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Access to Work: a self-employed guide to disability grants

3-minute read

Self-employed access to work
Rosanna Parrish

Rosanna Parrish

9 June 2023

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The UK government’s Access to Work scheme supports people with physical and mental health conditions to start, stay in, and cope better at work.

While you may think the scheme is only available to people working in large organisations with HR departments, it’s actually open to all people in work (aged 16 and older) who need it – including the self-employed.

Read on to find out how you can access the scheme as a self-employed person or small business owner, as well as the eligibility criteria.

What is Access to Work?

The Access to Work scheme offers grants to fund practical support in the workplace. The scheme is available to those with physical or mental health conditions – with the aim to help them stay in work, access employment, or start their own business.

The specific support you can get from Access to Work will be unique to your individual needs and will help you work to the best of your abilities.

Access to Work eligibility for the self-employed

You don’t need a HR department to help you benefit from Access to Work. As a self-employed individual, you can apply for the grant yourself online. If you’re self employed, you may eligible for an Access to Work grant if:

  • your disability or condition affects your ability to do your job
  • you’re in (or about to start) either full-time or part-time paid work
  • you’re aged 16 or older
  • your work is based in England, Scotland or Wales (as there’s a different scheme in Northern Ireland)

You’ll need to provide evidence of your condition along with your application. This may include a letter from your doctor or a recent diagnostics report.

What counts as self-employment?

Access to Work considers you're self-employed if you:

  • are operating a business on your own or in a partnership, or working for someone else on a self-employed basis
  • have a Unique Tax Reference (UTR) number (read our guide on how to get a UTR here)

Self-employed people and small business owners have the same access to these grants as employed workers – but it’s important to note that Access to Work can’t pay for the costs associated with setting up a business, such as any standard pieces of equipment. However, the grant can be used for equipment that personally supports you in the workplace.

You can find more information on the Access to Work fact sheet.

Who can apply for Access to Work?

If you have a condition that means you need support to be able to do your job, you can apply for the grant. Everyone’s needs are different but some examples of conditions that may benefit from Access to Work include:

  • learning difficulties such dyslexia
  • neurodivergent differences such as ADHD
  • physical disabilities, for example you’re in a wheelchair or hard of hearing
  • developmental conditions like autism
  • health conditions like epilepsy and diabetes
  • mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression – which you don’t need to be officially diagnosed with
  • temporary conditions, such as broken bones, which prevent you from working to your full ability

Access to Work assessment: how does it work?

If you meet the eligibility criteria and submit an application, Access to Work can authorise a free workplace needs assessment. You will either be assessed in your workplace or over the phone, depending the support you need.

Your assessor will help you identify your challenges and what support will help you to overcome them and work more effectively. These will then be sent back to Access to Work for further evaluation. You’ll then wait to find out how much of the grant you've been awarded.

Access to Work payments: how much do you get and what can you buy?

There isn’t a set amount of funding available for Access to Work grants. Each case is assessed individually and you’ll be awarded a grant specific to the support you need to remain self-employed.

Grants awarded between 1 April 2023 and 31 March 2024 are capped at £66,000. Small businesses up to 49 employees don’t need to contribute to this amount.

However much you’re awarded, you can use the money to make positive changes to your working environment. Some ideas include:

  • specialised equipment to support your needs
  • travel costs if you can’t use public transport
  • support workers and access to support services
  • mental health support

Access to Work also provides support, such as training and advice, on how to better manage at work. This can include things such as reducing or adapting your working hours, as well as training for colleagues and employees.

Mental health support for the self-employed

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. If you’re struggling and feel like you need support, we have a series of guides designed to help your wellbeing as a small business owner:

Disability and the self-employed

Many people with disabilities choose to be self-employed for the additional freedom and flexibility. When you run your own business, you can choose your own work hours and what jobs you take on. If you’re thinking about setting up your own side hustle or business, read some of our guides to get started:

Have you benefited from the government’s Access to Work scheme? Let us know how it helped your business in the comments below.

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Rosanna Parrish

Written by

Rosanna Parrish

​​Rosanna Parrish is a Copywriter at Simply Business, specialising in legal and HR content. Trained at London College of Communication, she has been creating content professionally for eight years at publications across the UK and Spain. Starting her career in health insurance, she also worked in education marketing before returning to the insurance world. Rosanna also writes about wellbeing in the workplace. She lives by the sea and does her best writing in coffee shops.

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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