↑ Dyslexia-friendly Colours
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Access to Work and Dyslexia

In the last decade, legislation in the UK has helped adults to receive provision at work for their dyslexia (and other differences such as dyspraxia, ADHD and autism). The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 and its successor the Equality Act 2010 are the main laws in this area. The improvements in equal access to work born from these Acts have led to many benefits to the economy in terms of employment, productivity and diversity in the workforce. However, there is one tool for maximising this provision that has been under-utilised so far, and now there is the opportunity to sharpen it.

The main government scheme in the UK which provides work support for adults with dyslexia and other learning differences is Access to Work (AtW), run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). In 2010-11 the scheme supported 3,150 dyslexic workers. This is approximately 0.1% of all dyslexic workers, or one in every one thousand.

Such a small proportion receiving help from the DWP has prompted Donald Schloss of the Adult Dyslexia Organisation to call the Access to Work scheme "the DWP's best-kept secret." It seems that few workers know that they can claim support in their circumstances.

It also seems that the DWP is keeping another secret, this time from itself:

AtW and Dyslexic Entrepreneurs – nobody’s keeping countAccess to Work recipient
The Access to Work scheme asks clients two questions separately: a) are you dyslexic? b) are you self-employed? However, in 2012 the DWP were unable to confirm how many clients they had who were dyslexic and self-employed. This group is a vital sector of the workforce, creating more firms and jobs than non-dyslexic business owners and turning over billions, yet the government suggests it does not know how many of them it has been helping in their work. Here the DWP is serving fish and serving chips, but not catching on that serving those together on the same plate might create something greater than the sum of its parts.

How many of the UK’s 300,000 dyslexic entrepreneurs could and would have benefitted from AtW when they started their businesses? Along with AtW support for the UK’s 3,000,000 dyslexic workers, even just a 1% boost in productivity each year would have resulted in a lot more feel good fish and chips bought and sold every Friday night from Fishguard to Forfar. 

While some dyslexic adults will most certainly be employed in jobs where adjustments have already been made to accommodate different communication styles, such a small proportion as one in a thousand being helped by the AtW scheme suggests that a deep well of creative and innovative working talent is not being put to optimum use in the UK workforce. The AtW scheme could be increasingly deployed by government to meet dyslexic working needs in order to bring benefits to the UK economy. 

This is said in light of recent (unpublished) research: in 2013 Halfpenny Development Ltd and a leading UK university asked a small sample of SMEs about their dyslexia training provision at work:

  • 85% said they had no access to training in dyslexia in their position;
  • 85% said their training opportunities for increasing knowledge and understanding of dyslexia were “not very good” or worse.

 When asked what benefits they would expect to gain from training on dyslexia these SMEs pictured:

  • a more highly-skilled workforce…
  • which enjoyed better working relationships…
  • and offered more loyalty to the organization…
  • which had improved its company image as a result of conducting training on dyslexia. 

 The UK government is currently consulting users and stakeholders on the Access to Work scheme. If more than one in a thousand dyslexic workers is to be helped by the scheme next year it might take one in a thousand dyslexic workers to add their view to the consultation process now. Can that happen? Well, it’s just 3,000 voices, isn’t it? Make one of them yours.

 Follow the link: Access to Work consultation

 10 things you need to know about Access to Work

  1. AtW's role is to support people with disabilities in their work, in order to prevent them from being unemployed.
  2. You can apply to the scheme if dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD or autism is affecting your work. 
  3. The AtW team may be able to point you in the right direction without seeing you. However, usually they will send out a Work Based Assessor to see you at work. 
  4. Their role is to find out the type of support which will best suit you in your work environment in order to make the most improvement to your work performance and stress levels.
  5. Typical support comes in the form of software, technology, training, mediation or coaching.
  6. A report containing three quotes for each type of recommended support will be sent to you. 
  7. In most cases your employer will be paying for this, so make sure that you involve them in the process from the start.
  8. If you are self-employed, it is possible that Access to Work will pay for your support. 
  9. If you are not happy with the companies and products recommended, you can choose your own. As long as the company used is known to be reputable to Access to Work it will usually be okay to change.
  10. Access to Work support can be used to improve your success at work by helping you:
  • meet targets and deadlines;
  • manage interactions with co-workers and managers;
  • communicate your needs;
  • move your career forward or simply do your job better.

Jan Halfpenny is a dyslexia specialist and managing director of Halfpenny Development. She writes and speaks on dyslexia and consults and trains businesses to understand dyslexia

 ©Halfpenny Development Ltd 2014

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