Your ultimate guide to Access to Work


Access to Work is one of the UK government’s best kept secrets. Using the scheme neurodivergent people, disabled people, and people with physical and mental health conditions can apply for grants to fund workplace support. Whether you’re self-employed, working full or part time, or about to start work, you might be able to get your hands on up to £66,000 a year in funding.

What is Access to Work?

Access to Work is a government scheme that supports disabled people and people living with physical, neurological or mental health conditions.

Designed to help applicants get or stay in work, the Access to Work scheme can award up to £66,000 a year to pay for either practical support (like office equipment and software tools) or mental health support (like coaching or therapy).

It can help you start a job, stay in work, or move into self-employment. 

Access to Work can help you understand your needs as a neurodivergent worker and tailor your workplace to help you do your best work.

You don’t have to pay back Access to Work money and receiving it won’t affect other benefits.

Access to Work in numbers

Claim up to £66K per year

4 steps in the process

20 minutes to fill in initial application

Only 1% of eligible people use it.

8 essential things employers should know about Access to Work

This short video highlights important information that your employer should know and how this can be used to support employees

Who is eligible for Access to Work?

Access to Work is open to anyone with a physical or mental condition that means they need a bit of extra help to do their work or get to work.

It’s open to neurodivergent people, along with those living with physical disabilities and mental health conditions. And you don’t need to have an official diagnosis to apply and receive the grant.

It also doesn’t matter how many hours you work, how much you earn, where you work (from home or in the office), or whether you’re a freelancer or full-time employee — as long as you meet the following criteria, you’ll be eligible for Access to Work. You must:

  • • Have a physical or mental condition that means you need some assistance at work.
  • • Be 16 or older.
  • • Have a paying job of any kind (full-time, part-time, temp, internship, etc.) You can still apply if you’re self-employed or freelancing.
  • • Have an interview for a new, paying job (even if you get Universal Credit).
  • • Live and work in England, Scotland, or Wales (Northern Ireland has a separate support system).

You can’t get Access to Work if you:

  • • Live in Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or Isle of Man.
  • • Work in the Civil Service.
  • • Receive Incapacity Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance, Severe Disablement Allowance, Income Support or National Insurance credits.

What will Access to Work fund that can help neurodivergent people?

Access to Work can fund a whole host of things that’ll help you set your workplace up so you can thrive. It can be anything from physical equipment to apps for your phone, coaching programmes, and more.

If in doubt, speak to your assessor about your needs. But these are some of the things other neurodivergent workers have used Access to Work to fund:

Office equipment and tools

  • • Ergonomic office equipment (chair, mouse, keyboard)
  • • Screens
  • • Standing desk
  • • Walking pad for under the desk
  • • Noise cancelling headphones
  • • White or brown noise machines
  • • Fidget toys

Mental health support

  • • ADHD, autism, or other condition-specific coaching
  • • Support workers
  • • Training and mentoring
  • • Therapy (for example, CBT)

Work strategies and apps

  • • Virtual assistant or EA
  • • Website and app blockers
  • • Body doubling apps
  • • Text-to-speech apps

Planning and time management tools

  • • Smart watch
  • • Mind mapping apps (like Miro)
  • • Reminder tools
  • • Task managers (like Trello or Asana)
  • • Habit trackers

Job interviews and travel

  • • Travel to and from interviews
  • • Communication support during job interviews
  • • Support with commuting

Stress and anxiety

  • • Meditation apps like Headspace or Calm
  • • Weighted blanket
  • • SAD lamps/sunlight alarm clocks

AtW laptop

What Access to Work won’t fund

Access to Work won’t fund anything that would be considered a reasonable adjustment. These are the things employers must legally do to allow disabled and neurodivergent people to do their jobs without any disadvantages (like adding ramps for disabled access or allowing an autistic person to have a permanent space rather than a hot desk).

They’re also likely to turn down applications for funding for things that could be deemed medical expenses such as chiropractors or health insurance payments. Access to Work can’t be used to pay for diagnoses.

How to apply for Access to Work?

The first step is to fill out the application form on the Access to Work website.

This part will take about 20 minutes. The application form asks for:

  • • Your name, contact details, and National Insurance number
  • • Workplace details
  • • Info on your condition and how it impacts your work
  • • An idea of the kind of support you need (you can go into more detail when you speak to someone at a later stage).
  • • Details of someone at your job who can confirm you work there OR your Unique Taxpayer Reference number if you’re self-employed.

If you’d prefer, you can call Access to Work on 0800 121 7479 and have one of their agents talk you through the application and submit it for you. You might be on hold for a while but they also might suggest things you haven’t thought of and answer any questions you’ve got. There are other options on the Access to Work website for textphone and BSL applications.

At this stage, nothing is set in stone — you can always change what you’re asking for later in the assessment.

What happens after you apply?

Once you’ve submitted your application, an adviser (or Case Manager) from Access to Work will be in touch to discuss it with you.

At this point, they’ll ask some questions about your condition, how it affects your ability to do your job, and the support you need to stay in work. They will also ask permission to speak to your employer (if applicable). There’s usually no need to provide medical evidence of your conditions or disabilities as long as you can accurately describe how they impact your work.

During the call, the adviser will go through some options for support with you and chat through the potential positive impact each one could have. If you’re not clear about what kind of support you need, or the adviser feels they need more information, they’ll arrange a workplace assessment for you. This can either be done remotely or in-person.

If you don’t need a workplace assessment, your adviser will discuss the award with you. After the call, you’ll get a letter telling you how much money you’ve been awarded and what it should be used for. The decision will be based on your needs and aim to lessen the impact your condition has on your work.

If you don’t agree with the decision, you can call the Access to Work helpline and ask for another adviser to review your case.

How long does the Access to Work process take?

The application itself will take about 20 minutes to complete. After that, the Access to Work website says someone will be in touch with you within 12 weeks. In reality, they’re running behind at the moment so the waiting time is more like 20 weeks.

If you’re starting a new job in the next four weeks, they’ll try to get back to you “as soon as possible” (usually this will be within the month).

AtW girl with laptop

How do you claim the money from Access to Work and who pays?

You’ve got nine months to claim. To do so, you’ll need a claim form and a proof of cost, so make sure you keep hold of those receipts!

Access to Work can pay you back for something, pay your employer back, or pay the supplier directly (you can speak about this with your adviser to work out the best option if you’re not sure).

If you’re self-employed, Access to Work will usually pay for the whole cost of your coach or equipment (for example), either by paying upfront or reimbursing you.

If you’re employed, your employer will generally pay upfront for any support you need (rather than you paying yourself), then claim it back from Access to Work. Depending on the size of the company, your employer may need to contribute.

You can either claim the money online or through the post.

More resources on Access to Work

Support with your application

If you are neurodivergent and want to find out whether you are eligible for funding, or you need support with the application process, there are organisations who may be able to help.

Brain in Hand and Access to Work

Brain in Hand helps neurodivergent people and those with anxiety-related mental health conditions become more independent. Our service helps people manage feelings of overwhelm and anxiety, plus give you a hand with remembering things, planning, and making decisions under pressure.

Combining human and digital support, we’ll help you thrive at work (and outside of it, too). And the best part? Lots of our users fund Brain in Hand through Access to Work.

Apply for Access to Work to get the ball rolling on your grant and feel free to mention Brain in Hand during your application. Or, talk to us about Brain in Hand and how we could help.