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Giving people with arthritis 'Access to Work'

Arthritis Today Spring 2018 Issue 175An older man wearing a hard hat on a building siteWith over 30 million working days lost every year in the UK due to arthritis, we know finding and staying in work can be a challenge for people with arthritis. But there’s plenty of evidence that shows working in the right job is good for us, financially, socially and in giving us a sense of purpose and achievement.

At Arthritis Research UK we want to make sure everyone with arthritis is aware of, and has fair access to, services to support them to be in work. We’re also campaigning for increased investment in these services and for changes to be made to ensure they work for everyone who needs them.

Access to Work

Access to Work is a Government scheme designed to support people with a disability, physical or mental health condition, who have related workplace needs. While your employer is responsible for making reasonable adjustments to enable you to stay in the workplace, if you need extra help Access to Work could provide it.

It can pay for things like specialist equipment, travel to and from work, mental health support services and support workers. You don’t have to pay it back, and it doesn’t affect any other benefits. In many cases Access to Work is fully funded by the Government, but in some cases your employer will be asked to pay a contribution.

Experiences of using Access to Work

Marion MacneilMarion has lived with severe back pain for 20 years and received support from the Access to Work scheme. She told us: "As my condition got worse, I knew I wanted to continue working, but it become harder and harder. I got to the stage where I was in agony every day. My back would have regular spasms, I found travelling difficult and ended up having to take sick days when I couldn’t cope with the pain. I applied for Access to Work and an assessor came to my workplace.

"She knew a lot about conditions like mine and was able to give me a variety of equipment and a host of practical tips to improve my musculoskeletal health at work. Since having Access to Work, life has got better. Once my specialist chair was in place, it made a real difference. I didn’t have any days off the following year and I’m not in pain all the time, which means I’m much happier."

We believe many more people could benefit from Access to Work if they knew about the practical support the scheme offers. So, if you or someone you know might be eligible and want to find out more, visit

Share your experience

However, though thousands of people like Marion benefit from the scheme each year, we know it isn’t perfect. Our team will be launching a survey later this year to find out about people’s experiences of the Access to Work scheme. We’ll then use your stories to inform what improvements we ask the Government to make.

If you’d like to keep updated with this work, join our campaigner network. You’ll receive one email a month letting you know what we’re up to and how you can get involved.

Read next: New NHS funding for alternative treatment could prevent knee osteoarthritis

A knee being bandaged after surgery

An innovative treatment for repairing damaged knee cartilage using cell transplantation, commonly known as ACI, will now be funded by the NHS.

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Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.