Find Your Way through Access to Work

We know that the Access to Work process can be a bit daunting at first. But we’re here to provide you with the knowledge and support you need to get up and running with your Access to Work support as quickly and easily as possible.

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What is Access to Work?

Access to Work (AtW) is a support system that funds practical support to break down the barriers you may face in accessing work. If you are disabled or have a disability, learning difference or health condition (including the long-term effects of COVID-19 and/or a mental health condition) Access to Work is designed to help you start work, stay in work, move into self-employment or start your own business.

It’s completely tailored to you and your individual needs, and will make sure you have all the reasonable adjustments you need to reach your full potential at work.

Access to Work offers support which can include a grant to help cover the costs of practical support in the workplace. Access to Work is about providing you with support that will enable you to achieve your best and mitigate barriers you may encounter in the workplace.

What support does Access to Work fund?

Because the recommendations of support are completely tailored to you and your specific needs, there’s no set amount for the grant. It’s all about your circumstances and how the support could enable you within the workplace. You could be recommended support in the following areas:

  • an interpreter or other support at a job interview
  • aid and equipment in the workplace
  • adaptations to equipment to make it easier for you to use
  • money towards any extra travel costs to and from work, and money towards any extra costs for travel costs within work
  • a wide variety of support workers
  • the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service
  • other practical help at work, such as a Job Coach or a Sign Language Interpreter
  • disability awareness training for your colleagues
  • the cost of moving your equipment if you change location or job

You may also be supported through the Access to Work process to develop a bespoke workplace support plan, sometimes alongside your employer on suggested reasonable adjustments your employer could make.

Examples of common assistance from Access to Work to develop a support plan include:

  • flexible working patterns to accommodate changes in mood and impact of medication
  • providing a mentor to give additional support at work
  • arranging additional time to complete certain tasks
  • providing additional training
  • regular meetings between you and your employee to talk about your concerns
  • changes to your workloads, such as reduced hours or less days

It’s important to note that Access to Work provides a grant –  currently capped at £62,900 per year – and doesn’t provide the support directly, but may instead work with your employer or a 3rd party service provider and covers the costs (your employer may be asked to contribute towards some of the costs depending on their circumstances).

How can I get support from Access to Work?

The most important thing is to apply. This starts the process, and once the Access to Work team at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) know you’re interested in getting Access to Work support, they’ll guide you through the rest of the process. You’ll be assigned an  advisor who will contact you and talk through the information that they need to continue your application. Your Administrator, Occupational Health professional or HR advisor may also be able to support you through the process too!

The process in itself is straightforward. We’ll take you through every step so you know exactly what you need to do and when.

How do I apply?

The best way to apply is online. The Access to Work online application is quick and straightforward, and takes you through every step of the process. However, there are multiple ways you can apply, so choose the option that is most accessible to you.

  1. Apply online
  2. Apply by phone (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
    • Telephone: 0800 121 7479
    • Textphone: 0800 121 7579
    • Relay UK (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 121 7479
  3. Apply via BSL video relay service (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
  4. If you require an alternative format (such as braille, large print, or audio CD) you can call the Access to Work number to request it

What will I need?

When you apply, it’ll be handy to have the following information available:

  • your National Insurance number
  • the address of your workplace, including postcode
  • the name, email address and work phone number of a workplace contact, for example this could be your line manager or administrator

A helpful note if you are considering starting your own practice or business within the sector (or in the future),  Access to Work may need the following information:

  • a unique tax reference number (self-employed)
  • the name of your New Enterprise Allowance mentor (if you have one)
  • a business case showing your new practice/business is financially sustainable

Provide them with your contact details. An Access to Work Advisor will call you within 7 working days. They will go through the eligibility criteria with you and have a “fact finding” discussion with you to establish what your barriers in the workplace are and what kind of support might be available.

 

 

Should I tell my employer I’m applying for Access to Work?

If you haven’t already discussed your Access to Work application with your employer, Administrator or line manager, it’s worth doing so now.

Sharing information about your disability and advocating for your support can be a daunting prospect. There’s no right or wrong way of approaching it because it will depend on the nature of your disability, your relationship with your employer, the reason for support, and many other factors.

If it helps, you can show your employer this Access to Work eligibility letter to outline what Access to Work is and what might be required of them in the process.

Still worried? Check out our NHS video series, where we talk through all things disclosure and discuss how useful accessing the support can be.

What evidence will I need for my Access to Work grant?

DWP break down the eligibility criteria for accessing the support on their website. 

In most cases, Access to Work will not ask to see evidence to support your claim. However, in some cases they may do so. For example, if you are disabled or have a disability, learning difference or health condition (includinh the long-term effects of COVID-19 and/or a mental health condition) and experience barriers in travelling to work, Access to Work may ask for a letter from your doctor or consultant to decide if you are eligible for Travel to Work support.

Remember that all of this can happen once you’ve started your application. The first and most important stage is to let the DWP know that you’d like to access the support. They will let you know if you are not eligible to receive the support, so don’t let the fact that you are unsure if you’ll be eligible or not put you off applying now.

How will I be assessed for my Access to Work support?

Once Access to Work have all your evidence and information, they will authorise a workplace needs assessment, also known as a holistic workplace assessment.

This involves an assessor either visiting you in the workplace or speaking with you over the phone, depending on your needs.

The assessor will ask you lots of questions to help them establish the barriers you face and the types of support that could enable you in the workplace. They will then create a report of all their recommendations for you. This will be called your needs assessment report, or holistic workplace assessment report. Your assessor will send this back to your Access to Work advisor for evaluation.

You and your employer will then receive a letter which states what funding you will be awarded.

What will happen in my assessment?

Your assessment isn’t a test or exam for you; it’s about working out what support will work best for you.

It will be confidential and conducted in a relaxed, informal and supportive environment by assessors with specialist experience supporting disabled people in the workplace. You will have the opportunity to talk through your needs, your past experiences, and any strategies you’ve developed to address challenges.

Once your assessor has identified the challenges you face, they will propose the support that could benefit you.

The challenges may include, but are not limited to:

  • Reading printed material
  • Writing, such as writing emails or longer written work
  • Taking notes in meetings or appointments
  • Speaking such as using a phone, face-to-face or in groups
  • Hearing
  • Practical aspects of your job
  • Accessing essential resources such as reference documents or case reports
  • Communication
  • Social situations
What do I need to bring with me to the assessment?

The assessment will either take place by phone or in your workplace. It may be helpful to make a short list of things you find challenging, so you remember to discuss them during your assessment.

You might want to consider:

  • What kind of support did you receive at university? If you receive(d) DSA support, it may be helpful to look through your DSA needs assessment report and have it with you.
  • Is there something you’ve struggled with in the past but never had addressed?
  • Are there aspects of this job that are new to you, or you might struggle with?
  • What kind of work do you do on a daily basis? What do you find takes you a long time, or makes you feel stressed?

If your assessment is held face-to-face, your assessor may ask to see your working set-up such as your desk, chair and office environment.

How long will my assessment take?

We recommend allowing up to 2 hours for the assessment, but they are often completed sooner.

How will I receive my Access to Work support?

There are a few steps to take to ensure you receive all of your Access to Work support.

Firstly, you will receive a letter from DWP. This will contain your Assessment Report, which details everything you discussed in your assessment, and a letter confirming your grant has been approved. Here’s an example of that letter.

You will need to do the following:

  1. Keep a note of the support start and end dates, which is on the second page of your letter. Here’s an example of what that will look like.
    • You need to make sure you order all of your equipment and organise your support before the end date listed on your letter. This will ensure your employer is able to claim the funding for your support from Access to Work.
  2. Wait until you or your employer receive a letter or email from Access to Work containing your claim forms. This is something for your employer to fill out, so you don’t need to worry too much about it, but it’s important you have these forms before you begin arranging your support.

Once you have completed all of these steps, you’re ready to arrange your support!

Now it is then down to you and your NHS Trust (or other employer) to order/arrange the support. Your employer will need to purchase any equipment and arrange payment for any other support you have been awarded a grant for. You will probably need to liaise with your HR department or equivalent in your Trust to get this arranged.

The recommendations in your needs assessment are exactly that, recommendations. If there is a product or service provider akin to the one budgeted for in your Access to Work grant, which you would prefer to use, your choice will usually be honored. You may be able to use these funds towards the product/service of your choice. However, it is likely that you will need to “price-match” as the cost may not be reimbursed if it is above the original quote Access to Work agreed. It’s always worth checking with Access to Work before purchasing anything.

Your NHS Trust (or other employer) will need to contact Access to Work for reimbursement of most of the costs, but they will be expected to make some contribution on your behalf:

Organisation Size Contribution
1-49 Employees £0
50-249 Employees First £500, then 20% of anything up to £10,000
250+ Employees First £1000, then 20% of anything up to £10,000

Any costs over £10,000 are covered by Access to Work. They will also reimburse your employer for some support in full, no matter the size of your organisation (for example strategy coaching and skills training).

Support is usually provided in the workplace so that it remains relevant to your work environment and your day to day tasks. You will be able to book sessions with your coach/trainer at times that suit you, whether that’s during the working day or after work.

Moving trusts

You may at some point move between two NHS Trusts, whether that is during your foundation years or your career. When moving between trusts, it can sometimes be a daunting experience to know if you can transfer your equipment/adjustments with you. Good news: you certainly can!

If you are in your F1 or F2 years and know you will be moving between Trusts, you should discuss with your supervisor(s) and administrator(s) as soon as possible to put a strategy in place for navigating those transitions. Whilst any Access to Work support your Trust paid for is their property, transferring the property between two NHS employers should be a common reasonable adjustment to support you in your training. Due to the tight timings during your F1 and F2 years, getting a strategy in place ahead of time will help ensure you do not face any challenges during your transition.

Transferring Support Workers or Travel Support

Access to Work awards for support workers or travel support provided by Access to Work can’t automatically transfer between your employers, and you must contact Access to Work to discuss putting in new support arrangements.

 

You can contact the Access to Work helpline:

Telephone: 0800 121 7479

Textphone: 0800 121 7579

Relay UK (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 121 7479

Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Glossary of key terms and acronyms

Throughout the Access to Work process, you may encounter some new abbreviations and acronyms. Here are some of the commonly used ones:

AS Autistic Spectrum
AT Assistive Technology
AtW Access to Work
ATSP Assistive Technology Service Provider
DWP Department for Work and Pensions
HA Holistic Assessment – this is a different name for your Needs Assessment
HAR Holistic Assessment Report- this is a different name for your Needs Assessment Report
MH Mental Health
NA Needs Assessment
NAR Needs Assessment Report
NMH Non-medical Help
SpLD Specific Learning Difference
URN Unique Reference Number