Access to Work

Paying a support worker through Access to Work

Access to Work is a Government organisation who can provide you with equipment, adaptations to the working environment or a support worker to enable the Service User to run their business (provided that it is for disability needs).

Applications can be made either for a new business or an existing one, with no cost to your self

To help ATW make a decision on your support needs, it can be useful to write a “job description” of the tasks you will need the support worker to carry out. This could be;

• If you are hearing impaired, you may need a note taker
• Guiding through unfamiliar places if you are visually impaired
• Driving you to clients if you have mobility problems

ATW may the carry out an assessment to calculate an hourly rate and the number of hours you need.

It is then your responsibility to locate a suitable support worker and to complete monthly time sheets to claim back the hourly rate.

A decision then needs to be made in relation to whether the support worker will be paid on an employee basis (PAYE) or on a self-employed basis (the support worker being responsible for paying their own National Insurance and Income Tax).

The HM Revenue & Customs offer guidance on who can be paid on a self-employment basis;-

If you decide upon or are legally obliged to employ a support worker through PAYE you may need the support of a bookkeeper or accountant to complete PAYE. It is possible that the cost could be reimbursed by ATW.

If you have the necessary skills you could do your own PAYE online or do a course on it through

Business Link, Local Enterprise Agencies, Local Council or Enterprise Centres HM Revenue & Customs.

Remember that employing a Support Worker on a PAYE basis will require an employment contract. You can get one of these for free from Business Links website.


You are awarded a support worker for 20 hours at £8 per hour. The support worker starts work and in the first month works 70 hours, this will be recorded on a time sheet and submitted to ATW. You will then pay the support worker and ATW will then reimburse the money into your account.

Depending on how busy ATW are will depend on when they reenburse the money into your account. This could lead to a delay, which could put a financial strain on the business. To keep thing simple it also might be worth having a separate account for these payments, for tax purposes, as they are regarded as a grant.

Bookkeeping and Accounts – For the disabled entrepreneur, tax does not have to be taxing

When you start up in business you are required by law to keep some form of accountant, in order for the tax office to calculate tax on your profits.

Many disabled people wishing to start up in business are concerned about, how they will be able to do this as they have had no experience in doing so. Some disabled entrepreneurs have concerns about the cost involved in hiring a bookkeeper or an accountant to submit there records to the tax authorities.

In this article I will use the term bookkeeper as the majority of small businesses may only need an accountant for a small part of there record keeping responsibilities. Accountants have gone through more training than bookkeepers and are able to handle more complex issues. If your small business does not need the skills of an accountant, then there is no point in paying top dollar to use one. 

Other concerns people have, is how they will be able to cope physically doing their tax records if they have a disability which limits the work they can do.

In my experience these fears are often blown out of proportion as people feel they need to be an expert in maths to be able to keep records. This is simply not true. For someone setting up a small business, record keeping is a fairly simple process which should not incur much attention from a bookkeeper or accountant.

I would advise anyone who is thinking of starting up a small business and has concerns about record keeping to first visit the tax office and ask them what is required. Many local tax offices has staff whos job it is to help small business submit their tax records and some even run courses. If you think about it, all the Government wants, is for you to pay the correct tax you owe.

When you visit them, explain your concerns and any issues you may have. From my experience they have been very helpful with people who have disabilities and may already understand the concerns you have.

They could help you set up a system which will suit both parties and keep you on the right side of the law. They may be elements of keeping and completing records that you don’t feel comfortable with. For these more taxing (sorry) elements, you could always get a bookkeeper to do them.

As I was saying, keeping records for tax purposes is fairly straight forward and  inexpensive, if you are prepared to do some of the work yourself. If all you want to do, is once a year turn up to your bookkeeper, dump a sack full of receipts on his table and run off, then yes it is going to cost you.

You can reduce this costs by keeping your records in order, which will mean less work for the bookkeeper. I would recommend that you get yourself some envelopes and files, and at the very least keep all the receipts/ invoices in order, on a month to month basis.

Talk to a few bookkeepers, tell them you are on a budget and you want do the majority of work yourself. Work with them and the tax office and find a system that is right for you.

There is also support available from Access to Work. If you have a disability which restricts the bookkeeping work you can carry out, you may be entitled to equipment or a support worker to enable you to operate your business effectively. They will not pay for someone to do your accounts, but will help easy issues which are directly related to your disability.

If your local tax office does not offer courses, try your local enterprise centres or the council. From time to time these organisations run courses for all abilities.

Disabled and in business? What to do if you become disabled and are self employed.

Becoming disabled is a difficult time for people, as it could affect every aspect of there life. For people who are self employed, becoming disabled can have a disastrous effect on their business.

The first piece of advice I can give to you if you find yourself in this position is to fight! This is not the time to feel sorry for yourself; you may have people who rely on you. I suspect if you are in business you are used to having to fight and if you want to keep your business you will need to act fast!

If you are self employed and have recently become disabled from sight loss (registered blind or partially sighted), become deaf or have mobility issues etc… it could have a negative impact on your business.

There is support out there to keep you in business. The last thing the government wants is for you to quit your business and sign on to full time benefits. In this article I will guide you through the support available and were to find it. Support which is designed to help you remain in business can take time to implement. The quicker you can apply for it, the faster it will be put in place, which should limit the impact on your business.

The main support available to people in business who have become disabled is.

1. Benefits
2. Access to work
3. Grants

1. Benefits

If you are newly disabled and in business, you could qualify for benefits which are designed to support you with the extra cost of living caused by your disability. Benefits such as, Disability Living Allowance are not means tested and could be paid to you whilst you are trading. This extra financial support could help you until you can fully operate your business.

There could also be support if your income drops during this time. You maybe eligible for Working Tax Credits, housing benefit, counsel tax benefit, which will supplement your income.

The key to accessing these benefits are working with the people who understand your disability. You need to contact local charities who operate in your area and specialise in you disability. You can find these by looking in the phone book or using the internet. These charities usually have staff who can help you access support.

2. Access to Work

Access to Work is a Government organisation who can provide funds to pay for a support worker, equipment or adaptation to your working environment to enable you to run your business (see ATW article for more info)

3. Grants

There are 2 different types of grants you may qualify for to enable you to continue in business. The first one is hardship grants if your disability is affecting your income and you are having difficulties in paying your utility bills, rents, child costs etc…the other type is a business grant (see business grants)

The key to remaining in business is knowledge and speed. Work with as many organisations as possible and get all the support you are entitled to.

Is my business viable? Will I qualify for Access to Work? A strong business plan will help

One of the conditions of a successful self employment application to Access to Work is that the business is viable .i.e. likely to succeed. Many disabled entrepreneurs starting up new businesses have difficulty in proving how profitable their business will be, as they only have a business plan, which is partly theoretical.

The problem Access to Work have is that it is difficult for them to determine if a business is viable when they don’t have any business advisers to judge it. Let’s not forget, some Access to Work applications run into several thousands of pounds. For Access to Work not to waste tax payers money, they must be sure the grant will be put to best use.

One way to help Access to Work is to inform them of other organisations you are working with to produce your business plan. It’s a good idea when starting a business to work with lots of organisations, as not only they can give you advice, they may also have a start up grant available.

Working with many organisations and securing grants from them will give a lot of strength to your business plan and help to prove that your business will have a good chance of success. The more qualified people you can get on board the better and if they are financially backing you, it will be further proof of your business’ viability.

Another way to prove viability is to get letters of support from business support organisations such as Business Link. These, combined with an endorsed business plan, will give your business idea credibility and may convince Access to Work that your business is viable.

Access to Work – What can a disabled entrepreneur apply for?

Blind business person using CCTVAccess to Work is a Government organisation that can provide equipment or support to enable a disabled person to run their business, so long as it is for disability needs.

For example, it would be essential for a visually impaired plumber to transport himself and his equipment to a client. It would be almost impossible for the plumber to take all of his equipment, materials and the client’s new boiler on a bus or put it in the back of a taxi. Therefore Access to Work would consider funding a driver to take the plumber to the client.

Likewise Access to Work would not fund the support worker to help lift the boiler out of the van, as a plumber would need an employee to do that anyway. An employee for this job would be considered a business need and not a disability need.

As a disabled entrepreneur you may be eligible for assistive technology to enable you to carry out your daily work duties. There is a vast array of equipment out there, from electronic magnifiers to help the visually impaired to sophisticated hearing loop systems for the hearing impaired.

For example, due to the plumber’s eyesight he might have problems reading the instructions to fit the new boiler. Access to Work might then consider funding a hand held electronic magnifier so he can read the instructions.

Access to Work is unlikely to fund a computer, as the majority of businesses would need a computer anyway. A computer would be considered a business need and not a disability need.

To apply to Access to Work contact your local job centre.

Access to Work. How it should work for a business person with a disability

Access to Work disabled person workingAccess to Work is a government funded body whose remit is to support disabled people retain or access employment. If you are registered as self employed with the Inland Revenue or own a limited company. You can apply to them for assistance. How can they help? They can help fund the following.

• Adaptive and supportive technology
• Environment adaptations
• Employer training and awareness
• Employee training
• Mentoring
• Travelling to and for work
• Readers and support workers

For small business owners the prospect of approaching and dealing with a government department can be daunting, slow and lengthy process.

Here are a few simple guidelines that may help.

• Always remember that any assistance asked for must be based on your disability needs not on your business needs.
• Research the supportive technology that suits your needs before applying, so as you can give a clear picture of the help you need.
• If you are a business start up prepare a business plan, if your are already in business you may need to supply accounts or proof of earnings
• If you are applying for help with travel or a support worker as a self employed person or business start up, your needs may vary over the course of a year, so prepare a snapshot of the assistance you need based on your busiest month

If you do seek professional advice from specialists, such as business advisors in helping you apply to Access to Work. Make sure they have experience in this field and that the advice they give is based on your best interests not on any government or local government contracts they maybe tied to. It’s always a good idea to ask, if they are members of a professional body and have a code of practice.

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