No time for inefficiency

After a year’s search to find employment I was raring to go when I
started as the outreach worker for Kingston Centre for Independent
Living’s direct payment scheme. It was something of a
disappointment when I could not fulfil my duties properly due to
the inefficiency of the Employment Service’s Access To Work
programme at putting in place the equipment and support I

Despite efforts to ensure that my application was made quickly, I
was passed from one person to the other. There was a lack of
understanding about how important it is to provide a disabled
person with the necessary equipment and support quickly. It took a
month for an assessment to decide what equipment I needed, a
further eight weeks before my equipment arrived and a further month
before my support worker was in place. Luckily my employers were
supportive about my circumstances but other people might have lost
their job.

I complained to Access To Work, the minister for disability and
local MPs. They said the delay in processing my application was due
to staff shortages and they were committed to providing a quality
service to everyone. One might argue with this, as everyone I know
who has dealt with Access To Work complains about the length of
time it takes to get the equipment and support they need. Is this
always due to staff shortages or just pure inefficiency?

My job entails supporting users from across the board, delivering
presentations to user groups and other professionals, and promoting
the direct payment scheme. Given the diversity of my job it was
important to find the right person to be my support worker. I
needed someone who could understand my speech and was able to
interpret what I say quickly without adding his or her tuppence

I was lucky enough to find this person within our own office, where
she was a volunteer. Having a support worker has been liberating
and has put me on an equal footing with other professionals. The
right support enables me to carry out my duties without relying on
colleagues for assistance.

Access To Work supplied me with a laptop with all the accessories
as well as a speech device. The idea was that I could use it in
meetings and on the phone but it is too slow to use on the phone. A
second phone is more effective so we can both listen to the
conversation, giving me more control. Often the expertise of
knowing what is best must come from the users. Access To Work staff
should respect this.

It is paramount that disabled employees receive an effective
service from Access To Work. The responsibility for getting a good
service does not lie with individuals while they are trying to get
to grips with a new job. If the government is serious about its
commitment to enable disabled people to work the efficiency of
support services needs to be looked at.

Julie Turner is an outreach worker for a direct payment
scheme. She has a physical disability.

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