Explaining Access To Work’s online claims portal

Introducing Access To Work

We understand some of the additional costs disabled people can face in the workplace in order to have equal access to be able to carry out their roles alongside non-disabled people. We support Access To Work, the scheme run by the Department For Work and Pensions (DWP) that provides financial and practical support to disabled people who are in, or about to start, work. Whether you’re employed, self-employed, or in another form of paid work such as an apprenticeship or internship, Access To Work is there to assist you with any additional support you may need.

The support Access To Work can fund includes:

  • Specialist software, including screen readers such as JAWS, magnification software such as ZoomText, and dictation software such as Dragon Professional. Access To Work can also fund training if using the software is new to you, or you just want some additional guidance.
  • Specialist aids and equipment, for example refreshable Braille displays, electronic magnifiers, and accessories such as headsets and easy-to-see keyboards
  • Travelling to and from work, if there are no practical public transport alternatives
  • Employment of a support worker

After you’ve applied for Access To Work and the support has been agreed, you will need to claim the money back; Access To Work works on a reimbursement basis. For instance, if you claim travel costs, you will need to have made the journeys before you claim the money back, and have proof such as a receipt or invoice.

This blog will discuss making a claim, focusing on the new online claims portal which makes making Access To Work claims simpler, quicker, and most importantly, more accessible and inclusive for people with sight loss.

Before the online claims portal

Before the online claims portal went live, the main way to make Access To Work claims was by post. During the Covid-19 pandemic, it became possible to send claim forms via email, however this wasn’t easy to access, due to Access To Work Advisors’ lack of awareness of email as a reasonable adjustment, and advisors saying that email was only available in exceptional circumstances, for example if you or someone else could not post the form.

However, claiming by post was not very accessible: claim forms weren’t always accessible, you had to provide a wet signature on every form, and you had to ensure that you had all the correct paperwork and you had the address correct on the envelope, and you had to post it.

“When I first started claiming travel costs, I wanted to do it as independently as possible, so I did as much electronically as I could. The first claim form I used was sent to me as a PDF, however it couldn’t be filled out using a screen reader, so I requested it in a Word document. Luckily, Access To Work was willing to do this, so I could at least fill in the form independently. The form was then updated, so I was sent the new form which was a PDF, but this time, I was able to fill in the PDF independently.
Despite managing to fill in the forms independently, I still had to ensure that it was printed off, I had signed it in the correct place and prepared it for postage, along with the relevant evidence. All of this I had to do with sighted assistance, to ensure it was done correctly.”

Alice, Henshaws Digital Communications Officer and Access To Work user

Introducing the online claims portal

The online claims portal went live in July 2023, giving you a more convenient and accessible way to make claims and keep track of your Access To Work support. As the name suggests, the portal allows you to make claims online, but you can also check what your Access To Work support covers, and how much funding you have to spend on that support.

The online system has been designed to be user-friendly and efficient, and you don’t have to request it as a reasonable adjustment. If posting the form is your preference or you aren’t able to sign up to claim online, posting is still an option.

The remainder of this blog will discuss the online claims portal: how to gain access to it, how it works, and finally, our verdict.

How do I access the online claims portal?

You can access the online portal by visiting the following page:
Access to Work: Claiming money from your grant

On that page, there is a Claim Online button that will take you to the portal.

Screenshot of the web page linked to above, which shows the Claim Online button

Before you start making claims, you will need to create an account and then confirm your identity.

Creating An Account

Creating an account is pretty straightforward. You will need to provide your email address, mobile phone number and create a password. A security code will be sent to both your mobile number and email address to confirm it’s definitely your contact details you have entered.

Once you have created your account, you can then confirm your identity.

Confirming your identity

You need to confirm your identity to confirm that it’s definitely you signing up, as the service allows you to access personal data that is kept on record by the DWP.

The first part of confirming your identity involves entering your name, date of birth, postcode, and National Insurance Number.

Once you have entered these details, you will then need to answer questions about two different sources. The sources that you can select are:

  • UK Passport – You will be asked to provide your full name (as it is written, including middle names), your passport number and the passport’s expiry date.
  • A payslip within the last three months, or your current P60 – You will be asked to provide figures from one of those documents, depending on which one you select.
  • Bank accounts, loans, mortgages or credit agreements
  • Your most recent Self Assessment Tax Return
  • Your most recent tax credit payment, if applicable

Once you have answered the questions about the two sources you choose, and the portal accepts that your details match (this will be confirmed instantly; you do not need to wait), you can then view your Access To Work record and make claims.

“This part, if I’m being totally honest, was pretty time-consuming, but it was definitely worth it. Once done, I was able to access information about my Access To Work entitlement, and start making claims.”

Alice

Making a claim

To make a claim, you will need to fill out the online claim form. If you are entitled to multiple types of support, for example travel costs and equipment costs, you will be presented with the relevant form when you select what you want to claim for.

Front page of the Access To Work online claim form. It features the question: 'What type of support are you claiming for?' with the options: Travel to and from work, specialist equipment, and something else. It also indicates that the person that this claim form is for is employed by Henshaws.

You will be told exactly what information you need to include, and then you can also upload the relevant receipts or invoices, either as a digital document, or a clear scan or photograph of a printed document. You can either upload one document, or multiple documents, depending on how you organise your receipts or invoices.

If you are employed (and not self-employed), you will need to provide the name and email address of a workplace contact who can approve your claim. Your workplace contact will be sent an email and a link to approve your claim – your workplace contact does not need to create an account in the same way that claimants do to start claiming.

Once you have submitted your claim, you will receive a confirmation email with a reference number, and you will be sent a further email once your workplace contact has approved it, and another email once the payment has been made.

Our verdict

It is great to see Access To Work making their processes more accessible, especially as the scheme is for disabled people so accessibility should be a priority.

RNIB has recently launched the Access To Work Delays campaign, highlighting the barriers that people with sight loss face when applying for, and using, Access To Work. While the campaign primarily focuses on Access To Work delays (the length of time it is taking for applications to be processed), the report also highlights the inaccessibility of claim forms, and how the online claims portal should make it more accessible and efficient for people with sight loss (the report was published before the online claims portal went live).

Click here for RNIB’s Access To Work delays campaign

At Henshaws, we’re all about enabling our service users to lead independent lives. We believe that this new Access To Work online claims portal will enable people with sight loss to claim money back more independently.

Access To Work is a lifeline for many visually impaired people in employment, and this online portal has made Access To Work’s processes more seamless, intuitive, and most importantly, more accessible and inclusive.

Alice’s comment

“I am so relieved that Access To Work finally has introduced an online claims portal. I claim for travel costs monthly, and claiming using the postal form was very time-consuming, and I wasn’t able to complete the process from start to finish without sighted assistance.
The online claims portal means I can be much more independent: I still have sighted assistance to scan the receipts, but that’s because I don’t currently obtain digital receipts from my taxi company. I am able to fill out the form and submit it without any sighted assistance. I also appreciate that you receive an email as soon as you submit your claim, so you have confirmation that Access To Work has received it, and there is a reference number for if you to need to follow up a claim.
Previously, when you sent forms by post, you would receive no confirmation that it had been received, so you only knew for definite once you were paid. You could obtain the tracking number from Royal Mail, but this was always on a piece of paper, and it wasn’t tied specifically to your Access To Work form.
Being able to make claims online reduces physical paperwork, allows you to submit claims more securely, and the best part: you get paid much quicker than if you claim by post.”

Alice

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