Access To Work – funding to keep you in work

Access to Work – An introduction, by Trish Crowther

Trish works for the council and is a recipient of the “Access to Work” scheme. She explained how the system works and how is has affected her life, at our January 2020 Open Meeting. A video of her presentation is below, with an edited transcript beneath.

Trish also appeared recently in a video explaining the “Roger Select” equipment she uses thanks to Access to Work funding.

Trish wears two hearing aids. A recent move to a new office building, where the acoustics are poor, meant that she suddenly faced difficulties doing her job. Hard surfaces and lots of busy, open-plan office space, meant that she was struggling to hear.

Initially she sought quieter desks, but it didn’t solve the problem. One day, in a meeting with her manager, she admitted how difficult she was finding the situation. Trish even feared that she might have to give up work.

Happily, Trish has a supportive manager who knew about the Access to Work scheme and put her in touch with colleagues who knew a bit more about it.

Access to Work is a government run scheme that offers grants to people with hearing impairments who need help to stay in work or access work. Everyone has a right to and Access to Work assessment. No one can be refused the assessment.

Trish applied online and admits it wasn’t an easy application. The process has several stages and they are time limited, so it’s important for the recipient to manage the process (which may include chasing up your line-managers to get their input completed). You will go back to square one if you miss any deadlines in the process.

To begin with, Trish had a form and application for an assessment to fill in online. When this was successful, she had a follow-up assessment in her workplace. The woman who assessed Trish recommended a couple of pieces of equipment and produced a written report for Trish and her manager. This included three quotes for the equipment.

Trish’s application was successful and she received the equipment she needed and, as she says, “it absolutely changed my working life and my personal life too.”

The key piece of equipment Trish received was a “Roger Select”. This is a small, versatile microphone ideal for situations where background noise is present. Placed on a table, it discreetly and automatically selects the person who is talking and seamlessly switches from one talker to another.

The user can also select the direction from which the Roger Select receives sounds, so you can, for example, choose to listen to just one person amongst several sitting around a table.

The majority of the cost of the equipment is covered by the Access to Work grant, with only a small proportion covered by your employer. Some small organisations don’t even have to make any contribution.

Trish also received a gadget that works with a telephone, enabling her to use a landline, something that she had found increasingly difficult.

Trish now finds it easier to attend meetings, now that she can hear other people. She also has table mics which work well in bigger meetings. The Roger Select goes everywhere with Trish and it helps at home and in many parts of her everyday life.

The whole process of application took only a couple of months and it’s clear from Trish’s account of her experiences that it has been a genuinely life-changing experience. Access to Work advice is available through Michelle Gerrard at Calderdale Council’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services. You can also find out more and apply online here