If you are thinking of returning to work, increasing your hours or even studying a course to better your chances of getting a job, it can be a confusing and stressful time trying to figure out how getting a job will affect your benefits, how will you afford to study a course, (can anyone actually afford uni?) and just where will you find the cash to get a decent interview outfit?
A little known nugget of wisdom is that there are little kitty’s of money set aside as grants and funds available for those who are trying to find a new job, develop their career or study for new qualifications.
It does take a little digging around on the internet to get to grips with what is available, so over a steaming mug of tea I did some searching so I could give you a quick run-down of what is available.
The Job Grant – Returning to work
There is a tax-free grant called the Job Grant that can be awarded to people who are moving into employment, or whose employment status will change in a way that will mean they no longer receive benefits. The grant can also apply if your partner's work situation changes in a way that will affect any benefits you receive.
This money can be used for many things, whether it is to tide you over before your monthly income starts or to help you purchase work-appropriate clothing.
How much you receive as a Job Grant is dependent on your personal situation. Single people and couples without children can receive £100, while lone parents and couples with children can be awarded £250.
It is important to note that unlike benefits, this is a discretionary tax-free grant which means that you are not automatically entitled to it from the government just by meeting the criteria, it is left to the Job Centre to assess your situation and choose whether to award the grant or not.
The main purpose of this grant is to compensate for a loss in benefit as you switch to employment, so it follows that the first criteria is that you must be receiving one of these benefits:
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Jobseeker's Allowance
- Income Support
- Incapacity Benefit
- Severe Disablement Allowance
- Jobcentre Plus or New Deal Allowance
- Employment Zone payment based on a Jobseeker's Allowance.
You need to have been receiving one of these qualifying benefits for at least 26 weeks immediately prior to entering your new job and the job you are taking needs to provide a minimum of 16 hours per week. (This also applies if you are increasing your shifts at an existing job to over 16 hours).
Don’t worry about this affecting your tax credits, if you do receive a Job Grant it won't have any impact on these or other specific benefits that relate to it. You probably also immediately qualify for the Extended Council Tax Benefit and the Extended Housing Benefit which would give you 4 weeks of help with paying your council tax and rent respectively, so it is definitely worth exploring all of the benefits that you could be entitled to.
If your new job hasn't significantly improved your financial situation then don’t worry, keep at it, you may still qualify for continued support with these aspects in the form of an in-work Council Tax Benefit and an in-work Housing Benefit but you wouldn’t need to file a new claim for these, your situation will automatically be assessed at the end of the 4-week period anyway.
Turn2us is a national charity that helps people when times get tough by providing financial support to help people get back on track through a few different grant-giving funds
- Turn2us Elizabeth Finn Fund - Providing direct grants for people who have a professional background and their dependants
- Turn2us Edinburgh Trust - Help for people who have experienced a life-changing event in the past 12 months.
- Turn2us Response Fund - Financial assistance and support for people in need in the City of Edinburgh.
They have a free and easy-to-use Benefits Calculator and Grants Search tool that you can use to check what benefits you might be able to claim and what grants you might be able to apply for.
There are lots ways that you can get help for returning to employment through The Jobcentre Plus, especially if you are still at the looking for work, stage.
They offer services that help with compiling a CV, looking and applying for jobs, finding out about training possibilities and introduction to work clubs and other organisations that help people find a job.
Some Jobcentres have discretionary funds to help people with travel expenses to and from interviews and they will have free telephones for you to call about job vacancies you have seen.
As well as the jobs that they advertise they will most likely have the jobs sections of both local and national newspapers and access to online job seeking services.
Adult learning to develop your skills in preparation for returning to work.
I did a post on this in much more detail so do go check that out after you have read this post but I found another e-learning provider that I didn’t mention before.
Alison has over 750 free online courses in a huge variety of topics from financial literacy to fitness and nutrition. What I love about this is that you can either purchase a certificate at the end of your course or download a learner record for free so you can show potential employers just how much work you have put into developing your knowledge and skills, this is not always possible with free online courses so it is certainly a perk.
You progress through modules each week, sometimes followed by a short quiz and like with Alison, some courses provide the opportunity to purchase a completion certificate at the end.
What is really encouraging is just how much is available to help you on your job hunting, career revamping, course-studying journey. You just need to know where to look.