Access to Work: can you benefit from a grant?

Published on 11 June 2020

The Access to Work scheme provides government grants to help disabled people start, or stay in, work. It is open to the employed and the self-employed. The coronavirus pandemic might have affected working life for some disabled people and may have even caused people to become disabled or ill. You might therefore wish to look into whether Access to Work can help you during this time.

Image of the disability sign with models of people standing on it
(c) Shutterstock / beeboys

What is the Access to Work scheme?

The Access to Work scheme is run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and gives grants to help people start working or stay in work. You may qualify for help if you are disabled, or you have a health or mental health condition. You can find a basic guide on GOV.UK.

There is a different system in Northern Ireland. You can find out more from NI Direct.

You can apply for help whether you are employed or self-employed.

If you are employed, Access to Work grants can contribute to the additional employment costs resulting from disability that an employer would not normally be expected to fund. The money can be used to pay for a wide range of things such as adaptations to the equipment you use, to purchase special equipment, meet your fares to work if you can’t use public transport and even provide a support worker to help you in your workplace.

Access to Work does not provide the support itself but provides a grant to reimburse the cost of the support that is needed. An application has to be made by the self-employed person or employee (not their employer), so that an assessment can be made of their needs in the workplace and the appropriate level of grant can be calculated and arranged.

GOV.UK confirms that Access to Work grants do not have to be paid back and they do not affect your other benefits.

We explain more about Access to Work in our disabled people and carers section.

My work has been affected by the coronavirus – how might Access to Work help?

If you need to claim Access to Work for the first time

Access to Work is open and processing new claims as set out in this guidance. Indeed, we understand that Access to Work are prioritising new applications from customers in critical worker groups.

If you are already in receipt of an award

You can read more about how Access to Work are supporting current claimants in this guidance on GOV.UK.

First, it is important to note that you should tell Access to Work if your support needs change due to coronavirus. It might be, for example, that your support needs have reduced if the scheme was supporting you with the cost of travelling to work but coronavirus means that you are working from home and not currently incurring them. This could mean your award would be reduced.

On the other hand, you might need additional support with work because of coronavirus. If this is the case, you can ask for an existing Access to Work award to be reviewed to see if the scheme can help towards those costs. For example, you might previously have been able to use public transport to travel to and from work, but it might now be that for health reasons, you have been advised not to use this for the time being. Access to Work might support you with the cost of travelling to work by other means, for example, taxis.

Another possibility is that you need to work from home, and you need to have equipment for you to use moved from the office to your home, or need adaptations made to your home. GOV.UK notes that the cost of doing so if you change location can be covered by Access to Work.

If you are furloughed (so that you are not currently working), change jobs or lose your job, you should also tell Access to Work so that they can reassess your grant.

Are there tax issues to think about with Access to Work?

In brief, the answer is yes – there might be tax consequences of receiving an Access to Work grant. The exact position, and who needs to take action, depends on what costs the grant is covering and whether you are employed or self-employed.

If you are an employee, and you receive the grant directly, you would usually have no tax consequences of Access to Work to worry about. The exception is if it is paid to you and you use it to employ a support worker for yourself (rather than your employer taking on someone to support you), you could be that person’s employer. This means that you would need to comply with the tax rules and other legal responsibilities that come with being an employer.

If the scheme pays a grant to you directly as a self-employed person, you will have obligations.

Our guidance explains more about employing a support worker and what has to be reported for tax purposes whether you are employed or self-employed.

Contact: Kelly Sizer (click here to Contact Us)
(First published: 11-06-20)