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Access to Work: How can I get support to stay or return to work if I have a disability?

By Michelle Morris, financial planner at Irwin Mitchell Asset Management

As a financial planner, I understand the challenges and barriers my clients with disabilities have faced to stay in, or return to the workplace, by hearing first-hand about their experiences.  

As part of our financial planning process, we take an holistic approach and work with our disabled clients to signpost benefits and grants that will further assist them with living a fulfilled life. The Access to Work scheme is just one of the publicly funded programmes that help to create equality by offering those with disabilities more independence, choice and control.

What is it?

Launched in 1994, Access to Work is a grant scheme which supports people with disabilities to take up or remain in work. The scheme recognises the barriers that make working life harder for those with disabilities and aims to break these down by providing practical and financial support. This could be:

  • providing access to a support worker or job coach in the workplace
  • funding specialist equipment
  • providing interpreters, lip speakers or note takers
  • covering the additional costs of using taxis if unable to use public transport to get to work or alternatively, making changes to your vehicle so you can get to your workplace.

Each of the above provides important, funded assistance to break down barriers and provide support. I have provided an example of how the scheme could be used in practice below:

John is a wheelchair user who coaches a wheelchair rugby team. He is able to drive to and access the training ground but is unable to unload the training equipment from his vehicle. John could apply to Access to Work for a support worker to assist with this activity. 

Like many individuals who have taken stock of their work and home lives over the last year, the Access to Work grant may come at exactly the right time for a disabled individual who is perhaps looking to set up a new business, or for someone who didn’t know the grant was available to them who is returning to work.

The scheme has already provided important support to a number of individuals. In 2019, 39,060 applications for Access to Work were approved with 96% of the applications also receiving approval for one or more element of support. Special aids/equipment and support workers formed two thirds of the support element approvals.

In total, £141.7m of funding was provided to 43,400 people who were in receipt of Access to Work payments in 2019 and over £1 billion has been provided over the last 10 years. These figures clearly demonstrate the governments drive to support people with disabilities in the workplace.

How to access?

To apply for an Access to Work grant you must be over the age of 16, living in and have the right to work in Great Britain. Additionally, you must be in paid employment, self-employed or about to start employment. You would also be eligible to submit an application if you were about to start a work trial, work experience or serve an apprenticeship.

Applications for Access to Work grants are assessed on an individual basis and the amount awarded will be based on the support required to allow you to take up or remain in work. The maximum award for the 2021/22 tax year is £62,900.

This is a fantastic initiative and one that I hope many of my clients can see the benefits of. Further information about Access to Work and how to apply can be found here.

Our financial planning team offer free Financial Health Checks for any individual or family who want to assess their current financial situation. It’s a no-obligation, confidential chat so do get in touch if you’d like to book a Financial Health Check.

The information given and opinions expressed are subject to change and should not be interpreted as investment advice. All data is sourced by IM Asset Management Limited unless otherwise stated. All financial and wealth management services are provided by IM Asset Management Limited which is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), FCA Firm Reference Number 402770.

If the help you need at work is not covered by your employer making reasonable adjustments, you may be able to get help from Access to Work”