Access to Work (AtoW) is a scheme run by the Department of Work and Pensions that supports people with disabilities in overcoming work-related obstacles resulting from their disability or health condition. For example, are you a wheelchair user or have impaired hearing? Maybe you have a long term mental health problem? AtoW provides both the disabled employee and the workplace with advice and support to help keep you at work. So, if you’ve always wanted to work and been afraid to try because of your disability, now is the time to give it a go. There are funds there – you just need to ask.
To Qualify for AtoW
To access the benefits of the AtoW scheme you must be a disabled person as defined in Section 6 of the Equality Act 2010.
The Act states:
A person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
The definition of disability is broad and includes, multiple sclerosis, wheelchair users, partially sighted and those with hearing impairment. If you think you are covered and need assistance with work contact AtoW, within six weeks of starting employment. See contact details below.
Help with Interview
Those with a disability, and need assistance at a job interview, or transport to the interview, should contact AtoW as soon as possible. If you have problems hearing, you can either email firstname.lastname@example.org or textphone 020 8426 3110.
New Starters to Any Company
Apply to the AtoW scheme yourself (your employer can’t do it for you,) within six weeks of starting work. And AtoW can pay up to 100% of the eligible costs.
If you make the application after 6 weeks of starting, the new Company has to pay the first £1,000 and then 20% towards costs up to £10,000.
In all applications, an additional voluntary contribution may be requested.
AtoW can be used for any paid job, part-time or full-time, permanent, or temporary.
When you apply to AtoW and you will be given a case number to use on all correspondence.
Fill in the application form and send it back to AtoW; remember to keep a copy. Your reply should include your job description and/or letter of job confirmation plus any other supporting documentation. AtoW will also ask for risk assessments that your employer has for your job, e.g., the Health & Safety Display Screen Risk Assessment report.
- An AtoW adviser will contact you to discuss options and next steps
- A workplace assessment will be carried out by your assessor – this is separate to the Health and Safety checks required for all staff
Workplace Assessment by AtoW
AtoW contracts an independent assessor who comes to the workplace to discuss your needs. Following this, they prepare a report setting out the minimum requirements to meet your needs along with the expected costs. A copy of this report is sent to the disabled applicant/employee and the ‘identified options’ part to your Company, who will purchase the equipment recommended by AToW and they can then claim back the money (or part of the money) from AtoW.
The assessment results last for three years, and then you will be reassessed. However, if there are significant changes in your condition you can request an earlier review.
Practical help can include:
- Aids for communication
- Special equipment
- Alterations to premises or the working environment
- A support worker, (if practical help is needed at work, or getting to work),
- Assistance with communication (for example a reader at work for someone who is blind, or a communicator for deaf people)
- Travel support if you can’t use public transport due to your disability.
Result of Assessment
- AtoW sends a letter to you and your Company telling you the outcome of the assessment, recommending equipment and the financial grant available from AtoW. The letter includes the first claim form for the employer.
- Total time from application to reimbursement of costs should be within 60 working days.
Support Workers under the Access to Work Scheme
In some instances, a support worker will be allocated to a disabled worker. Support workers that can be funded through AtoW include:
- Communication support at interview
- Travel to Work (taxi)
- Travel buddy
- Personal Reader
- Job Coach
- Palantypist (speech to text reporter)
- British Sign Language Interpreter
- Mental Health Support Worker
Sample Task List for Support Workers
When filling in the form before your assessment you might want to consider if any of these might apply to your job:
- Planning work activities and managing calendar
- Use of PC/Laptop, g., typing up assessments, maintaining calendar, creating and updating records, reports, printing, uploading
- Help with reading, correspondence, and general paperwork
- Escort to meetings with clients, customers, service users, team members
- Travel on business, local, inter-county, nationally
- Research and planning routes for internal and external visits
- Driving, g. to and from work, visit clients, premises, meetings
- Mobility in the workplace, e.g. wheelchair user, guide
- Accessing necessary welfare facilities, e.g., toilets, restaurant
- Using public transport
- Note taking during meetings and assessments
- Use of telephone
- Interpersonal skills
- Individual communications, e.g. lip reading, Dictaphone, sign language
- Undertaking risk assessments of new locations, e.g. guide dogs, accessibility, personal risk
- Qualifications/skills required, e.g. Lip speaker, Braille, British Sign Language interpreters, note takers
- Managing expenses
Advertising for a Support Worker (if one is needed)
There are a number of ways to get a support worker. They can be self employed (you pay them) or some Companies pay them direct, and claim the money back from AtoW. But how do you find a person to help you?
Current Employee of the Company you will be working for
Consider co-workers or those already employed by your Company, some may want more hours or advertise on their website or department noticeboards for a support worker
Word of mouth
Do you know someone already, who would be interested in being a support worker? It is essential to think about how an employer/employee relationship may affect a personal relationship.
Put an advert in your local paper; however, this can be expensive.
The local Job centre Plus will advertise for free and will often help write the advertisement.
Universal Job match (found at www.gov.uk/advertise-job ) is a free service that enables you to advertise jobs. Gumtree (found at www.gumtree.com) is a classified advertisement site, but you’ll need to pay a fee to promote jobs. There may be other suitable websites, ask AtoW for some recommendations.
Local support organisations may advertise jobs on their website. Contact them for more information.
Local college or university
You could advertise for students at your local college or University (check they won’t be going off on long summer breaks).
What Help Might You Need?
To identify the support required, Access to Work requires further information about your job.
For each table, please enter the total number of hours per week on the bottom row. Examples are provided.
Table 1. Identify the regular tasks that you can undertake without a support worker
|Tasks||Time taken (Per Week)|
|Example – Typing up reports on the PC.||10 hours per week.|
Table 2. Which of your tasks requires a support worker and how can they assist you to do your job?
|Tasks||What the support worker will do||Time taken (per week)|
|Example 1: Taking notes in a meeting||The support worker hand writes written notes||2 hours per week.|
|Example 2: Driving to and from the workplace, and other places such as training venues, county meetings||Researches and plans route, advise on travelling time, assist with locating client home, office, conference, training venue.||6 hours to and from work|
15 hours driving
2 hours reading handwritten/typed notes
Table 3. Which tasks happen occasionally or annually and how can a Support Worker help you?
|Monthly or less frequent /duty||What the support worker will do||Time taken (per year)|
|Example: Team meetings||Support worker to take notes||Approx. 50 hours per year|
Access to Work will also want to know any adjustments that you Company has already made to accommodate you.
List any modifications your Manager has put in place for you already. Examples could be:
|Voice activated software|
|Travel to work to avoid rush hour|
|Working from home one day per week|
Resources and Further Information
Access to Work
Telephone: 0800 121 7479
Textphone: 0800 121 7579
Monday to Friday, 8 am to 6 pm
- English – 0800 169 0154
- Welsh – 0800 169 0253
- Text – 0800 169 0254
Opening times: The help-desk is open Monday to Friday 8 am to 6 pm (lines are normally less busy between 8am and 9am). The help-desk is closed on all bank and public holidays.
Specific Guidance for Health Issues
- Visual Impairments
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Hearing Impairment
- Hearing impairment
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
These are just a sample there are many other fact sheets available from Remploy
General Advice re Disability
See also my podcast on this subject.