Access to Work is a vital equalising scheme that provides the practical support that disabled people in employment need to do their jobs. For me this means covering the cost of my support worker and the additional costs of accessible transport to and from work.
As my support requirements have increased, Access to Work has enabled me to keep doing my job, and without it my life, career, and opportunities would look very different.
The scheme used to cover all support requirements. This was changed in 2015 when a cap was introduced. This means there’s a maximum amount of support costs that can be covered. If you receive support at the capped level it’s an unspoken acknowledgement that your support requirements won’t be fully covered.
A year ago I changed jobs. My journey to work became longer, and consequently it cost more and meant that my support costs reached the capped limit.
Since I’ve been at the maximum not a single claim I’ve made has been paid on the first request. I painstakingly prepare all the paperwork and submit it, only to have it returned a week or two later saying that my support has ended, when in fact it hasn’t.
This keeps happening because of the way my support entitlement is recorded on Access to Work’s computer system. Rather than each claim coming out of one of the three different agreed amounts that I’m eligible for – support worker, travel to and from work, and travel when at work – the three amounts have been lumped together to form one allowance. Or at least that’s the theory! In reality it means when the payment team look for a particular type of support it looks as if it’s not there.
Despite the efforts of numerous advisers, big notes being added to their system, and me adding a note to each claim asking the person processing it not to send it back if there’s a problem but to call me instead, this keeps happening. This means Touretteshero has to carry the cost of the claim until the issue is resolved – and it all takes time and energy, over and over again.
Yesterday, I arrived home to discover yet another set of rejected claims on my doormat. I was furious!
I called Access to Work and went through the frustratingly familiar process once again, and within a few hours another adviser was apologising again for the mistake. He shared my irritation and explained that I wasn’t alone in experiencing this, and that it was a recurrent issue with capped cases. He suggested instead of my polite notes that I should write ‘capped case’ in big felt tip pen on every claim form.
But come on Access to Work, there has to be a more reliable system than this!