Access To…oh forget it.

I know I know, I missed Blogging Against Disablism Day. Consider this my late entry.

As regular readers will know, I really want to go back to work. Over the last few weeks and months however my health seems to have had different ideas and my definition of what work I can do keeps getting narrower and narrower. BUT! Being the striver I am, I don’t like to let these things get the better of me and so I’ve been trying to be creative about how I work and what I can do.

Enter stage left: Access To Work!  A wonderful government programme that give back £1.48 for every £1 it spends, provides equipment for disabled people to go into work and is generally lovely and marvellous.

Well, kinda. See, I’ve heard really good things about Access To Work. My own personal experience had, so far, been wonderful. I spoke to a nice guy on the phone who took loads of info, another nice chap turned up at the house to talk to me about my needs and what equipment might help me continue working. A chair I could sit on for more than five minutes. A roller-bag for my computer, a wheelie-thing to put resources in so I wouldn’t have to carry stuff. It was all going so well.

And then a letter arrived. Listing all the nice things the nice man had suggested I have so I could keep working. And a nice big price tag to match it.

*sigh*

*sigh*

As I am self-employed, I don’t have an employer to pay for my equipment who can then claim it back from Access To Work. Which means I have to shell out for the equipment myself and then claim it back from Access To Work.

All £967.37 of it.

Spoiler warning: I don’t have £967.37.

So I guess that means, no equipment for me. No nice chair, no bags to carry my stuff. And time to think of another way to try and get myself back to work.

For a government that’s wanting people to work they’re certainly making things difficult. “You’re disabled? Can’t get to work? Why don’t you become self-employed! You can set your own hours! *Disclaimer: You will need somewhere in the region of a grand to do so*”

I’m on benefits, currently. I don’t have that kind of money. One option would be for me to wait until my PIP backpayment comes through (if I get it) then use that to buy the equipment, then claim the money back but I kinda had that earmarked for a mobility scooter. I don’t know how long it’ll take to be refunded by ATW, but I kinda need a scooter and don’t want to be waiting even MORE months to buy an essential piece of mobility equipment.

It’s a dilemma that I shouldn’t have to have. I shouldn’t have to choose between purchasing equipment so I can work and purchasing equipment so I can get around. The two things should not be mutually exclusive.

Let’s put another spin on it. Let’s say I was employed by someone and needed the equipment to start work. Said employer would have to shell out nearly a grand for me before I started working, and then attempt to claim it back. Why then, would an employer choose me to do a job when they could choose an non-disabled person to do it without the extra hassle and cost?

I want to work. And it’s becoming harder and harder for me to do so.

**You can find more blog posts for Blogging Against Disablism Day 2014 here**

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Access To…What, Exactly??

On Sunday it’ll be one month since my PIP form arrived at the DWP. I thought I’d celebrate by calling them on Monday to see if they actually received it (as I’ve not had the “You didn’t send your form back” letter but I also haven’t had the “we’ve got your form and we’re going to put it in a large pile for the next six months” letter). So we’ll see how that pans out. Prediction: it’ll be painful.

Up until last week I’d pretty much only been thinking up to my rheumatology appointment, like it was going to offer me all the secrets of being able to function again. In the end, the appointment was a little underwhelming and now I have to think about what to do next. My long-term goal, however, is that I want to go back to work. Now because I’m not *completely* stupid, I’ve realised that my ability to work may not be as it once was. I love my job, however, and I’m willing to do whatever I can to try to get back to it.

One option to help me out in this is the Access To Work scheme. Once a very effective way to give disabled people the support and equipment to help them have a career, now a long list of things you’re no longer allowed to have. Good luck finding a way you can be supported by the scheme if you need a specialist desk, chair, computer equipment or office equipment because they now no longer supply these. So, in a perfect world, if I wanted to go back to work tomorrow, what would I need?

  • Someone to drive me to work and back. I live an hour’s drive each way from where I work. In order for me to still be able to work once I get there, I’d need someone to do the driving for me. Also, if I wanted to be pain-free while working I’d have to take painkillers, and I’m not fond of driving on painkillers.
  • A way to get around while I’m at work. Maybe not completely essential – I could run my youth work sessions sitting in a chair all evening, if I really had to – but it’s difficult to take charge of a group of young people when you can’t move around.
  • Someone to help with the lifting and carrying. I’m self-employed,my office is my spare room. I’m a youth worker, I use a lot of resources. When I’m working, the back of my car is normally full of them. As I’m currently not able to lift anything heavier than a small cat, some help carrying and moving boxes of resources would be needed.

And that’s pretty much it. Not a lot, but if I had that I could go back to work tomorrow. Literally. However. From reading accounts such as BendyGirl’s attempts to access the ATW scheme, I know full well that I’d probably have a full recovery from my chronic condition before anything like these support means would get put into place. I could get a job closer to where I live, and I’m in the process of looking into how I might be able to do that. But the project I currently work on I’ve worked on since 2007, when I started it. It’s about to go through a couple of years of MAJOR change that I and the community and the young people have put years worth of work into. Would you want to pull out of your job at such a crucial time?

No. Me neither.

I am *desperate* to go back to work. I have other projects and things up my sleeve that I can do at home while working really isn’t an option but I want to go back to work. The thing is, I don’t know if I’ll actually be able to. And it’s not because I can’t work – I can work! I have been working and I want to work again! But accessing my job is a lot more difficult now than it used to be. I hope I get some support, somehow.  But I’m not holding my breath.