Back in 2011 I began a new job and applied for Access to Work (AtW). After undergoing a relatively painless application process, AtW promptly awarded me a three-year grant. As I recall they contacted me once during the three-year period for a review. Great. This gave me a modicum of security at work.
In 2014, I was caught out by an administrative error by AtW. This meant I spent Christmas that year miserable and worried whether my AtW application would be successful. When I returned to work after New Year’s Day, I was around £3,300 out of pocket. That is, I had dipped into my own bank account to pay my support worker for the months of October, November and December.
On returning to work after a dismal Christmas and New Year’s period AtW contacted me to say I had a three-year renewal. Again, this at least allowed me to plan ahead.
This year my AtW grant is due to end on September 25; and with this in mind I began my AtW reapplication around six weeks ago. Therefore, by early this month, September, AtW had verbally interviewed me; and I’d completed the written section of the reapplication process.
The AtW officer who interviewed me was very nice. She was extremely reassuring telling me that she didn’t envisage any problems; but she was bound to carry out the assessment as the three-year grant was coming to an end. On receiving my written submission, the officer emailed me stating everything was in order, and I’d hear back from AtW shortly.
Last week I received a one-year AtW award. Though there were some slight changes to my work duties. None of the changes in any way changed the level of the support I need in the workplace. Indeed, AtW didn’t challenge the hours I was claiming. In fact, they acquiesced to the 5% rise in the hourly rate that I requested.
As you’d expect I contacted the AtW assessor and challenged the award. In the first instance, I argued that the award was inconsistent with past grants, these being paid for the maximum period. Initially the assessor argued that my previous applications has been annually. However, when I quoted from the ‘offer letters’, suggesting that I could scan and email the evidence, at this he apologised. Instead he pointed out that my AtW claim had been reviewed during these periods, which they had.
Despite the arguments that my support needs were the same and this assessment was inconsistent, the assessor refused to move. As a sop, he said he would put a note on my case to the effect that my 2018 reapplication would be automatically renewed. Except when the email arrived it said:
“Good Morning Mr McGovern
Our earlier conversation refers. Awards can be made for up to 3 years and this has applied on your previous claims. Your present award will be considered for automatic renewal for remaining 2 years of this award to make the 3 years in total nearer the time it is due to end. Your records have been noted accordingly.
Access to Work”
So much for an automatic renewal.