What is Access to Work?
The government funds specialist disability support in the workplace for many people who need support or adaptations outside of that required under the Equality Act - this funding is called Access to Work.
This support is available for many people who have difficulties in the workplace as a result of their health or disability, and ensures both employees and employers have access to the correct advice and support with additional costs where eligible.
Access to Work is there to provide support for you with either starting your own business or support at interviews and then staying in work if you have a disability, health or mental health condition. The exact support you will be awarded and how much you get will depend on your specific needs and circumstances, along with the size of the employer. This does not require paying back.
The type of support you could receive:
The support you can get is dependent on your specific needs and circumstances, but it includes things such as:
- adaptations to the equipment you use
- specialist equipment
- contributions to travel costs to work if you can’t use public transport
- a support worker or job coach to support you in your workplace
- Specialist support from a tutor or mentor if you have a specific learning difficulty (such as Dyslexia, Dyscalculia or Dyspraxia) or a mental health condition
- disability awareness training for your line manager/colleagues
- a communicator at a job interview
- the cost of moving your equipment if you change location or job.
Who can apply for Access to work?
This support is available to many people who are either in employment (paid or self-employed), about to start work, either starting their own business or entering work experience through the Youth Contract / if eligible. It is available across the country (Access to Work in England, Scotland or Wales, Access to Work NI in Northern Ireland)
"The support can be used to help in a variety of ways, including starting a job, staying in employment and reducing absence from work"
In order to qualify for the support, your ability to perform to your full potential in the job must be affected by your condition, or it must incur costs for that work, for at least 12 months. As an example, a job aide is required around the office or you have to take a taxi as you are unable to use public transport.
If you have a mental health condition or a specific learning difficulty, this must be impacting you in your job. The support can be used to help in a variety of ways, including starting a job, staying in employment and reducing absence from work.
Not everyone is eligible for this support, and if you receive any of the following benefits then you can’t receive Access to Work support.
- Incapacity benefit
- Employment and Support allowance
- Severe disablement allowance
- Income support
- National Insurance credits
If you change employers, you are free to move the support to your new employer.
Starting a new business
If you are looking at setting your own business up, you can utilise Access to Work at the same time. This can be used alongside the New Enterprise Allowance support that is provided by the government to help in setting up a business.
How to Claim
If you wish to apply for this support, you need to contact the Access to Work centre. They will send you out an application form to fill in and return to them. Once they’ve received this, an Adviser will be in touch to speak with you. They will also need to speak with someone at the company you work for, usually a line manager. They will assess your needs to look at what support to recommend for you, usually done over the phone, and submit this assessment to Jobcentre plus for approval.
On some occasions, you may require specialist advice when the Adviser is assessing your needs. If this is required, your adviser will help setting this up. Once this has been done, the specialist will send a confidential written report to your adviser, who then uses this information to recommend the appropriate support for you.
Once your support has been approved, a letter will be sent out to you and your employer with details of what support has been agreed for you to access. Your employer and you are responsible for arranging any specialist support, and any assistive technology the employer will need to buy and claim reimbursement from Access to Work.
Having read this, if you feel you are eligible for the support and wish to start receiving support, here are the steps you need to follow:
- contact either the Access to Work centre or your local Jobcentre Plus.
- use the Access to Work eligibility letter saved under useful docs on the Access to Work website
- make a list of the difficulties you have in the workplace so when you are contacted by an adviser, you can be sure you cover everything with them.
In order for Access to Work to be able to provide support, they will need some information from you, including:
- your National Insurance number
- your workplace address, including your postcode
- the name, email address and work phone number of a workplace contact (for example your manager)
- the name of your New Enterprise Allowance mentor (if you have one).