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Access to Work - Service Assessment

Access to Work is a service that provides practical advice and support to people with disabilities or mental health conditions and their employers to help them overcome work-related obstacles resulting from disability. The service provides a discretionary grant that contributes to the additional employment costs resulting from disability that the employer would not normally be expected to cover.

Department / Agency:

Date of Original Assessment:

Date of Reassessment:

Assessment Stage:

Result of Original Assessment:
Not Pass

Result of Reassessment:

Lead Assessor:
M. Sheldon (Original) / J. Gould (Reassessment)

Service Manager:
L. Mortimer

Digital Leader:
K. Cunnington

Reassessment Report

16th September 2015


The team demonstrated a good understanding of the users of the service and their needs. The team articulated their findings, revisiting their discovery, that this isn't simply an application service process but an ongoing customer management service. The team has made a solid start to researching user needs for support, particularly through relevant third parties, and they plan to start testing face-to-face support with a charity in private beta.

The team has thought carefully about working with partners to support applicants and has begun building those working relationships.

The service team demonstrated both the latest production and development versions of the service. The panel felt that these demonstrations showed that the team are working to good research based and user-centric design principles.


The service team should continue to address ongoing recommendations from the original alpha assessment, including:

  • Continued research with users who are applying on behalf of someone who is unable to apply.
  • Ongoing confirmation that third party support routes are sustainably in place.
  • Ensuring that assisted digital support is free to users.
  • Developing plans for increasing digital take up and an appropriate plan to phase out non-digital channels in the longer term.

The digital service should not be seen as a standalone add-on to the assessment service and payment process. The service must be viewed as a whole, and the end-to-end user journeys considered. At the beta assessment the panel will expect to see the full service and screens provided to agents, as this has such a significant impact on the journey of the applicants.

There was some confusion about what the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) was amongst the assessment panel. For clarity, the panel believe the MVP should be the end-to-end service, not just the initial application process. At beta assessment, the panel would expect to see a working end-to-end service that allowed users to make an application and case officers to process the application to a live customer. The panel will also expect to see the user journey for reapplications.

During the private beta we recommend that the team monitor how many applications require follow-up calls to provide clarification to the information provided through the online application. As the service is iterated and improved we would expect fewer applications to require follow-up.

The team should continue to explore user needs for support in more detail by thinking ahead to the requirements for a live service, for example, whether availability of support meets user needs for people in work.

The team demonstrated some interesting design findings on accessibility. We recommend these are shared within DWP and the cross government design community.

Summary of Original Report

30th July 2015

After consideration the assessment panel has concluded that the Access to Work service is not yet on track to meet the Digital Service Standard at this early stage of development. However, we believe that meeting the standard and progressing to a beta phase is well within the capabilities of the team.


The service team and their working practices are excellent, especially at such an early phase. The team is led by a skilled service manager, and the team are building using agile, iterative and user-centred methods. The team were able to show, with evidence, that they are following the principles and guidelines set out in the service standard.

With ongoing user research, during discovery and alpha, the team have spoken to many users of the current service; from job seekers, employees and employers, to advisors and staff in other departments and support organisations. This research suggested that more than 50% of the potential users would need assisted digital support and the team have focused efforts on finding and representing those users.

For the alpha phase the team have built an online form that complements the current Access to Work phone service. This form does not replace any part of the service, but aims to reduce the time spent gathering information during the application phase. The assessment panel agreed that following this approach has considerably reduced the scope for the design of the end-to-end service. In addition, the information provided detailing the intent behind the project focuses on strategic and policy led outcomes, not the needs of users.

One of the key challenges with the current telephone service is the difficulty advisors and users have in finding a time to communicate. This causes delays and failures during the application process. The online form does not make this simpler, clearer or faster. Users still have no opportunity to specify preferred dates or times for contact. Their chances of missing the three call attempts from an advisor remain the same.

A primary user need identified by the service team is to allow people reapplying to reuse information already given, so as to not waste time. Another need focused on offering flexibility for users who can't apply themselves or need expert support. The online form does not address either of these user needs or others identified.


To meet the service standard at alpha phase we recommend that the service team:

  • Return to a discovery phase and research how meeting the needs of users informs the design of a digital by default service.
  • Map out from end-to-end the current user journey and back-end administration processes. Identify the pain points and failure demand and focus on addressing those. For example, by offering an appointment booking solution to help users and advisors.
  • Research the type of support users will need and design prototype support aimed at meeting these needs.
  • Research with users who are applying on behalf of someone who is unable to apply.
  • Research users' understanding of the service's name "Access to Work".
  • Confirm that third party support routes are sustainably in place.
  • Ensure that assisted digital support is free to users.
  • Develop plans for increasing digital take-up and an appropriate plan to phase out non-digital channels in the longer term.

Digital Service Standard criteria

Criteria Passed Criteria Passed
1 Yes 2 Yes
3 Yes 4 Yes
5 Yes 6 Yes
7 Yes 8 Yes
9 Yes 10 Yes
11 Yes 12 Yes
13 Yes 14 Yes
15 Yes 16 Yes
17 Yes 18 Yes