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

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Access to Work is a Department for Work and Pensions fund which can help cover some of the extra costs of carrying out your job, or travelling to, from and during work because you’re disabled. There are three parts to this guide: one for self-employed people, one for employers and this one, which is for employees.

It covers Eligibility, What you can apply for, Application process and Managing monthly claims. For each section, we’ll also give you top tips from colleagues and organisations who employ people who get Access to Work. There is also a glossary for terms you may not be familiar with, or which require further explanation.

4 learning disabled dancers

Image for illustrative purposes only. Mind the Gap Inclusive Dance Company in Leeds 2017. Photo © Ant Robling


💡Top Tip: There is no list of conditions or impairments that are ineligible for Access to Work. So long as you face barriers doing your job, you can make the case for a grant. People with many different requirements get Access to Work from support for dyslexia, communication, mental health through to mobility assistance.

To get help you must be disabled or living with a long-term health condition which means you face barriers in getting to/from work and/or doing your job. You must also be 16 or over and there is no upper age limit. You must live and work in England, Scotland or Wales, there’s a different system in Northern Ireland. You can’t get Access to Work if you live in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

You need to have a paid job, or be about to start or return to one. There is no minimum earning limit (different rules apply if you are self-employed). A paid job generally means full or part-time paid work, whether permanent, casual or temporary (a standard PAYE job); but also could include:

💡Top Tip: If you’re currently looking for a job, you can also apply to Access to Work if you need communication support at interviews.
  • An apprenticeship.
  • A work trial arranged by Jobcentre Plus.
  • Up to 8 weeks unpaid work experience.
  • A Department for Education Supported Internship.
  • Self-employment (see separate guide).

You can’t get a grant for voluntary work or for when you are in training except for training related to your paid employment.

Wheelchar dancer

Performer Dave Toole, FRONTLINEdance. Photo: Eleanor Babb

If you get benefits these may affect whether you can get an Access to Work grant. If you are receiving Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income Support, you can still get help from Access to Work if you work more than one hour a week. You can get Access to Work if you’re on Employment Support Allowance if you are doing permitted work as agreed with Jobcentre Plus.

From 1 April 2018, all new applications are subject to a maximum annual award limit (cap) of twice the national average salary and the figure was set at £59,200. This figure is uprated annually in line with the average salary.

Painter's pallet

Painter’s colors on pallet. Image: Dejan Krsmanovic via Flickr used under (CC BY 2.0)

What you can apply for

Before you apply, talk to your employer about what reasonable adjustments they can make to meet your access requirements. You can apply for a grant from Access to Work to cover the additional costs, including equipment, travel and support workers.


Access to Work can help fund essential equipment that is needed for access reasons. This might include:

  • An induction loop.
  • A height-adjustable desk;
  • Mobility equipment (if not already provided by the NHS).

It can also fund adaptations to existing equipment such as installing speech-to-text software on your work computer and adapting your workstation. It will not fund standard equipment, standard business costs or anything related to health and safety requirements.

Man dancing as he signs

Image for illustrative purposes only. Deafinitely Theatre’s accessible theatre training scheme – The Hub; courtesy of Deafinitely Theatre. Photo by Becky Bailey

It will not fund standard work equipment like a standard desk and chair a non-disabled person would use, standard business costs or anything related to health and safety requirements.


If public transport is not accessible to you, Access to Work can help pay towards the cost of getting to and from work. For example, if a wheelchair user’s local train station does not have level access and there is no suitable bus service, Access to Work could fund the difference in price between a taxi and the train fare (if a taxi is the most cost-effective solution). You should make the case for the solution that is accessible for you.

If you already have a vehicle via the Motability scheme, you won’t receive additional support from Access to Work, unless that vehicle is unsuitable for travelling to and from work.

Access to Work can also pay towards the extra costs of travel during your working day (eg. travel to an external meeting), if public transport is not accessible to you. Your employer may be required to pay a contribution towards this.

Support Workers

💡Top Tip: Access to Work use certain terminology for the different types of support worker. You are much more likely to get the support you need if you use their language. If you want to get into the real nitty-gritty, you can also look at the Access to Work staff guide.

If your access requirements mean you need a support worker, Access to Work will consider funding this. The Access to Work support worker categories are:

  • sign-language interpreter
  • lip-speaker
  • note-taker
  • palantypist
  • personal reader
  • travel-buddy
  • counsellor
  • the Mental Health Support Service
  • driver
  • job coach
  • carer (paid PA)
  • job aide
Person hanging painting

Tony Heaton OBE at the NDACA Repository at Bucks. Thanks to

Access to Work will not pay for a support worker to give nursing or personal care. Support starts when you are ready to start the working day.

If you need to travel and stay away from home as part of your work, you can indicate the number of nights you will need to stay away for in a year during the application process. The costs of any applicable Travel to Work and support worker requirements can then be built into your award from the outset. This can include overnight stay fees for a support worker and their related accommodation and subsistence costs. If you do not include this in your original request you will have to make a new application for this type of support when you need to travel.

You can also apply for additional support worker hours to assist with monthly Access to Work claim forms.

💡Top Tips: If you do not know set dates of when you will need to travel away from home for work, it’s a good idea to work out an average for the year so you don’t have to put in continuous extra claims for individual trips.

If you get asked to provide a selection of quotes for support workers or taxi companies, and you have a preferred provider or support worker, make sure their quote is competitive with the other quotes you submit.

Application process

You can apply for Access to Work by online application form or:

Woman writing in notepad

Image by Marco Verch used under CC license:

There is no guarantee that Access to Work Staff will be familiar with your specific medical condition, impairment or access requirements. You should be able to clearly articulate your situation so that the advisor fully understands the barriers you face. It’s also useful to think about how best to describe the work you do, remembering that Access to Work staff will most likely have little knowledge of the arts and cultural sector. It’s a good idea to have a trusted friend or colleague to lean on for support throughout the process.

💡Top Tip: You can nominate a colleague to deal with Access to Work on your behalf. You’ll need to ask them to provide a ‘third-party permission form’ for you to fill in.

The stages of an Access to Work application:

  • Initial application form.
  • Access to Work adviser contacts you to discuss what help you could get.
  • Access to Work request additional information eg evidence from a medical professional.
  • With your permission, Access to Work may contact your employer to discuss the reasonable adjustments already made and the additional support you need.
  • An assessor may visit your workplace to assess your needs.
  • You receive a decision, which could include a grant offer.
  • To accept the offer you will need to complete the declaration within four weeks of the date of the offer.

For more help see our Tips for Completing the Online Form downloadable resource sheet.

If you are unsure what support is available, the Access to Work adviser can discuss the options with you, but it is helpful if you research and know your access support needs in advance.

💡Top Tips: Regular updates to Access to Work mean that call centre staff are not always up to date with all of the detailed information. If they tell you something that you think maybe incorrect, double-check the information and then contact Access to Work again to confirm. If possible, get details confirmed via email so that you have a paper trail, or at the very least keep a diary of every conversation.

If your condition or impairment is variable (good days and bad days) think carefully about the support you need overall to do your job, as you will still need to be able to work on your bad days.


Two women sitting at a desk

Monthly Claims

It is common practice for organisations to pay for support workers and travel costs upfront and then be reimbursed by Access to Work. Access to Work will send you a form for claiming the amount of support you use on a monthly basis. For every calendar month you use support, you need to post a completed claim form signed by you and your employer, along with any relevant receipts and invoices. Your claim must arrive within 6 months of the activity for which you are claiming.

You need to make a separate claim for each type of support. For example, if you have a Support Worker, Job Aide and get a Travel Grant, they must all be claimed separately, even if the Support Worker and Job Aide are the same person, this also means they have to invoice separately.

Check out the following resource sheets for examples of different claim forms:

Support worker claim form.

Travel to Work claim form.

If circumstances arise where you need support worker help outside of your normal working patterns, including overseas travel, you can apply for additional support. Contact your Access to Work advisor to talk about making an application.

💡Top Tips: It’s a good idea to write in bold both on the claim form and the invoice what type of support you are claiming for.

Make sure you post claims individually as posting two or more claim forms in the same envelope may cause some of them to get lost.