How DWP Digital is improving access to work

Written by Malcolm Canvin, Senior Product Manager, Digital Lead - Access to Work, DWP Digital

DWP Digital have received overwhelmingly positive feedback around customer journey transformation on DWP’s Access to Work grant service. 

Through digitising the service, customers are now able to complete a claim online in less than 10 minutes, speeding up the process for them being reimbursed for the help and support they need. 

Senior Product Manager and Digital Lead, Malcolm Canvin, explains why it was important to complete this transformation journey and how the team achieved it.


What is Access to Work?

Access to Work is a discretionary grant for people with a disability or health condition. It’s a highly bespoke service which can provide support above and beyond the reasonable adjustments employers must make by law. The grant can pay for a range of things, such as specialist equipment or support workers, based on the needs of the individual.

The grant forms a key part of the government strategy to support disabled people in work and close the employment gap – see Transforming Support: The Health and Disability White Paper for more detail.


Why we needed a digital service

In general people like what Access to Work is and what it does. However, a key challenge, for many of our users, has been the way to claim the grant. When claiming for support, the service user or employer pays in advance for the goods or services and then claims the money back in arrears, an arrangement that works a bit like a pre-agreed expenses claim.

Until recently our claim process involved filling in a paper form, getting that form countersigned by an employer with a physical signature and sending it to the department, alongside receipts or invoices, in the post. This was a time-consuming process, which was difficult for many of our users, and created delays to people being reimbursed. From our research with users, employers, and representative organisations, it was clear that the paper-based claim journey was one of the biggest pain points across the end-to-end service.

So when we began work to transform the Access to Work service, improving the claims journey was our biggest priority.

Although many aspects of the issues were clear from the research and feedback we already had, as always, we began with a discovery phase to identify all the challenges. This helped us better define the problem space and understand what our users, and those who support them, would need from a transformed claims journey. It was clear from this work that our users needed a simple and accessible way to submit claims and that a digital solution may meet many of their needs.


Coming up with a solution

We tested a range of solutions throughout our initial phase and were able to iterate our chosen solution based on research and testing. It was clear that the service would need to do a range of things, not just enabling users to claim online, but also letting them track previously submitted claims and view how much of their grant was left. We also needed to design a way for employers to countersign these new online claims without the need for physical signatures. Once built we were able to invite a small number of real users to test the service as part of a private pilot and iterate it based on analytics and feedback.

After a successful pilot we launched the new online claims journey to all users on 21 June 2023 where it is now available to all Access to Work users from our GOV.UK pages

This new claim portal allows users to:

  • Submit claims online
  • Upload invoices or receipts
  • Have their claims countersigned digitally
  • View previously submitted claims
  • See how much of their grant is left
  • Change their contact details

Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. The journey is straightforward as well as accessible, and a process which used to take upwards of 30 minutes using the paper claim form now takes under 10 minutes for most users. While an online claim journey is welcome, people can also continue to claim using the paper form if they wish to. For many though, this new channel will be a significant improvement to the way they interact with Access to Work – ensuring they can get reimbursed for the support they need as quickly and simply as possible.


The next steps

Despite meeting a number of key user needs with this first release we are aware that there are still improvements to be made. There are a few additional claim types, such as for adaptations to vehicles, which were not included initially, and we believe there are a range of design improvements we can make to ensure users can provide their claim data in a more streamlined way. In addition, there is more we can do to improve the journey for employers who may be helping users to claim.

As always, it’s an iterative process, and we’ll continue to conduct research, gather feedback, and monitor analytics so that we can keep improving what we’ve built. It’s an exciting milestone to take this part of the service into the live environment for everyone who needs it, and it delivers a lot of value to a lot of our users. 

It also forms part of our wider transformation plans across the whole Access to Work service, and so while it’s great to celebrate this achievement, we know there is still a lot of work to do to ensure the entire service delivers an efficient and effective journey for our users.

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