EMPLOYMENT STORIES Stories by autistic workers Access to Work for a new company Access to Work for a new company We spoke to Dave who had retired from a public service role and decided to set up his own business this year. He’d sought out a formal autism diagnosis because he’d encountered some difficulties – for him it was a tick box exercise. Dave decided that by being his own boss would allow the flexibility he needed to manage his own adjustments and be more in control, without having to rely on an employer for what were sometimes complex needs. Dave realised he needed support, especially as this would be a new business area and style of working. He contacted us when he started looking into options for grants or benefits which he could claim as a disabled adult. Employment Autism were able to advise him that he would be eligible for Access to Work, “one of the government’s best kept secrets”, which he hadn’t known about before. Dave submitted a request for 40 hours (full-time) support along with all the requested documentation, including his business plan. Dave found that Access to Work were familiar with providing funding to autistic people, but that getting the right amount of support was less easy. When he heard back about his application, he found he’d been offered only 12 hours, on a ‘job aid basis’. This type of support is more suitable for those, for example, who need physical help due to reduced mobility. But this was not what Dave needed, which was ‘enabling support’, to help him overcome some of the non-physical barriers that he would come across and support him to achieve his aims and objectives. Dave concluded that that there was a disconnect in translating someone’s needs into support Dave felt that the Access to Work advisor he was in touch with initially did not have sufficient understanding of autism, which led to their initial decision to offer a lower level and type of funding. The initial support he was offered would have meant that his business plan would not be viable. Dave undertook research to understand why his application failed and reapplied, highlighting areas of the official Access to Work guidance which had not been sufficiently acknowledged in his specific case. Dave found that the best way to describe his needs as an autistic person to an Access to work advisor was to make a comparison to a person in need of a sign language interpreter He says that in times of stress, an autistic person may struggle with communication, so they would need the support of someone who would facilitate this. This supporter is effectively acting as a social interpreter. It was important that this person would know Dave sufficiently, and understand what stressed him, and the issues that he would encounter – but they did not need to be a subject matter expert. This highlighted the nature of the assistance needed, and that it would need to be full time. It was important for Dave to have confidence in this person, so it was helpful that Access to Work gave the flexibility for him to decide who to employ. Dave found the process far more complex than he envisaged it would be and the diagnosis was crucial in justifying the amount of the Access to Work funding request. Dave found it was really helpful to have help to quiz him to get the detailed information about lived experience and to put this into the language needed for the funding application Dave appealed the decision and was referred to the reconsideration team. As a result, Dave was granted the full-time support he needed. Dave’s support worker is his company’s first employee and his business is off to a successful start. It is important to him to grow the business at a rate he can control, he says, Managing stress is just as important as seeking out profit  Sayce, L. (2011). Getting in, staying in and getting on. Department for Work and Pensions.