What is the Access to Work Scheme? 

A young female employee smiling at her female boss in an office, with a laptop sitting on the desk in front of them.

The government’s Access to Work (AtW) scheme is a grant-making opportunity that enables people with disabilities to achieve their potential at work. People with disabilities face barriers to employment and Access to Work helps them overcome them with practical, government-funded support. 

In a recent podcast from AbilityNet, Accessibility and Usability Consultant Adi Latif explained how Access to Work has provided him with screen readers since 2005. And by offering people with disabilities extra support to do their jobs, Access to Work is helping up to 40,000 people increase their productivity every year.   

In this post, we’ll explain more about the Access to Work scheme and how to apply for funds.

The Landscape for Employees with Disabilities

People with disabilities face a range of barriers to employment. So, let’s first share some stats to illustrate the problem: 

  • The Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that people with disabilities are around 30% less likely to be employed than their non-disabled peers.
  • A further ONS study suggests digital exclusion is preventing around 15% of adults with disabilities from using the internet.
  • The government’s report, ‘Shaping Future Support: The Health and Disability Green Paper’, revealed how 30% of 16-64 year-olds have a long-term health condition and 20% experience disability. 
  • The Access to Work Scheme has low take-up. Reports show 4.4 million people with disabilities were in employment in the second quarter of 2021. 
  • The government reached its target of getting another 1 million disabled people into work in 2022. This was five years ahead of its 2027 target.  
  • The WHO suggests 2.5 billion people around the globe need at least one assistive technology product

Access to Work Definition

Access to Work is a government-based grant-making scheme that funds practical workplace support for people with disabilities or those with physical and mental health conditions. It gives people with disabilities the chance to work more effectively through funded interventions.

What Type of Support is Available?

Grants of up to £62,900 per year are available to new employees with a disability who’ve been in their role for up to 6 weeks. They can access support in two ways:

  • Assessments: This strand reviews potential workplace barriers and makes recommendations to overcome them. 
  • Elements: This strand offers supplementary provisions that meet specific individual needs. Elements go beyond the employer’s mandatory requirement to provide ‘reasonable adjustments’. 

Examples of available support include the following: 

  • Equipment: Assistive technology to help people with dyslexia, noise-cancelling headphones for people with ADHD, screen-readers, specialized chairs, digital filters that improve concentration. 
  • Adaptations: Alterations to working environments or premises, workplace awareness training.  
  • Job aids: Digital flowcharts, Kanban planners, checklists, or step-by-step guides. 
  • Support workers: One-on-one coaches, personal assistants, workplace mental health support, BSL interpreters. 
  • Transportation costs: Taxis or fares if there’s no public transport available.  
  • Pre-employment and in-work support: Internships, apprenticeships, and work experience for up to 8 weeks per year. 

Access to Work can also pay for a workplace needs assessment. Assessors review the possible changes your employer could make to offer applicants better access or support in the workplace.

Who Can Apply for Support From Access to Work?

Anyone over the age of 16 who identifies with the Equality Act 2010 definition of disability and lives in England, Scotland, or Wales should be eligible for support. The scheme applies to employed people but it’s also available to self-employed and Directors of businesses. It isn’t means-tested and getting a grant won’t affect other benefits. You can claim if you work from home and won’t need to repay it. But employers may need to pay some costs, depending on their company size. 

It’s also worth noting that applicants do not need an official diagnosis to apply for AtW funding. You will need to disclose your disability to your employers and present detailed information about how your condition affects your work. But gaining funding doesn’t depend on proving a medical diagnosis. You will need to explain how you’re restricted from carrying out your job and what you think you might need to do it.

What’s the Process for Application?

The Access to Work customer journey falls into roughly eight stages: 

  1. Application: You can apply online or by contacting the Access to Work helpline on 0800 121 7479 between 9am and 5pm.   
  2. Approval or Rejection: It’s important to be clear on your support requirements. If you’re not sure, the DWP may ask you to undergo an assessment. 
  3. Decision: DWP will notify you of any grant they’ll offer and the areas your funding will support. 
  4. Commissioning: Applicants or employers can use the grant to deploy the agreed intervention and submit the relevant invoices to the DWP. 
  5. Receipt: The applicant receives notification of any approved funding. 
  6. Payment: The DWP pays invoices. 
  7. Review: DWP may review the effectiveness of the intervention to ensure it meets your needs. 
  8. Renewal: Once the process is complete, applicants can apply to renew their support. 

To help you understand more about the process, this video by disabled Vlogger Estellosaurs highlights her personal experience in claiming Access to Work support.

Access to Work Can Help You Gain Access to Caption.Ed

The Access to Work grant offers valuable funding for anyone with a disability who needs extra support to do their job. It’s a government scheme aimed at giving more people with disabilities the chance to flourish in their work.

Assistive technology like Caption.Ed is available through the Access to Work scheme. And it’s helping many individuals to excel at work. If you’re eligible for the Access to Work scheme, you can order Caption.Ed from our team. And if you’re exploring the best ways to support your needs, we’d love to hear from you. Our team is on hand to answer any questions and explain how our assistive captioning technology could help you. 

Customer story: Caption.Ed has enhanced my life and 100% increased my productivity". Read case study.