Dear Secretary of State,
We are writing to you about the impact that arthritis and related conditions have on people’s ability to work and the support that makes a difference. We want more people with arthritis to benefit from the help available, such as the Access to Work scheme.
Over half of the 17.8 million people in the UK with arthritis and related conditions live with pain every single day. The impact of limited mobility, crushing fatigue and daily pain is immense as arthritis slowly intrudes on everyday life – affecting the ability to care for family, socialise, live independently and work.
Shockingly, only 63% of working age adults with a musculoskeletal condition are in work, compared to 82% of those with no health conditions. Arthritis can make work more difficult, with tasks such as commuting, carrying equipment or typing becoming challenging or painful. Many of these conditions fluctuate in severity, leaving people unsure how well they will be able to cope day to day.
One in eight of the working age population report having a musculoskeletal problem, so it will be impossible for government to achieve its ambition of getting one more million more disabled people into work unless those with arthritis and related conditions get the right support.
Access to Work can provide valuable help that people rely on, but too few people with arthritis are aware of the scheme, and too many who have applied for support face problems with how it operates.
This needs to change, and we know how. Versus Arthritis has surveyed people with arthritis about their working lives and identified simple changes that could make a huge difference.
Firstly, we need immediate and ongoing promotion of Access to Work to people with arthritis and related conditions. 59% of people with arthritis surveyed by Versus Arthritis had never heard of the scheme, with many more unsure how it can help. This needs to change, so that people do not fall out of work because they’re not aware of the help available.
Secondly, there must be improvements to the scheme itself. Action is needed to ensure that recommendations made by an Access to Work adviser are implemented by employers. Improvements are also needed to the way the scheme operates, so that people with arthritis do not face barriers to getting the right support. This means making it easier for people to upgrade or repair equipment, arrange travel and have their needs reviewed.
Most people with arthritis want to work, and many can with the right support. We want to see more people with arthritis benefiting from Access to Work and staying in jobs they value. We need your help.
Together, we can push back against the devastating impact of arthritis.