Giles Watling, MP for Clacton, has joined people living with arthritis at a Parliamentary event, to hear first-hand how the condition can impact on their employment and how we can ensure every person with arthritis, who wants to work, has the support they need.

At the event, which took place on 2nd July, healthcare charity Versus Arthritis also launched its new report, ‘Working it Out: Demanding More From the Access to Work Scheme’. Access to Work is a Government run scheme that can provide valuable workplace assistance, such as specialist equipment, transport and support staff, for those with a disability or health condition.

However, Versus Arthritis have found that 59% of people have never heard of the Access to Work scheme, with many more unaware of the help it can provide. This means that too many people are going without the support they require, which may lead to them struggling or dropping out of work altogether.

Versus Arthritis also found that one in four applicants (with arthritis) 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, therefore, 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.

Arthritis can make work more difficult, with tasks such as commuting, carrying equipment or even typing becoming a challenge. Only 63% of working age adults with a musculoskeletal condition are in work, compared to 81% of people with no health conditions. Previously, 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.

Giles said:

“5,571 people in the Clacton constituency are living with osteoarthritis of the hip, 9,357 with osteoarthritis of the knee and 17,075 with back pain. Many more are affected by other related conditions every day.

“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 our area 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 Giles Watling 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 Giles Watling 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.”