Can I get government help to access work?

Yes. The government's Access to Work scheme provides financial assistance towards some of the extra costs of employing you if you have a disability. It is available to employed, unemployed and self-employed people, and can apply to any job, i.e. full-time or part-time, permanent or temporary.

The type of support available includes:

  • a communicator at job interviews for people with a hearing impairment;
  • a reader for someone who is blind, or has a visual impairment;
  • special equipment or alterations to existing equipment;
  • alterations to premises or to the working environment; and
  • travel-to-work costs.

You can also find out more about Access to Work from the Disability Rights UK Factsheet, produced by the charity Disability Rights UK.

Access to Work is a scheme organised by Job Centre Plus. Your needs should be assessed by an Access to Work Adviser at the Job Centre. If you are unhappy with the support provided, you can ask for the decision to be reviewed. Outside agencies, such as the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), provide advice on adaptations and on making an appeal if you are unhappy with a decision.

A cap was introduced on the amount available under Access to Work for new claims from 1 October 2015. Since that date, you can only be paid a maximum yearly award capped at 1.5 times the national average salary – currently £40,800. This amount is reviewed annually each April.

If you were already getting Access to Work before the cap was applied, the level of your award is protected until 1 April 2018, as long as your needs remain the same.

Disability charities describe the cap as short-sighted and wasteful. For example, Disability Rights UK points out that even without a cap, the Access to Work scheme made the government money, since for every £1 spent on Access to Work, £1.48 came back to HMRC in tax, national insurance or savings to the benefits bill.

In 2013, the government launched a new scheme called 'Disability Confident' to encourage employers to recruit and support disabled workers. However, take up by large employers in the three years since the scheme was introduced has been extremely disappointing.

The 'Disability Confident' scheme has replaced the old 'positive about disabled people' 'two ticks' symbol, awarded by JobCentre Plus for employers who were supposed to be more willing to employ disabled people, including the key commitment of a guaranteed interview.

Research commissioned by Disability Rights UK and carried out by the Warwick and Cass business schools showed that this scheme was also unsuccessful and that very few of the signed-up employers (just 15%) were meeting all the commitments of the scheme.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.