Arthritis forcing thousands of Scots to give up work


Versus Arthritis has said more needs to be done to help the 1.5 million people in Scotland who suffer with the condition

17th October 2018 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Thousands of people with a crippling condition are losing out on vital support to stay in work, a charity has claimed.

The UK Government is being urged to do more to promote the Access to Work scheme, as latest research by charity Versus Arthritis reveals that thousands of people with arthritis and related conditions are missing out on the support they need to remain in the workplace.

A study of more than 1,500 people with arthritis and related conditions found that over half (51%) of those living in Scotland had never heard of the scheme, which helps those with a disability gain employment. A further 12% had heard of the scheme but did not know what it does. 

Access to Work, run by the Department for Work and Pensions since 1994, is designed to support people over 16 who have a disability or health condition with work related needs. The grant awarded by the scheme can fund support ranging from specialist equipment, to support workers and transport to and from work.

The charity has warned that the UK is losing the talent and expertise of thousands of people across many industries and sectors. For those with arthritis, not being supported at work can have a significant personal effect and leave people isolated and in pain with significant negative impact on income and wellbeing.

The large-scale survey also found that in Scotland, as a result of their condition a third of respondents had been forced to reduce their working hours and 24% had to give up work entirely or had taken early retirement.

Employers are legally required to make reasonable adjustments to ensure workers with disabilities, including many people with arthritis and related conditions, aren’t disadvantaged or discriminated against in the workplace. However, over half (56%) of Scottish survey respondents said that their employer had not made all the reasonable adjustments they needed.

Pete, a recently retired teacher of 40 years who has ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis, described how the right support may have helped him avoid early retirement.

“I’ve been a teacher all my life,” he said. “The last two years of work were agony for me. I was so tired and had already stopped working a couple of days a week. It’s almost painful to be that tired.

“I had no idea that I was entitled to any support from my employer, or the government. When I came back to work after surgery, I had ‘nice to see you back’, but no offer of help.”

Angela Donaldson-Bruce, Scotland director of Versus Arthritis, said more has to be done to help those with the condition.

She said: “Sixty percent of the current staff team at Scotland Versus Arthritis have arthritis, and two thirds of them use the Access to Work Scheme for equipment and for personal and work assistance. Knowing from this survey that the wider arthritis community is not benefitting from a scheme which is a key support to our staff is very concerning.

“For the past five years we have provided a range of support to people with arthritis, who are in or are seeking to return to employment, through our Working Well with Arthritis service, much of which has involved linking people to other support systems such as Access to Work. The message from today’s report is that we need to increase our effort and ensure that those people who should benefit from the scheme know about it and are able to access it.”

The charity is calling on people to share the report with their local MP to encourage them to raise the issues around Access to Work with the Secretary of State for the Department for Work and Pensions.