Having a disability or a long-term condition can have a range of financial implications on a person’s personal and work life. Often the purchase of relatively inexpensive items can make a big difference. As Kevin explained, purchasing a backpack helped him get to meetings around the University when he needed to use his crutches. It was important to Kevin that he got “exactly what I want” for this purpose, so he was happy to source it himself.
Although people may purchase items they need for work for themselves, the University can provide staff with financial assistance either directly or by applying for external funds (see Resources Section), when such purchases support disabled people in doing their work. This can include the purchase of specialist speech-to-text software or a tablet computer to assist with reading. Some people reflected on how they would not expect the University to "pay for everything". While Devon was successful in getting assistance with paying for taxi fares to and from work, she felt she made the decision to "live out in the boonies", so she should incur this expense despite being entitled to it.
For some people, their department was able to support them by extending the funding available for them to complete their work. With regular breaks Mary was able to continue her research in the archives. This extra time was funded by her department.
Working patterns and sick leave
People's managers and departments also found other ways to amend people's workload and working patterns (see Support from managers). While the flexibility of their managers and many of these changes put in place were welcome, some had financial implications. Working at home means paying for the heating and lighting. For those able to go part-time or take unpaid leave, the implications of a drop in salary needed to be taken into consideration.
Kevin explained that after concerted periods of work he "can feel quite washed out" and would like to "take a week or two off work without pay, just [to] recharge your batteries". But considering the impact of the loss of pay has meant that he has not yet been able to do this. Susanna explained that going part-time would help her manage her migraines, but the decision involved taking the time to consider the impact on her finances. The move to part-time work can also impact financially on a person's family.
Some people had to take sick leave. Depending on the period of time worked at the University an employee can get between two weeks and six months full pay, and then a corresponding period on half-pay in any 12 month period. After that employees are able to claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) (See Resources Section).
Some disabled people and people with long term conditions are entitled to state benefits. However, many of these are means tested and can be very difficult to get. For many disabled people life can be financially precarious and this was a concern for some of those we interviewed.
Support is was also available to assist people with some of the costs of continuing to work with a disability. In some cases Access to Work (See Resources Section) agreed to fund taxis for travel to work. Several members of staff used this support when they were seriously unwell, but preferred to use their regular form of transport as often as they could.
Personal financial implications
Not having access to a car could have financial benefits, as well as costs, depending upon where you live. Maeve decided that she would rather not drive her car in case she had an epileptic seizure, even though she would be allowed to by the DVLA.
For some people the impact of their disability upon their life and the life of their family is profound, bringing with it many life-changing implications. For Liz this included moving house, then meant she needed a car to get in to work.
Having a long term health condition or disability can mean a lot of healthcare costs, most often funded by the NHS. However, like glasses which the NHS funds, the assistive equipment the NHS provides does not always meet the needs of its users. In such circumstances disabled people have to find the resources to purchase the equipment and aids that they need, some of which can be very expensive. For some people with long term conditions they have found that various supportive treatments and therapies, from attending a gym to seeing therapists, can relieve pain and support their working lives.