlier cases focused far more around issues of access and mobility to and within the work place. It should be noted that in some circumstance your employer or yourself as a self-employed person may be asked to contribute financially to your support package. This is not always the case and shouldn’t be seen as a barrier even if it’s suggested to you. Possibly the hardest yet most rewarding point in the process is learning where and when it is and isn’t beneficial to disclose your disability.