Access to Work – Peer Support Project

An innovative new project will encourage disabled people to support each other to access the support available to overcome barriers to starting or keeping a job. 

Equal Lives (formerly known as Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People) have launched a project to raise awareness of the access to work scheme.  The access to work scheme is run by the Department for Work and Pensions and can provide funding for things, such as transport to work, support workers, equipment.

Equal Lives, like most disability organisations, are often told that disabled people and employers have not heard of the scheme, even though it has been available for many years.

With the current emphasis on getting more disabled people into work, the high levels of unemployment amongst disabled people and the increasing number of people being found fit for work under ATOS assessments, it is vital that people know what support is available to them and their employers.

For employers this may be the reassurance they need that employing a disabled person is not an expensive option, opening up more opportunities for disabled people to get back into work.

A recent Equal Lives survey showed that many of those who do use the scheme, found aspects of the application process difficult and frustrating.

‘The main problem is not knowing how to handle the process so that you get the help you want.  You really need someone who is experienced in the process to show you.’

Their peer support project has trained a team of volunteer mentors with personal experience of the access to work scheme to provide support to, and assist others through the process.

A number of workshops and information sessions are planned across Norfolk to raise awareness and encourage more use of the scheme amongst disabled people.  The workshops will also let employers know about the support available to companies when they employ a disabled person.

Equal Lives are currently filming the experiences of those using the access to work scheme, to share people’s stories, but to also use as a tool to support those who wish to use the scheme now or in the future.

This sounds a really useful scheme, and I hope other organisations take up something similar across the UK.

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