Andrew Harding reports on how electronic devices can be obtained through the Access to Work Scheme.
UPDATE February 2008: see 'Access to Work grants' on our Electronic fluency devices page for later developments.
Until recently, there was no way Jonathan Hubbard would ever have volunteered to give presentations or lead conference calls for his employer, an international communications company. Thanks to the Government's Access to Work scheme, the company director and vice president were his co-presenters at the end of April for a new project.
For the past three years Jon had felt he had little chance of moving on in his career, either with his current employer or a new one, because he said his speech wasn't strong enough.
"I would never have dreamed of hosting conference calls or giving presentations," he said. "There was no way I would have been confident enough, and I knew my career wasn't progressing."
Through the Access to Work scheme, Jon received funding for a SpeechEasy device earlier this year. Access to Work paid for about £2200 of the £3050 cost. Jon paid the balance, although in many cases it is the employer who will pay the first £300 plus 20% thereafter. The funding came through within two weeks of applying.
As a general guideline [at time of writing], the scheme will fund the total cost of a device if you are trying to get a job, and up to about 80% if you need to develop you current job or career.
Jon uses the SpeechEasy for presentations and telephone calls. "It is ideal for the phone. I feel much more confident with the choral effect and knowing that it is there. It reduces my stammer to pauses that sound fairly normal, and I am generally more fluent now," he said.
How to apply
The scheme provides funding for equipment or personal support to enable a person with a disability to obtain work and to develop their career and skills. The requirement to have a disability should not normally be a problem, particularly where the person requires a fluency device for their stammer.
Contact your local Access to Work office. To be eligible for an assistive device such as SpeechEasy of VoiceAmp, you need to show three things.
1. That by having better speech your job or career prospects will be improved. It is important to emphasise the value a device would have for work, and not social purposes. Being able to get through interviews, make phone calls and give presentations are all valid reasons.
2. That a device would work for you. This can be arranged by having an assessment and getting a report, either with the distributors of a device or a speech and language therapist.
3. That the NHS will not pay for a device. NHS Direct or a speech and language therapist can confirm this.
Help from Access to Work is available whether you are employed, about to start a job, changing your job, or self employed. The level of financial assistance varies depending on your circumstances.
From the Summer 2007 issue of 'Speaking Out', page 12