Access to Work is a government programme aimed at supporting individuals who have a physical or mental health condition or disability to take up or remain in work. To be eligible for Access to Work, the individual must:
- Be over 16
- Have any condition or impairment that affects their ability to do their job or to travel to work
- Be in or about to start paid work (this includes self-employment)
The support the employee receives will depend on their needs. Access to Work support covers a wide range of interventions beyond ‘reasonable adjustments’ associated with overcoming work-related barriers resulting from disability.
Access to Work could for instance provide individuals with the following support:
- A communicator, advocate or British Sign Language interpreter, lip speaker or note taker if the employee has communication difficulties;
- A support worker, such as a reader for somebody with a visual impairment;
- A specialist job coach for a person with a learning difficulty;
- A helper for personal care needs at work;
- Specialist equipment or software, such as screen readers, (or alterations to existing equipment) to suit the individual’s particular needs;
- Help to pay the additional costs to modify an employer’s or self-employed person’s premises, such as ramps for wheelchairs, lifts, widening doors, disabled toilets or washrooms;
- Adaptations to the employee’s vehicle so they can get to work;
- Travelling fares such as taxi fares if the individual cannot use public transport to get to work;
- A support worker or job coach to help the employee in their workplace;
- One-to-one sessions with a mental health professional;
- Disability awareness training for colleagues within the workplace;
- A communicator at a job interview;
- The costs of moving the individual’s equipment in the event of a change of location or employment.
Access to Work also conducts workplace assessments as part of this process, in order to work out what barriers the employee or candidate is facing and what will help address those barriers. Access to Work can also pay for workplace assessors to assess what the employee needs at work. Their assessments help work out what changes the employer can make to better support the employee.
Available help for people with long-term mental health conditions
A free and confidential ‘Mental Health Support Service’ is available to anyone with a mental health condition through Access to Work.
The Scheme offers:
- Work-focused mental health support for up to nine months, tailored to the individual’s needs.
- An assessment of the individual’s needs to identify suitable coping strategies, such as:-
- keeping a mood diary to identify triggers and changes in mood in order to increase own awareness and mood management at work;
- developing relaxation techniques when under pressure;
- producing a protocol to allow line managers to identify signs that the individual is becoming unwell;
- introducing techniques to improve concentration and focus, for example using a quiet room for complex tasks, identifying ‘prime time’, and using a ‘dumping’ pad for unwanted thoughts;
- practicing cognitive behavioural techniques to reframe negative thoughts and plan positive actions.
- A personalised support plan, detailing the steps needed for the employee to remain in, or return to, work.
- Ideas for adjustments in the workplace or of working practice, for example:-
- introducing a flexible working pattern to accommodate changes in mood and impact of medication;
- providing a mentor to give extra support in the workplace;
- making a temporary cut in targets or reallocation of certain aspects of the job role;
- providing extra time to finish certain aspects of the job role;
- providing extra training and development;
- ensuring regular formalised one-to-one meetings to look at concerns;
- arranging a phased return to work;
- allocating a job coach/Support worker.
- Advice and guidance to allow employers to fully understand mental ill health and how they can support employees with a mental condition, for example educating colleagues and employers about mental health conditions.
It does not matter how much the employee earns to qualify for Access to Work. If the employee gets an Access to Work grant, it will not affect any other benefits the employee gets and it will not have to be paid back.
In general, the earlier an employee contacts Access to Work, the more likely it is that costs will be covered. In many cases, this will be 100% of the costs for employees who have been working for less than 6 weeks at the date they make the application, self-employed workers and employees applying to the Mental Health Support Service.
The financial value of the grant will depend on whether the person is employed, how long they have been employed for and the type of help they require.
Please note that this is a very brief summary of the key elements concerning the government’s Access to Work programme. The contents of this article do not constitute legal advice. If you require any further information, please contact us at email@example.com or on 02920 345 511.