Access to Work scheme

This page provides information about the Government Access to Work scheme.

For more detailed information on the scheme, please see our factsheet below.

What is Access to Work?

Access to Work (AtW) is a scheme run by Jobcentre Plus. The scheme provides advice and practical support to disabled people to enable them to work along-side their colleagues.

Am I eligible for help through Access to Work?

If you have a disability and are in a job, about to start in a job, about to start a Work Trial or are self-employed (and registered with HMRC), AtW could benefit you. It applies to any paid job, part-time or full-time, permanent or temporary. There are no minimum number of hours for eligibility for support under the scheme.

If your disability or health condition affects the type of work you do, and it is likely to last for 12 months or longer, contact your regional AtW contact centre to check your eligibility for the scheme. Your disability or health condition may not have a big effect on what you do each day, but may have a long-term effect on how well you can do your job.

Unemployed or employed disabled people needing help with a communicator at a job interview can also get help through AtW.

What type of help is provided through Access to Work?

Access to Work can help you in a number of ways. For example, it can help pay for:

  • adaptations to premises and equipment
  • special aids and equipment
  • support workers
  • travel to work where there is no practical public transport alternative, and travel within work
  • awareness training for your colleagues.

How will my needs be assessed?

An AtW Adviser will normally phone you at your place of work, or on the number you have provided. They will then need to know more about your situation and your needs. It is important to give some consideration to the challenges you face so that your needs can be fully assessed. The Adviser may also need to discuss the application with your employer to enable them to arrive at the most effective provision.

It is essential that specialist or technical advice is obtained. The AtW Adviser can arrange for a specialist contractor, such as RNIB or Action for Blind People, to visit you at work to complete an assessment and recommend appropriate support. A written and confidential report will be sent to the AtW Adviser, who will use the information to help them to decide on the level of support that can be approved. You do not have the right to see this report at this stage, however, if you would like a copy of the assessment report you should contact the AtW Adviser to request one be sent to you in your preferred format.

In some cases, if you know what equipment you want, you can apply for it over the phone. However, in most cases we would strongly recommend a formal assessment, as a qualified assessor might be able to identify solutions that you are not aware of. A formal assessment should always be done in person, rather than over the phone.

Before the assessment you should think about your job, what tasks you are required to do and how your disability impacts upon them. This should ensure that you can fully input into the process of assessing your needs at work.

How long will it take to get the help needed?

Access to Work aims to arrange the help needed in the shortest possible time. The length of time taken for the process varies depending on individual circumstance. However, if there is any delay the AtW Adviser should explore temporary alternatives, for example a support worker.

Who will buy the help needed?

Once the assessment process has been completed the AtW Adviser will send a letter confirming the amount of grant they approve. The AtW Adviser may discuss your needs with you and your employer to agree what help can be provided through Access to Work. The AtW Adviser may ask your employer to obtain quotes in order to arrive at the approved cost. It is the employer's (or self-employed person's) responsibility to purchase and provide the support required and then to reclaim the cost from AtW.

Please note that your employer should not purchase any items until AtW has notified you both that they have approved the agreed support.

How much is the Access to Work grant?

AtW pays a percentage of the total cost of approved support depending on how long you have been employed, what support is needed, whether or not there is any business benefit, or whether you are self-employed.

Access to Work pays up to 100 per cent of the approved costs for:

  • unemployed people starting a job
  • all self-employed people
  • employers with less than 10 staff
  • people working for an employer with more than 10 staff but who have been in the job for less than 6 weeks
  • people changing jobs with a new employer.

Whatever the employment status of the applicant, Access to Work pays up to 100 per cent of the approved costs of help with:

  • support workers
  • communicator support at an interview
  • travel to work (above the normal costs).

For people working for an employer who have been in the job for 6 weeks or more and who need special equipment or adaptations to premises, AtW pays a proportion of the costs of support, to be shared with the employer as follows:

  • Less than 50 staff - AtW can pay up to 100 per cent of costs
  • 50 to 249 staff - AtW can pay up to 80 per cent of costs above the first £500 up to £10,000
  • 250 staff plus - AtW can pay up to 80 per cent of costs above the first £1000 up to £10,000
  • AtW currently cover all additional costs over £10,000 but from 1 October 2015 your Access to Work grant will be capped at £40,800 per year:
    - on 1 October 2015 for all new grants given after that date
    - on 1 April 2018 for all grants given before 1 October 2015

In all cases, AtW may seek more than the minimum contribution from the employer, where there is general benefit to the employer and/or individual seeking help.

If you are changing jobs but staying with the same employer you should contact the Operational Support Unit to discuss whether your employer has to pay a contribution or not.

Either you or your employer may be asked by AtW for an additional voluntary contribution to the cost of equipment. This is voluntary and your entitlement to support will not be changed should you choose not to pay it.

For self employed people or those considering self-employment, from October 2015 eligibility will be based around the Universal Credit rules. It will allow a reasonable period for businesses to be established. It is understood that specialist teams have been set up within the DWP to offer support and advice to people with disabilities who want to run their own businesses.

How to apply for Access to Work

You should contact the Operational Suppprt Unit directly. Details can be found at the bottom of this page.

What will the AtW Adviser need to know?

There are actions that you can take to help the AtW Adviser deal with the application quickly. Do not wait until you have started your new job before asking for help. The sooner AtW knows about the request for support, the more time they will have to get help ready for when you start.

The AtW Adviser will need some detailed information and it will help if you can ask your employer for the following details:

  • A job description for the new job.
  • Your expected start date.
  • Contact details for your line manager.
  • Contact details for your employer's information technology specialist.
  • Contact details for the person who will authorise the purchase and cost sharing.

Starting the claim process

Contact the AtW Operational Support Unit. The Operational Support Unit will take an initial application over the phone and advise you that they will pass your application on to an Access to Work adviser. 
They will need:
  • to check your eligibility 
  • your National Insurance number
  • your workplace address, including your postcode
  • the name, email address and work phone number of a workplace contact, eg your manager
  • your unique tax reference number (if you’re self-employed)
  • the name of your New Enterprise Allowance mentor (if you have one)
  • brief details of your application.
It is important at this initial contact stage to state your preferred format so the advisers are able to meet your stated communication needs. It can also be helpful to consider the key issues at this stage and to explain the difficulties/challenges you are facing, as this will help ensure that all your needs relating to your job are addressed at the assessment. 
You will be contacted by an Access to Work adviser within 7 working days and you will be asked to provide a contact number.  Ideally try to ensure you are available within this period. It is important to provide details of any dates/or times in the following 7 days when you know you will not be available. Up to 3 attempts will be made to contact you on the number you provide and the Adviser may leave a message or send a letter/email to say they have tried to contact you. It is possible you could be contacted at more unusual times including evenings and weekends.


An assessor will come out to your workplace in order to determine exactly what you require to access your work; this can be an AtW Officer, an external contractor or an RNIB/Action employment specialist.

You can get the most out of any assessment by thinking about all the aspects of your job beforehand. Try to identify all the areas where your disability affects your work. This can be hard if you are starting a new job, but if your needs change you can always go back to AtW to ask for further help.


There should always be a formal report as a result of an assessment. This is sent to AtW outlining the results of the assessment and will contain the necessary information to enable the AtW Adviser to reach a decision regarding the application. If no on-site assessment has taken place, the assessor can produce a formal document, or you can supply a letter containing the necessary information (that is, what you require, who manufacturers it and how much it costs).

Agreeing support and costs

The AtW Adviser will present a final figure of necessary costs to your employer, and then the split of costs between the two agencies will be agreed. (Maximum coverage of costs by AtW is up to 100 per cent).

Authority to proceed and purchase

AtW will provide written permission to your employer, which will include their final agreed contribution.


Your employer is free to purchase the equipment as soon as permission has been granted. They can then apply for reimbursement of AtW's agreed contribution with supplied documentation. Either yourself or your employer may be asked by AtW for an additional voluntary contribution to the cost of equipment. This is voluntary, and your entitlement to support will not be changed should you choose not to pay it.

Travel to work and travel in work costs are rarely funded up front, and the cost of employing a support worker is not always funded by employers. In most cases you will be required to finance the costs of transport and support workers and then claim this money back from AtW.

Set up, installation and training

The costs of these elements will have been outlined in your report, and your employer can apply for reimbursement of the AtW contribution to these through supplied documentation.

Ownership, repairs and insurance

The equipment that you use is the responsibility of, and is owned by, your employer. Agreements will be made between all involved parties if you wish to purchase the equipment, or move it to your next place of employment. Access to Work will not pay for repairs or insurance under any circumstances.

Does it really work?

There are many blind and partially sighted people working in a range of jobs throughout the UK, some of which may not have been as easy or even possible to do without the support available through the Access to Work scheme. Take a look at Steve's story or Margaret's story and find out how Access to Work helped them.

Contacting Access to Work

In order to make an Access to Work claim you should contact the following preferably by telephone, or email.

Access to Work Operational Support Unit

Telephone: 0345 268 8489 or 0845 268 8489

Textphone: 0345 608 8753 or 0845 608 8753


Postal address:

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

We're here to help

Our Helpline is your direct line to the support, advice, and products you need to face the future with confidence. If you or someone you know has a sight problem, our specialist advice workers can help.

Contact Us