Equal Opportunities and Diversity

Changes to Access to Work October 2010

We have recently heard that Access to Work is reducing the support that it will agree to provide for disabled employees.  In future employers will be expected to provide more equipment as a ‘reasonable adjustment’ for disabled staff.  Oxford Brookes is committed to ensuring that disabled people have the support they need in the workplace. 

Disability Support - Access to work

What is it?

The Access to Work (AtW) programme is a government funded scheme run by Jobcentre Plus. It provides financial assistance towards the extra costs of employing someone with a disability. It is available to unemployed, employed and self-employed people and can apply to any job, full-time or part-time, permanent or temporary.

What Support is available?

The type of support available includes:

  • A communicator at a job interview for people who are deaf or have a hearing impairment
  • A reader at work for someone who is blind or has a visual impairment
  • A support worker if someone needs practical help because of their disability, either at work or getting to work
  • Adaptations to a vehicle, or help towards taxi fares or other transport costs if someone cannot use public transport to get to work because of their disability
  • Equipment (or alterations to existing equipment) necessary because of an individual's disability
  • Alterations to premises or a working environment necessary because of a person's disability.

What funding is available?

The funding available depends on the employment status of the disabled individual at the time of application. For:

  • Unemployed people starting a job and all self-employed people – the programme may pay up to 100% of all approved costs
  • People changing jobs - the programme may pay up to 100% of all approved costs
  • Employed people who have been with the employer for six weeks or longer AtW will not make any contribution to costs below £1,000 for large employers such as Oxford Brookes (from April 2010). Above this sum, the programme may pay up to 80% of the costs up to £10,000 and up to 100% of the costs above £10,000
  • Travel to work - the programme may pay up to 100% of all approved costs irrespective of employment status
  • Communicator support at interview - the programme may pay up to 100% of all approved costs irrespective of employment status if the individual applies and this is agreed before the interview.
  • A support worker - the programme may pay up to 100% of all approved costs irrespective of employment status

NB - AtW funding is not available retrospectively. It will not refund any payments that have already been made towards the cost of reasonable adjustments.

Applying for assistance through the Access to Work Scheme

  • In order for AtW to pay 100% of the costs for a new member of staff an application to the AtW Programme must be made by the disabled person within six weeks of starting work. It is therefore very important for disabled staff, who think they may be able to qualify for the AtW Programme, to contact their Staff Disability Adviser immediately on starting work for Brookes, and to discuss the issue with their line manager.
  • Existing members of staff who become disabled are also eligible to apply for a grant from AtW irrespective of the length of time they have been at Brookes, though in these cases the scheme may not meet 100% of the costs (see above)
  • Once an application is made, a needs assessment is then undertaken in the workplace by an independent assessor from AtW, who prepares a report setting out the minimum requirements to meet the disability requirements, and the estimated cost. Copies of this report would be sent both to the disabled person and Brookes. It would then be up to the department where the disabled person works, to purchase the equipment and then claim the grant back from AtW.
  • AtW funding is made available for up to three years. A review of an individual's circumstances and support needs will take place if further funding is needed after this time.
  • If the person leaves the job, Brookes can either keep the equipment or agree that the person in question takes their equipment with them. The department must however notify AtW.
  • AtW solutions may incur a business benefit, for example, if other members of staff use the specialist equipment as part of their own work. In these cases the business benefit costs will be estimated and deducted from the AtW costs. The programme will pay a proportion of the remaining amount as described above.

Procedure

  1. The applicant must be a disabled person as defined by the Disability Discrimination Act, i.e.: “ someone with a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term (i.e. likely to last for 12 months or longer), adverse effect on his/her ability to carry out normal day to day activities.
  2. The disabled person should contact AtW, within 6 weeks of starting employment. See contact address and phone number below
  3. Unemployed, or employed disabled people needing help with a communicator at a job interview, or transport to the interview should contact AtW immediately on receiving notice of a job interview.
  4. Once the applicant has received the application form they must fill it in and send it back to AtW, with a copy of their job description and/or letter of job confirmation.
  5. They will then be assigned an adviser who will contact them to make arrangements for a work place assessment. Note: This is separate to the usual DSE checks that need to be carried out, which should still take place as usual.
  6. Where help is needed to attend a job interview, an assessment may not be necessary, but the AtW office will require written proof of the interview and possibly medical evidence if someone cannot use public transport.
  7. The applicant and Brookes will receive a letter from the AtW adviser/assessor notifying them of the outcome of the assessment, recommending equipment and the financial grant available from AtW. The letter will include a claim form for Brookes.
  8. Brookes (the department where the member of staff will be working) buys the equipment and sends the completed claim form stamped as ‘paid’ with original invoices to AtW to claim back agreed amount spent.
  9. The total time from claim to reimbursement of costs should be within 60 working days. (Obviously applications for assistance with interviews can be processed more quickly.)

Contact details

Jobcentre Plus
Access to Work Operational Support Unit
Nine Elms Lane
London SW95 9BH

Telephone: 020 8426 3110       
Textphone: 020 8426 3133       
Fax: 020 8426 3134

Email: atwosu.london@jobcentreplus.gsi.gov.uk