Your Access to Work questions answered

darren townsend-handscomb

Darren Townsend-Handscomb, who runs the website, provides BDN with answers to some of the most frequent questions he was asked at the BDA Congress recently.

A lot of this is new information about Access to Work that may help Deaf applicants with their applications, reviews and problems. You can find this information in BSL, and more information on, on the ‘Updates’ and ‘Self-Employed’ pages.

You can now contact AtW through a BSL interpreter, for free, through SignVideo: 

Many people at the BDA congress said they were still having problems communicating with AtW by email. But you can contact the AtW main number and your adviser using SignVideo for free.

Go to this page:, and near the bottom of the page you will see this:

Click ‘check if you can use the service’ to see the BSL explanation about how it works. And then click ‘go to the video relay service’. If you have any problems, email

The maximum award AtW will give you:

AtW now has a maximum that it will pay for your support in one year. This is often called the ‘cap’. If you need more money than this, you will have to ask your employer to help.

If you make a new application for AtW, or you already have AtW and your award is reviewed between 1st October 2015 and 31 March 2016, then the most you will be given is £40,800 per year.

If you make a new application for AtW, or you already have AtW and your award is reviewed between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017, then the most you will be given is £41,400 per year.

Personal budgets for people with AtW:

AtW are testing if personal budgets are useful. You can ask your adviser if you would like to try a personal budget. Having a personal budget is different from how AtW awards normally work in three ways:

1) How you use your budget is more flexible e.g. you may have an award for 21 hours’ interpreting a week. Instead of using one interpreter for 3 whole days, you could book two interpreters to work half a day together (for a long meeting), then have no interpreter in the afternoon, plus two days with just one interpreter. Or you could book a note taker for some meetings, and use less interpreting. Remember, you cannot spend more than your budget, so if you use more interpreting one week, you will have to use less
another week.

2) You have your own AtW bank account, and AtW send you the money in advance to pay for your interpreters, etc. You have to pay the interpreters yourself. 

3) You have to keep a record of invoices paid, and send copies of the paid invoices to AtW. 

If you are self-employed, you must have turnover of more than £5,824 a year, or AtW will not help you:

Turnover means how much money your business gets in one year. It doesn’t matter how much you pay yourself, and you don’t have to earn the National Minimum Wage (NMW).

AtW understand that this may be too high for BSL teachers, or people who work as staff part time, and self-employed part time, so they will think about this later this year.

Important: If you have your own Ltd business, and you pay yourself a salary, then you are employed, not self-employed, and must pay yourself the NMW.

You can read a lot more about getting AtW if you are self-employed, what information you have to show them, etc. at

You can also read more about problems with AtW at

You can read DWP’s own factsheet for customers about AtW at

Visit Darren’s site at: