Access to Work is a bit of a hot topic at the moment particularly in light of the recent Inquiry.

Here is some advice for accessing the central call centre to get agreement to pay for communication support in time for interviews and for securing in work support for Deaf people.

Attending interviews

AtW will cover the cost of interviews but this still has to go through the call centre.  If the request for support is for interview please stress this point when you get through.  The term AtW use is ‘Communication Support at Interview’.  Using this term should trigger a ‘fast track’ approach for this to be sent to the AtW process team.  AtW have said that this can then take between 24-72 hours to process.  We realise this is not ideal in some of the situations where we are told the interview is ‘tomorrow’!  The challenge we have is that without the “agree to pay” form an interpreter cannot be secured.  We advise that you / your customer put as much information as possible into the request for communication support at interview to help to speed the process.  Although it is highly likely that AtW will agree the funding it is not guaranteed until the application has been processed.

In work support

AtW supports towards the cost of equipment, support and reasonable adjustments in the work place.  It is impossible for us to give an employer a guarantee of what will and what will not be funded as this depends on so many variables.  There is a useful factsheet that you can share with employers that gives more of an explanation.

We should advise the employer to think about the types of support that may be required and have this information ready to give to Access to Work.  The types of things that should be considered are:

  • Communication

It is likely that in the first few weeks of a new job that the need for communication will be higher, particularly for any induction training periods.  It is likely that the need for intense support will reduce but consideration should still be given for any meetings, training sessions supervisions etc throughout the year.

  • Equipment

There is an absolute wealth of equipment that is available to use in the workplace.  There will usually been something that can be used to counteract most barriers that have been identified. The individual may not necessarily know what they need or what is available. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need any advice on the types of equipment that can help.

  • Fire alarms

The main thing we tend to get asked about is the fire alarm.  There are various pieces of equipment that are available to attach to a standard fire alarm.  The main types of alerters are either some type of flashing beacon or some type of vibrating pager.  What is best really does depend on the size, layout and location of the place of work.  Our advice to any employer with regards to fire alarms should be for them to contact their own existing fire alarm company and ask for a quote to provide and install additional equipment for deaf staff.  It is likely (unless it is a particularly small company) that AtW will offer cost share as opposed to paying the full amount for any adaptations.  This is because employers have ‘an individual duty of care for all employees’ under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The use of a ‘buddy system’ is not a long term viable option. In theory this may work during fire alarm evacuation tests.  However, in reality no one would or should be asked to walk around a burning building looking for a member of staff.

  • Workplace assessments

A customer/ employer may not necessarily know what they need.  If this is the case they should contact AtW and let them know the barriers.  Where they feel it necessary AtW may send someone to do an assessment.  This is currently a free service to the employer.  The process can take up to one month and the assessment will be carried out by a generalist advisor who may not necessarily be an expert in deafness.  Clarion UK can offer a workplace assessment service.  There is a charge for our service, however we guarantee that we will send a person who is skilled and knowledgeable on equipment and support for deaf people and our report will be completed within 10 working days from the point of referral.  Please do not hesitate to pass our details to any employer who may want further information on this service.  Likewise, please do not hesitate to contact us if you need any advice on the types of equipment or support that you can be informing employers about.