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Access to work

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Disability Rights UK Factsheet F27

1.What is Access to Work?

Access to Work is a government programme aimed at supporting disabled people to take up or remain in work. Access to Work is a discretionary grant scheme that provides personalised support to disabled people who are:

  • in paid employment
  • self-employed
  • apprentices
  • trainees
  • supported interns
  • doing self-directed work experience
  • on Jobcentre Plus promoted work trials
  • going to a job interview

You can also apply if you have:

  • a job offer letter
  • a job start date
  • a letter confirming your interview

There have been changes to Access to Work due to the coronavirus outbreak.

2.Who can get help?

You can get help if you:

  • are disabled, have a mental health condition or have a long-term health condition that impacts on your ability to work;  
  • are aged 16 or over; and
  • live in England, Scotland or Wales - there’s a different system in Northern Ireland

‘Disabled’ has the same meaning as in the Equality Act 2010. This defines disability as 'a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on [your] ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities'.

Disabled can also include disabilities that only become apparent in the workplace. An example of this might be where you started work and found that your eyesight was affected by computer screens but had not noticed this problem before you started work.

3. What help is available?

Access to Work support covers a wide range of interventions beyond ‘reasonable adjustments’ associated with overcoming work-related barriers resulting from disability. The support package is agreed based on individual need.

Examples of the kind of help available through Access to Work are:

  • A communicator, advocate or BSL interpreter for a job interview, if you’re D/deaf or have communication difficulties
  • A support worker, such as a reader for somebody with a visual impairment; communicator for a D/deaf person; a specialist job coach for a person with a learning difficulty; or a helper for personal care needs at work
  • Specialist equipment (or alterations to existing equipment) to suit your particular need.
  • Help towards the additional costs of taxi fares if you cannot use public transport to get to work
  • Support via Access to Work’s dedicated Mental Health Support Service (see 4 below).

Young people who start a work placement with an employer as part of the Department for Education supported internship programme or a traineeship will be able to apply for Access to Work support for the time of their work placement only.

Access to Work will fund additional travel, job coach and other support, including costs of equipment if appropriate, and promote the smooth transition into paid employment.

No other types of unpaid internships or traineeships will qualify for Access to Work support.

4. Help available for people with long-term mental health conditions

A free and confidential 'Mental Health Support Service' is available to anyone with a mental health condition through Access to Work.

The scheme offers:

  • Work-focused mental health support for up to nine months tailored to your needs
  • An assessment of your needs to identify suitable coping strategies
  • A personalised support plan, detailing the steps needed for you to remain in, or return to, work
  • Ideas for adjustments in the workplace or of working practice

Support for Apprentices:

This free service supports apprentices who are feeling low, upset and struggling to keep up with their apprenticeship. It is completely confidential and run by fully trained professionals with expertise in mental health.

To qualify for this service, you must:

  • be in an apprenticeship (attending or signed off sick); and
  • have a mental health condition that has resulted in absence, or is causing difficulties to remain in your apprenticeship

What help is available?

  • An expert will provide you with emotional well-being support and advice for nine months;
  • they will help you to cope better so you can concentrate on your apprenticeship;
  • develop a step-by-step support plan to keep you on track;
  • advise on workplace adjustments; and
  • help an employer understand how they can best support you if you are experiencing a mental health condition.

How to access the supporting apprentices scheme:

5. Amount of grants

There is no set amount for an Access to Work grant. How much you get depends on your specific case. The grant will only cover the support needed to let you stay in work or in self-employment.

There is an annual cap on the total amount of support that can be provided under Access to Work; this is currently set at £60,700.

Access to Work will pay 100 per cent of the approved costs (subject to the cap):

  • for travel to work, for a support worker/reader or a communicator for support at job interviews;
  • if you are unemployed and starting a new job;
  • if you have been working for an employer and have been in the job for less than six weeks; or
  • if you are self-employed or setting up your own business through the New Enterprise Allowance.

If you have been in your job for six weeks or more when you first apply for help, Access to Work will pay a proportion of the costs of support as follows: (As the employer, you will contribute 100% of costs up to the threshold level and 20% of the costs between the threshold and £10,000.

  • Employers with less than 50 staff: Access to Work can pay 80% of the approved costs.
  • Employers with 50 to 249 staff:  The employer will have to pay the first £500 and Access to Work can then pay 80% of the approved costs up to £10,000.
  • Large employers with 250 or more staff: The employer will have to pay the first £1,000 and Access to Work can then pay 80% of the approved costs up to £10,000.

Access to Work would normally cover all additional costs over £10,000, subject to the cap. 

6. What Access to work cannot cover

The Equality Act 2010 places a duty on an employer to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees. Access to Work funding cannot be used to support these adjustments.

Access to work will also not fund items which are regarded as standard equipment, standard business costs or standard health and safety requirements. This means that any item which would normally be needed to do the job, whether a person is disabled or not, will not be paid for. 

7. Students

If you need communication help for a job interview before graduation, you should be able to access this service, even though you’re still studying.

If you have a disability or specific learning difficulty and are studying in higher education, you may be eligible for Disabled Students' Allowances

8. Employers and Access to Work

When you’re applying for jobs, you should mention to your potential employer, either at the application stage or in your interview, that Access to Work may be available to you.

Access to Work information for employers is available at www.gov.uk/government/publications/access-to-work-guide-for-employers

Access to Work also has an eligibility letter, which you can give to your employer or take to a job interview. 

9. How to apply?

You can apply online.

Telephone: 0800 121 7479 

Textphone: 0800 121 7579 
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm 
Find out about call charges 

British Sign Language (BSL) video relay service

To use this, you must:

Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Alternative formats

Call the Access to Work number to ask for alternative formats, such as braille, large print or audio CD.

If you need an alternative way of contacting Access to Work to discuss your needs, you can write to:

Access to Work
Operational Support Unit
Harrow Jobcentre Plus
Mail Handling Site A
WV98 1JE  

Supported Internships and Traineeships

The application process for those on supported internships and traineeships wishing to apply to Access to Work includes:

  • The provision for a supported employment provider to make an application on behalf of an education provider (education providers can still make the claim if they would like to do so)
  • One placement per month for each student
  • The ability to make applications up to three months in advance. 

For a flowchart setting out who may be eligible for Access to Work funding and the form for applying for Access to Work funding go to:


Completed applications should be sent to the dedicated Access to Work team at: Atwosu.london@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands

You cannot get Access to Work support if you live in the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands. There is a different system in Northern Ireland. 


Access to Work uses a specific medical form in connection with claims for travel to work. The form can be completed by someone who knows you well, giving a clear indication why you need support with travel to work. Once completed, this then needs to be signed by a medical professional to verify that the information is accurate. This could be your GP, Practice Nurse, Psychiatrist, Psychologist or Learning Disability Nurse, but it can’t be signed by a non-medical person such as Social Worker or Support worker. 

10. How long is Access to Work funding available for?

Access to Work funding agreements can cover up to three years. Reviews normally take place annually to assess if continued or further funding is needed. As long as you need the funding, you should continue to get it. 

11. What if I disagree with an Access to Work decision?

You cannot appeal against an Access to Work decision, but you can ask for it to be reconsidered by a different Access to Work Adviser. To arrange this, use the contact details at the top of your award letter.

If your circumstances change – such as if you change employer or your job role - you can ask for your award to be reviewed.

If you have a complaint about the service you have received from Access to Work staff, you can use the DWP complaints procedure

12. Where can I get more help or information?

For general information on Access to Work, go to www.gov.uk/access-to-work

See also DWP's Access to Work factsheet for customers, staff guidance and statistics.

For answers to some questions, please see our Question and Answer session

This factsheet is a basic overview of the access to work scheme. You can find out more detailed information in our Disability Rights Handbook. This and all our other publications are available from our shop. You can also place orders by contacting Disability Rights UK.

You can get help and information at your local advice centre, such as Citizens Advice. You can get more information about where to get personal advice from our Factsheet F15 - Getting advice. All our factsheets are free to download.

September 2021