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Access to Work: A Guide for the Arts and Cultural Sector

*Covid-19 update taken verbatim from Access to Work’s recorded phone line as of 9/4/20*

Due to the outbreak of Coronavirus, our opening times are now 9am to 5pm Monday – Friday.

At this difficult time, the DWP is working to insure Access to Work customers receive their payments.

If you’ve made a new application to Access to Work, we’ll process these in priority order, starting with customers who are in key worker groups.

If you’ve applied to renew your Access to Work grant, you do not have to do anything, we will automatically extend your current award and we will send you a letter to confirm this.

You can apply for an Access to Work grant or renew an existing grant online (as normal).

Listen to this page:

What is Access to Work?

Access to Work is a resource that helps to create a more accessible work environment. It provides grants to remove barriers that disabled people face in undertaking paid employment. Disability Arts Online has written this guide to interpret the Access to Work rules and official guidance with specific advice for the arts and cultural sector.

Group of disabled people in procession performance

Graeae Theatre Company. This Is Not For You. Photo by Dawn McNamara

There are many different types of work within the sector, artists and creatives tend to be self-employed and those working for organisations are usually employees. That’s why this guide has three main sections: one for employers, one for employees or prospective employees and one specifically for self-employed people.

The guide also contains a glossary and several downloadable resource sheets which can be found in the menu on the right-hand side of the page (or bottom of the page on mobile).


Each of the main sections include:

There are downloadable pdf and word versions of the entire guide on the resources page.

As with the rest of the website, a high contrast mode can be applied to the guide by clicking the high contrast button in the uppermost top left section of every page.

For the purpose of this guide, following the social model, we use the terms ‘disabled people’ and ‘disability’ to include anyone with any impairment type or long-term health condition who faces barriers. For the avoidance of doubt this includes D/deaf people, people who experience mental ill-health and people identifying as neurodivergent.

This Guide to Access to Work for the Arts and Cultural Sector was funded by Arts Council England, and fact-checked by the Department for Work and Pensions and Arts Council England in June 2019. Written content is updated every 6 months until September 2021.