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Access to Work

Making self employed work possible for people with a disability or a mental or physical health condition.  Financial support could be available through Access to Work.

What is Access to Work?

If you have a disability or a physical or mental health condition, then you may need extra help to start a new business or to support you while you run your existing business.  It can also help you if you are in employment.

Access to Work is a government scheme that can pay for extra support to help you start or stay in work. The support that you are offered will be based on your needs, and could include a grant to help cover the costs of practical support in the workplace. 

It is available if you have a health condition (either mental or physical), or a disability that affects you at work. An Access to Work grant does not need to be paid back and could pay for a range of different support that you may need, including:

  • support workers to help you
  • specialist equipment to make working easier
  • help with the cost of travel to work and back
  • mental health support

Am I Eligible?

To be eligible for Access to Work you must:

  • have a disability or health condition (physical or mental) that makes it difficult for you to do parts of your job, or get to and from work
  • be 16 or over
  • live in England, Scotland or Wales

You can check your eligibility for Access to Work on the website.

You also need to have a paid job, or be about to start or return to one. A paid job could include self employment.

Self Employment

For Access to Work purposes, self-employment is:

  • operating a business either on your own account or in partnership, or working for an employer on a self employed contractual basis operating a franchised business on a self employed basis
  • a business that satisfies the past or prospective viability tests (see later)
  • possessing a Unique Tax Reference number (UTR)

You are considered employed (even if you own the company) if:

  • you draw a salary
  • you pay Class 1 National Insurance contributions

You are considered self-employed if:

  • you pay Class 4 national insurance contributions

Self Employed work can be done:

  • from home
  • on your own premises
  • on premises owned or leased by someone else
  • on a travelling basis

To prove self employment  the Access to Work team will request:

  • a Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR). This is a ten digit number issued by HM Revenue & Customs
  • accounts for an established business
  • a business plan of a standard acceptable to a bank or other financial institution

Access to Work will not pay for costs of setting up a business such as:

  • standard items of equipment
  • support for fact-finding
  • going on courses, seminars or similar events
  • while the business is being formed

Company directors

Directors are considered employed (not self-employed), if they pay Class 1 National Insurance contributions.  Company directors are not entitled to the minimum wage and they don’t therefore have to meet this eligibility condition to get Access to Work support.

Businesses must satisfy the business viability test. This is still true even if t customer is a company director.

The director must provide proof that the company is registered with Companies House.

Business Viability

It’s a requirement for a self-employed person or business owner/director seeking Access to Work support, to demonstrate that the business is a viable and legitimate concern.

To be considered viable, a business should achieve a minimum level of turnover each year in the course of normal operations.  This minimum level is set as the Lower Earnings Limit (LEL):
  • the LEL for 2021 to 2022 – £6240
  • the LEL for 2020 to 2021 – £6240
  • the LEL for 2019 to 2020 – £6,136

How to Claim

You can check the full eligibility criteria, and apply for Access to Work by visiting

Alternatively, you can contact Access to Work Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm.
Telephone: 0800 121 7479 
Textphone:  0800 121 7579 

When you phone remember to have the following details:

  • Your National Insurance number
  • Your workplace address, including postcode
  • Details of your workplace contact (name, email address and work number)
  • Your unique tax reference number - if you are self employed

How We Can Help You

Accounting for Good CIC is a social enterprise and non-profit organisation based in the North East of England we are a member of the British Association of Supported Employment and support many businesses across the UK.

We work with adults with long term health conditions or disabilities to help them start up a small business or social enterprise or to develop a business that already exists.  We can support you using Access to Work funding with expert mentors and match the needs of the individual with the expertise of the mentor/job coach.

Our purpose is to work with you to deliver sustainable change, to offer you support which will allow you to become more confident, overcome barriers and to find your purpose, to explore your talents, skills, passions, and ambitions and to take control of your future.  We will work with you at a pace you find comfortable, to help you find work life balance and help you follow your dreams.

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