Finding and keeping a job these days is not easy. If you have arthritis, there can be additional difficulties.

Who can advise you?

Disability Employment Advisers, who work as part of your local Disability Services Team (Formerly PACT – Placement Assessment and Counselling Team), help disabled people and employers. Appointments with Disability Employment Advisors (DEAs) can be made at your local Job Centre. They provide advice on local employment vacancies as well as access to various assessment methods, rehabilitation and training. Once you obtain a job your employer can also be given financial assistance with adaptations to your place of work.

What about equipment?

Using good equipment and special technology can enable you to stay in control. There have been enormous developments in recent years and most devices you can imagine probably already exist. Your nearest Disabled Living Centre (DLC) will tell you about them. If your needs are specialised the hospital occupational therapist may help or, where commercial aids are not available you can go to REMAP who may refer you to a local REMAP group. These are voluntary local groups of engineers and other specialists who can devise one-off solutions for you.

Access to Work Programme

Under the above scheme, administered by PACTs you are entitled to the following help:-

Equipment (or adaptations to existing equipment) to suit individual needs:

– If you work from home, as well as your actual place of work, you can have the same equipment, both at your place of work and at home
– A part-time reader or assistant at work if you have a visual impairment
– A support worker (personal assistant) if you need practical help either at work or with getting to work
– Adaptations to a car, or taxi fares or other transport costs if you cannot use public transport to get to work
– Alterations to premises or a working environment so that an employee with a disability can work there.
– Your local PACT team can be contacted through Job Centres listed in the telephone directory under Employment Service.

You do not have to be out of work or registered as disabled to arrange to see a DEA. Your local Careers Service can also be a useful source of advice in terms of what type of work you may be suited to.

Many disabled people finding work have been able to retain a reasonable level of income through benefits available in work e.g. Disability Working Allowance. Remember, Disability Living Allowance is not affected by any earnings you may receive.

How can I convince employers I can be an effective employee?

It is important that you stress your abilities. If you are positive about your arthritis then the employer is more likely to be positive about it as well.

Some people with arthritis will need to talk things through to develop their own understanding and some- times this support has to come from outside the family or friends. If you get the opportunity it will also be useful to talk to other people with arthritis.

Disability Discrimination Act

he employment provisions of this Act became effective in December 1996. Employers must take reasonable measures to ensure that they are not discriminating against disabled people in terms of recruitment, training, promotion and dismissal. Employers with fewer than 20 employees are exempt, although they are encouraged to follow good practice guidelines.

The links below provide further advice about working when you have JIA and general information about work and disabilities:

Department for Work & Pensions

Department for Employment & Learning

Equality Act Guidance (For Employers)

Equality Human Rights

Working With Arthritis

Working & Arthritis

Job Centre Plus

Into Work – Personal Development Programme

Arthritis Care organises the Into Work Programme which helps people with arthritis to build their confidence and gain skills to maximise their employment prospects. Into Work consists of a series of residential training courses together with mentor guidance, offering a unique programme of personal development.

What if I have to give up work?

This can be one of the most difficult experiences you will face. It is important not to lose hope. Talk to others if you can. You may want to consider retraining, returning to education or applying to the Into Work programme. See your DEA for information on what may be available. There is an organisation which provides useful advice for disabled people in education: SKILL, National Bureau for Students with Disabilities can provide leaflets on education and training, access at colleges, grants available etc. (See “Other Information” for contact details of organisations.)