Access to work is a wonderful resource, but often under-utilised, and often not very accessible. Here are some steps as to how to access the support you (and your employer) might need to apply for an Access to Work grant.
Step 1: Call them
Access to Work is a government-run programme that enables anyone with a disability to access support whether employed or self-employed. As soon as you have difficulties (or think you’re going to have difficulties) at work you can refer yourself to this service and avoid a lot of common issues.
Step 2: Assessment
On contacting Access to Work, you will usually be assessed by a “workplace needs assessor” as a first port of call, who will then write a report recommending the support they think you need to perform effectively in your job. Recommendations can be for things as diverse as a speech-to-text piece of software, some one-to-one strategy coaching sessions (that might look at your organisation, memory or time management skills) or even support with the cost of taxis to and from work because your condition means you can’t drive or take public transport. Access to Work can even provide training for your colleagues in how to manage and understand disability. This is really important for neurodiversity, mental health and where physical conditions affect thinking, as these are ‘hidden disabilities’ and not everyone understands what is going on for you.
Step 3: Get adjustments in place
If you work for a small employer (under 50 employees) the support is free of charge. However, if you work for a larger employer they will have to contribute some or all of the costs. For this reason, it’s really important that employers see the benefit of providing disabled employees with the support – there is lots of information on why this is a good idea and Genius Within are always happy to help raise awareness.
If you are self-employed the Access to Work scheme will even refund the cost of any support ordered.
Step 4: Learn, develop, adapt
Then there’s usually a period of training, such as how to use new technology, co-coaching with your line manager to navigate communication difficulties, or strategy coaching to help you to use your strengths to overcome any difficulties that you have – whatever it is it doesn’t happen overnight!
Step 5: Review the impact
I’m more productive in my meetings, and my to-do list is more manageable. I’m no longer procrastinating about writing long reports. Even my line manager has noticed the difference. Having come out the other side, if I’d done this years ago who knows how far I would have gotten in my career now as everything is easier, quicker and a lot less stressful.
Our evidence shows that performance can be dramatically improved following strategy coaching and our own personal experiences of Access to Work is that once it is given some time, attention and value, the difference in working practices can be huge. Stress levels can be massively reduced meaning that you can be better at work.