Access to Work is for people with a long-term condition which means they cannot perform certain tasks to a particular level.
In the UK, it is funded by the government to give equipment. If you work for a company in the private sector, the company pays 80%+ of the cost and can claim most of it back (probably less the VAT). Depending on your circumstances and now on the country’s circumstances, you will be asked for a contribution. In hearing, you may get an amplified telephone or a hearing loop and you only get one thing as the funding pot is relatively small.
How effective are they?
That is the problem. At the moment, in the UK, equipment is being recommended by non-specialists. I think the government might be using Occupational Therapists who advise on a wide variety of equipment like metal bars to hold onto so that you can get out of bed more easily etc. It is unfair to ask them to recommend specialist equipment and unfair to the client who will lose out. There is no way that they are experts in hearing equipment.
“Hello, I’m interested in the Conversor Pro.”
Great, there is interest from a customer and we chat about it.
“I may be interested in five.”
This is a whole, different ballgame and the second clue I have that she is buying for someone else. The first is ignoring my question about contact details. It turns out that she refuses to give her email address, the company name, her telephone number (unobtainable when I call it back). But I am used to Access to Work as they have rung me before. So we establish that. Their usual tactic is to say I am one of several companies given the opportunity to quote.
This time it has been researched on price and she will not be ringing back, the customer will. I ended up with a prospective customer who wanted it to speak to people on a one-to-one basis but had been persuaded that she needed to use it in high background noise, outdoors like supermarket and indoors like in an open-plan office. These are highly complex places and you need a top-of-the range hearing loop and we had spoken about that already. The thing is that she needs a person-to-person loop and that’s all.
The best person-to-person hearing loop, maximum range two metres, that I have ever used is one that a competitor sells and I don’t. It is also half the price. Drat, no business owner can afford to flag it or recommend a competitor, but I can’t seem to help myself. It’s the Duett from Comfort Audio and you can only get it from Gordon Morris Limited. Drat, just gave him advertising and he is the only UK distributor. If you live in Sweden, you can buy it direct.
The point is Access to Work got it wrong. They did that because they are not experts in hearing. Will someone in the government, preferably IDS in Department of Work & Pensions who shares out funding, please do this:
GIVE THE JOB TO CHARITIES.
Charities are experts in their fields. deafPLUS has a mobile equipment service for hearing. It is apparently unique and is only available in Surrey, Hampshire, London, Somerset and Birmingham. deafPLUS has issued redundancy notices to its Hampshire office following a threatened drop in funding from Surrey and Hampshire County Councils. What the heck is going on? This charity* is perfect for Access to Work! They have longtime dedicated experts. They are not the only ones. All charities are experts in their niches. They did not use to have commercial arms but that is changing because of a cut in their share of tax relief and significant falls in funding.
The government has an opportunity to correct this and it will save them money. Their problem is that they don’t understand how to use the voluntary sector. Please consider the way above.
Now you know the idea to start us off. What’s your opinion?
*Disclaimer – I used to work for deafPLUS which is how I know about the mobile equipment service.
- Opening up the voluntary sector: using data to drive innovation (guardian.co.uk)
- Charities aren’t just the cheap option for public service delivery (guardian.co.uk)
- Hearing aid clinic proves a success in Leicester (money-advice.co.uk)
- Voluntary sector cannot plug gaps (bbc.co.uk)