Employment programmes

Employment programmes

The Government funds welfare to work programmes to support people back to work. These are changing soon when the Work Programme and Work Choice are due to be replaced by the new Work and Health Programme.


The Work Programme

The Work Programme is the Government's big welfare-to-work programme and it is aimed at people who are unemployed or on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). It is closing soon and no more referrals are being made. It will be replaced by the Work and Health Programme. You can find out who delivers the Work Programme in your area.


Work Choice

Work Choice is a Government-funded programme that has been designed to support people with disabilities. Usually, you must be referred through your local Jobcentre Plus. Referrals will close in autumn 2017.

Work Choice is delivered by different providers across the country. Most providers offer 3 levels of help.

Level of help What you get How long it lasts
Work Entry Support Advice on work and personal skills to help you find a job Up to 6 months
In-Work Support Help to start work and stay in your job Up to 2 years
Longer-term In-Work Support Help to get on in your job and work without support Long-term

Work Entry Support can be extended by 3 or 6 months in exceptional circumstances and when there is a clear prospect of a job.

To qualify for Work Choice you must:

  • live in England or Wales
  • be of working age
  • need support in work as well as to find a job
  • be able to work at least 16 hours a week after Work Entry Support
  • have a recognised disability that means you find it hard to get or keep a job
  • need specialist help that you can’t get from other government programmes or schemes - for example workplace adjustments, suppliers working in partnership with Jobcentre Plus or Access to Work

You can apply if you have a job but are at risk of losing it because of your disability. This also applies if you’re self-employed. You do not need to be claiming benefits to access the programme.

You can find out who delivers Work Choice in your area (downloadable spreadsheet).


Specialist Employability Support (SES)

The SES programme is funded until autumn 2017 and looks likely to be extended. It has been designed to support people with higher support needs into work, either directly or though the Work Choice programme. 

Specialist Employability Support Start Back Provision provides intensive support and training for up to 6 months.

Specialist Employability Support Main Provision provides longer-term support and training for an agreed length of time (usually 12 months).

SES is delivered through six national contracts. Four of these are for people with all disabilities, one for people with a visual impairment and one for people with a hearing impairment.

Contact your local Jobcentre Plus to apply. You’ll be assessed by a provider and they’ll tell you when your support can start.

You can choose the organisation that supports you but access to SES is through your local Jobcentre Plus. The main organisations delivering SES include:


Access to Work

Access to Work is a government-funded scheme that funds workplace support and workplace adjustments. Generally, the worker has to make a claim for support to help them to maintain or retain their job. This is done by contacting the Access to Work call centre on 0345 604 3349. 

It can be used to fund :

  • support for people working more than 16 hours per week
  • support for people working less than 16 hopurs a week but there is a one year limit on this support
  • support for people on a supported internship, apprenticeship or traineeship programme

There is a separate claims process for people undertaking supported internships.

The money can pay for things like:

  • adaptations to the equipment you use
  • special equipment
  • fares to work if you can’t use public transport
  • a support worker or job coach to help you in your workplace
  • a support service if you have a mental health condition and you’re absent from work or finding it difficult to work
  • disability awareness training for your colleagues
  • a communicator at a job interview
  • the cost of moving your equipment if you change location or job