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Coming Off Benefits and Going Back to Work

Moving back into work after claiming benefits entitles you to extra help and support. Several job search programs and work experiences help you start working after benefits.

RETURNING TO WORK: This guide explains how to move from benefits and return to the workforce.

Your local Jobcentre Plus office can help you prepare for a job, and stay in work afterwards, through:

  • Job search programs, training, guidance and work placement schemes.
  • Work experience and job trialling schemes, clubs, and volunteering.
  • Expert help to get people setting up and running their own business.
  • Carer support helping you to combine work while looking after children.
  • Help for those with specific problems (e.g. alcohol or drug issues).

Note: Some benefits entitlement continues for a while even after you have returned to work. The help guide on how to get off benefits and starting work is also available in Welsh language (Cymraeg).

Helping Disabled People Back into Work

Some specific programs help disabled people look for work – even those with a long-term health condition. They make it easier for you to find a job or to gain new skills. Contact your Jobcentre Plus if you have a disability and want get back into work.

Job Search Programmes

Contact your Jobcentre Plus work coach about the various job search programmes. They have information on schemes that help you prepare for work. Your work coach can also help you keep on working after you stopped claiming benefits.

The Work Programme DWP

The DWP Work Programme stopped taking on any new participants from the 1st of April 2017. Even so, you can continue taking part for up to two (2) years from the date you joined if you already started.

What happens when you have been on the Work Programme for the full 2 years? In this case you must attend an assessment interview at Jobcentre Plus. The aim of the interview is to help you plan for work and learn where to find it.

Help from Sector-based Work Academies

In some cases you can get training in a particular industry or area of work for up to 6 weeks. This type of work experience gets offered by some sector-based work academies.

There are benefits to joining these types of sector-based work programs. Most academies offer a guaranteed interview for a job placement or an apprenticeship.

These schemes are available to those who claim the Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance (if you got placed in the Work-Related Activity Group).

Work Clubs

People who are not employed can join a Work Club. Local organisations and employers, or some community groups, run the work clubs. Joining a work club gives you an ideal opportunity to share knowledge with other job seekers starting work. You can gain work experience and learn new tips for job hunting.

Work Experience Trials and Volunteering

Jobcentre Plus have opportunities that can improve the likelihood of you finding work. These include work trials, work experience, and volunteering. In some cases you can also get financial help towards the cost of travel and childcare.

Work Experience Placements

You must be 16 to 24 and claiming JSA to qualify for a ‘work experience placement‘. The opportunity is available to young adults looking for a return to work after benefits.

As a rule, these type of arrangements last between 2 and 8 weeks. They will expect you to work at least 25 hours a week and up to 30 hours in some cases. But, Jobcentre Plus often cover some costs related to the work experience (e.g. childcare or travel).

Work Together Programme (volunteering)

The Work Together programme is for unemployed people looking for a return to work. Some local organisations offer the Work Together scheme. It is also a rewarding way of coming off benefits to work in the community.

Note: Your Jobcentre Plus work coach can give you details about volunteering opportunities.

Work Trials for Unemployed

Enrollment in a work trial allows unemployed people a chance to try out a new job and keep getting benefits. As a rule, work trials last up to 30 working days. If things go well you might also get offered a permanent job placement at the end.

Work trials are voluntary. That means volunteering in this kind of try-out does not affect your benefits. You will keep your rights to benefits even if you finish it early or refuse to take a job you get offered.

Employment on Trial Rules

Employment on Trial is a system that allows you to leave a job and reclaim Jobseeker’s Allowance. As a rule it will not affect your qualification for JSA benefit. The exception could be if you get sacked or leave the job because of your misconduct.

The Employment on Trial rules relate most to the amount of working hours. Before leaving the job, you must have worked over 16 hours a week and over a period of 4 to 12 weeks.

Start Up or Run Your Own Business

The UK Government is keen to encourage people off benefits to start up or develop their own business. Contact your Jobcentre Plus work coach for more detailed information on help with going back to work.

New Enterprise Allowance

You need to be over 18 to qualify for the New Enterprise Allowance initiative. You must also be able to show that you have a business idea – and that it could work. On top of that, you also need to be receiving one of these work-related benefits:

  • The Jobseeker’s Allowance (or your partner gets JSA).
  • Employment and Support Allowance (or your partner gets ESA).
  • Income Support (if you are a lone parent, sick, or disabled).

Note: Coming off Income Support or ESA and going back to work is only one solution. You may also qualify if you get Universal Credit. This also applies even if you have already become self-employed.

Self-employed and Claiming Universal Credit

If you are in self-employment and claiming Universal Credit you may qualify for:

  • Help to increase your earnings. This would usually be part of a business development and a growth plan.
  • Ongoing business mentoring support for up to 52 weeks. This focuses on helping you to grow your business.
  • A government backed start up loan for those whose business is under 2 years old.

Universal Credit Helpline
Telephone:0800 328 9344
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Monday to Friday: 8am to 6pm
Check the cost of calling 0800 numbers

Extra Support: Access to Work

In some cases extra support is available through the Access to Work grant. To qualify you must be getting the New Enterprise Allowance and have a disability, health, or mental health condition.

Help for Carers and Parents

It is not easy trying to combine work with looking after small children. That includes all the caring responsibilities of parents and carers. Contact your Jobcentre work coach about specific help for carers and parents.

Help for Parents: You can get help with childcare costs when moving from benefits back into work.

Help for Carers: You can get help from Work Preparation Support for Carers. It helps care workers make a leap forward into full time work. The scheme includes access to training with job hunting and work applications advice.

You can get help with the cost of replacement care while you are in training or attending interviews.

European Social Fund for Specific Problems

Your local Jobcentre Plus and the European Social Fund both provide extra help for those with specific problems.

Funding for Families with Multiple Problems

The European Social Fund may provide support for families who need extra help. You may qualify if you have several problems that have stopped you finding work. Typical examples of ‘numerous problems in families‘ include:

  • A history of unemployment or nobody works in the family.
  • Behavioural issues with alcohol or drugs.
  • Financial management or parenting skills.
  • Instances of antisocial behaviour.
  • Mental or physical health conditions.

Help with Alcohol and Drug Problems

There is extra support for those on benefits with a drug or alcohol problem if it stops you working.

Your work coach can give you more information on specialist drugs or alcohol treatment professionals in your area. They will be able to refer you to their services if you choose to take it.

Claiming Benefits when Working

Entering back into the workplace does not always mean giving up your benefits. In fact, many benefits continue even while you are working. In some cases, starting work gives you entitlement to other allowances.

Make a visit to your Jobcentre Plus if you find a job and you (or your partner) were getting:

The staff will help you to manage your transition from benefits into work. They can sort out changes to your tax credits and any other benefit claims. The amount you can depends on how long you were claiming for these benefits (without a break).

There are no specific forms to fill in. But, they will want to see details of your savings, household income, and any rent payments to hand.

Note: Starting a new job or increasing your working hours can affect your benefits. Use a benefits calculator to check how much.

Help with Housing Issues

Qualification for help with housing depends most on how long you have claimed for benefits or income support. In some circumstances you may get:

These payments and allowances provide extra help for up to 4 weeks once you start a new job and begin earning wages. Extended reductions on your Council Tax bill may also be available in some cases.

Get Help and Support Coming off Benefits and Starting Work in the UK