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Access to Work

Access to Work is a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) fund which can help cover some of the extra costs for people in doing their jobs, or travelling to, from and during work because they’re disabled. It is available for both employed and self-employed people. For employed people, it can complement but does not replace or subsidise an employer’s legal duty to make reasonable adjustments.

Business Plan

A business plan may occasionally be requested for self-employed applicants to Access to Work who consider themselves as a business, if they don’t already have at least a year’s worth of accounts or a tax return which proves they earn over the lower earnings limit, which is currently £6,025. A business plan can be quite a simple document which outlines your expected incoming and outgoings and demonstrates how you expect to earn over the lower earnings limit. For example, it could include details of any expected work, any confirmed contracts which have not already started and reasonable estimates for other earnings (for example you may be able to demonstrate you are likely to be asked to deliver at least 1 workshop a month over the year). It could also include details of how much you charge for certain services, any past grants or commissions you’ve had, any marketing ideas you may have had etc. There is a simple one-page template for an artist’s business plan available here.


In many cases, self-employed people working in the arts might not consider themselves as a business e.g. a visual artist or an actor. In this case, if the applicant to Access to Work is new to self-employment and doesn’t yet have a year’s worth of accounts or a tax return, a Curriculum Vitae (CV) which demonstrates their skills and earning potential should be sufficient. A CV is usually a one or two-page document outlining the person’s academic qualifications, relevant training and past job history. Formats for CVs do differ, depending on which industry you work in. There are some useful guides below:

A good overview of CVs in the arts generally:

Visual Artist CVs:

Actors CVs:


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

Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. It replaced previous anti-discrimination laws (including the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act) with a single Act, making the law easier to understand and strengthening protection in some situations. It sets out the different ways in which it’s unlawful to treat someone.

Lower Earnings Limit or LEL

In order for self-employed applicants to Access to Work to be eligible for support, they must turn over at least the Lower Earnings Limit, which is currently  £6,025 per year (correct as of April 2019). This figure refers to the applicant’s turnover and not their profit. So they only need to have £6,025 coming in over the year, regardless of expenses and other outgoings, to be eligible. It does not refer to profit i.e. the amount of money earned once all expenses have been deducted. For example, if you received an Arts Council Grant of £10,000 for a project, but most of that grant went to paying other collaborators, venue hire, travel, materials or other expenses and you only paid yourself £1000 out of it – you would still be eligible for Access to Work.  If you are new to self-employment you have twelve months to test out your earning potential whilst getting support from Access to Work. You must meet the lower earnings limit by the end of your second year of self-employment. Also, if in the previous year you met the lower earnings limit, but this year you earned less than it, Access to Work will allow you another year to try and earn over the limit again, in effect you get a year of grace.

Mental Health Support Service

This confidential service delivered by Remploy funded by the Department for Work and Pensions is available at no charge to any employees with depression, anxiety, stress or other mental health issues affecting their work.

Their specialist advisers provide:

  • Tailored work-focused mental health support for nine months
  • Suitable coping strategies
  • A support plan to keep them in, or return to work
  • Ideas for workplace adjustments to help them fulfil their role
  • Practical advice to support those with a mental health condition

Motability Scheme

The Motability Scheme provides an affordable, worry-free way for disabled people to lease a car, scooter or powered wheelchair in exchange for their mobility allowance. The Scheme is operated by Motability Operations Ltd, under contract to Motability, a registered Charity.


Stands for pay-as-you-earn. It is a system whereby income tax and national insurance payments are collected by your employer on behalf of HMRC, directly from your pay, usually on a monthly basis.

Permitted Work

If you receive Employment and Support Allowance, you can only get help from Access to Work if you’re doing ‘permitted work’. It’s permitted work if all of the following apply:

  • You earn up to £125.50 a week (profit, not turnover);
  • You work less than 16 hours a week;
  • It’s been agreed with your Jobcentre Plus work coach or another representative of Jobcentre Plus, if you don’t have a work coach. Get this agreement in writing.

Reasonable Adjustments

According to the Equality Act 2010, all employers have a legal duty to make sure their disabled employees are not ‘substantially disadvantaged’ compared to non-disabled employees. This applies to employer’s provisions and practices, physical features of the workplace/premises and the lack of an ‘auxiliary aid’ (such as a hearing loop).  If a disabled employee is substantially disadvantaged due to any of these factors, the employer has to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to mitigate that disadvantage. Employers are only required to make adjustments that are reasonable in all the circumstances. Factors such as the cost and practicability of making an adjustment and the resources available to you may be taken into account in deciding what is ‘reasonable’. Ultimately, it is for an Employment Tribunal to decide, in the event of a claim of alleged unlawful disability discrimination, what adjustment should be made for a particular disabled employee, and whether it is correct to decline to make an adjustment based on the grounds of practicality or cost.

Government guidance on reasonable adjustments.

Self-assessment tax return

Self-Assessment is a system HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) uses to collect Income Tax. Tax is usually deducted automatically from wages, pensions and savings. Self-employed people, including artists, have to report their earnings on a Self-assessment tax return. In order to fill in a self-assessment tax return, you must first register with HMRC as self-employed and get yourself a Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR). If you need to send a self-assessment tax return, you fill it in after the end of the tax year (5 April) it applies to and before the deadline: 31 October (for paper submissions) and 31 January (for online submissions).


Self-employment means working for yourself, not for another organisation or employer. If you are self-employed you will have to fill in a self-assessment tax return, rather than being paid wages which are taxed at source like an employee. Self-employment can cover many different types of worker including freelancers, artists, actors, performers, musicians, writers, sole traders, contractors etc. You can do a piece of work for an organisation or even work on an ongoing basis with an organisation and still be considered self-employed – for example, delivering workshops for the same company – but if you handle your own tax and don’t get holiday and sick pay, then you considered are self-employed. In the eyes of Access to Work, actors on ITC Equity Contracts are treated as if they are employed, even if they handle their own tax, and therefore are not subject to the Lower Earnings Limit.

Support Worker

Access to Work will only fund certain types of support worker, and only those deemed necessary for the applicant’s access needs in the workplace. Access to Work has specific terminology for the different types of support worker and what each of those does. Further detail on each of Access to Work’s support worker categories is available below:

  • Sign-language interpreter – provides communication support in British Sign Language between deaf sign language users and hearing people.
  • Lip-speaker – provides communication support and has been professionally trained to be easy to lip read.
  • Note-taker – takes notes on your behalf because of access reasons.
  • Palantypist – live speech to text support.
  • Personal reader – live text to speech support.
  • Travel-buddy – supports and travels with you to and from work.
  • Counsellor – qualified counsellor to support with workplace coping strategies relating to mental health.
  • The Mental Health Support Service – service delivered by Remploy that delivers tailored mental health support.
  • Driver – drives you to and from work, this can be in your own vehicle.
  • Job coach – gives support for disabled people starting a new job to help them learn how to do the key tasks.
  • Carer (paid PA) – provides physical access support (not personal care).
  • Job aide – carries out skilled tasks on your behalf (up to 20% of your overall hours worked per week).

Travel to Work

Travel to Work is the name given by Access to Work to the grant provided to cover the costs of making travelling for your job accessible.

Unique Taxpayer Reference

A unique taxpayer reference is a 10 digit number which HMRC provides you when registering as self-employed. You need it to log in to your self-assessment tax account at in order to fill in a tax return.

Universal Credit

The term Permitted Work does not apply to Universal Credit and there are no limits to what you can earn because you are assessed each month for how much Universal Credit you are eligible for. If you are self-employed or a company director and on Universal Credit it is possible to get Access to Work if you meet the eligibility criteria listed above. If you are about to become self-employed and are on Universal Credit read the information here: