Mr Chris Evans MP joined people living with arthritis at a Parliamentary event in Westminster on Tuesday 2nd July. Chris Evans heard firsthand about the impact the chronic pain associated with the condition can have on the ability to remain in employment and how to ensure every person with arthritis who wants to work has the support they need.
At the event, healthcare charity Versus Arthritis launched its new report, Working it Out: Demanding More From the Access to Work Scheme. Access to Work is a government scheme that can provide valuable workplace assistance, such as specialist equipment, transport and support staff.
However, the charity found that 59% of people they spoke to had never heard of the Access to Work scheme, with many more unaware of the type of help it can provide. This means that too many people with arthritis are going without the support they need and are unnecessarily struggling or dropping out of work.
Arthritis can make work more difficult, with tasks such as commuting, carrying equipment or even typing becoming challenging. Only 63% of working age adults with a musculoskeletal condition are in work, compared to 81% of people with no health conditions.
The Government has pledged to see one million more disabled people and those with long-term health conditions in work by 2027. To achieve this target, it is vital that people with arthritis have the support they need to stay in or return to work.
Versus Arthritis also found that one in four applicants (with arthritis) surveyed said the scheme was difficult to communicate with, and three quarters did not know they were entitled to a review of their support.
Versus Arthritis is calling for ongoing promotion of the scheme to people with arthritis and improvements to the way it operates, so that people with arthritis do not face barriers to getting the right support.
Chris Evans said:
“Over 850,000 people in Wales are living with arthritis and related conditions. I wanted to show support in Parliament for my constituents and highlight the steps we can all take to make life easier for people with arthritis who want to work.
“It is important that people with arthritis in Islwyn are aware of the help available, such as the Access to Work scheme, and can access support when they need it.”
Shona Cleland, Public Affairs Manager at Versus Arthritis, said:
“It was fantastic to see Chris Evans at our event in Parliament, hearing from people with arthritis about the impact of the condition on their working lives and the support that can make a difference.
“Arthritis slowly intrudes on everyday life, affecting someone’s quality of life, independence, mental health and ability to work. But we know that most people with arthritis want to work, and many can with the right support. MPs like Chris Evans can help to shine a light on what more can be done.”
Kath, a geography teacher who was first diagnosed with arthritis aged 12 and spoke to MPs at the event, said:
“It was a privilege to be able to speak to influential decision makers at Versus Arthritis’ event and I hope it will make a difference.
I have suffered with arthritis since an early age. As an incredibly determined and somewhat resilient person I achieved my ambition of becoming a teacher. But when my health deteriorated and I was experiencing chronic pain, I became increasingly emotional that I could no longer do the job I was trained to do and love. A collaboration of support spearheaded by Access to Work became the driving force for my successful return to work. The scheme must be integral to all those working with arthritis.”