Access to Work has ‘marketing problem’ with mental health

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The government’s Access to Work programme, designed to help disabled people into employment, is too focused on those with physical disabilities, according to a panel speaking to the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

The scheme is intended to help those with physical and mental disabilities to enter and stay in employment  through financial and personal support.

However, Centre of Mental Health IPS project co-ordinator Nicola Oliver claimed those suffering from mental health conditions are not always effectively reached.

“There is a marketing problem with Access to Work,” she said. “All the examples of support given by Remploy seem to be of people with physical disabilities. So when people with mental health contact Access to Work they’re not necessarily sure what support would be available for them.”

Oliver said she believes the marketing for Access to Work can be too focused on the employer.

“Many people with mental health problems won’t disclose them to the employer,” she said. “So the support needs to be available without their knowledge.”

She suggested marketing the scheme to support staff, such as community mental health teams and GPs, might be a more effective use of resources.

National Autistic Society workplace support consultant Susan Askew suggested the scheme is not sufficiently tailored to meet the needs of individuals with diverse and specialist needs.

“Everybody with autism is very different and I don’t think that’s fully understood by Access to Work. Meeting one person with autism does not mean you understand everybody on the autistic spectrum," she said.

“We’ve come across support workers who have made unhelpful comments and have not shown they understand the condition at all.”

Notting Hill Housing administrative assistant Rachel Brown, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, revealed that when she visited her local GP there was “no mention” of Access to Work on any of the posters in the waiting room.

“I hadn’t heard of it before I started at Notting Hill and one of my colleagues told me about it,” she said. “In my last three roles I haven’t had any support because I wasn’t aware it was available.”

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