Support for jobseekers

Learn about back to work grants, courses, advice and other financial support available to help you find work.

Entering the job market – or re-entering it after a long while – can feel daunting. Industries and businesses change at pace, meaning it is easy to find yourself without the right skills or qualifications for certain roles.

Fortunately, there are various ways to upskill yourself and get the experience or financial support you need to succeed in jobs you may be interested in. A number of industries continually require new staff, particularly those with driving jobs, roles in warehouses or offices, and catering staff. By building the skills needed for these roles, you will not only be more attractive to employers, but you will also be properly prepared to succeed in the role and enjoy it for a longer time.

If the thought of gaining new skills, experience or training sounds overwhelming to you, then look no further. In this article, we take you through the financial and practical support available to help you gain the skills and confidence you need to succeed.

Will starting work affect your benefits?

If you’re currently on any government benefits, you’re not guaranteed to lose these when you start working. It depends on how much you earn and your own personal situation. If you start out by doing some volunteer work or work experience, you may still be able to claim benefits. Your Jobcentre Plus work coach can help you manage changes to your benefits as you navigate your new situation.

There is also some additional government funding to help you find employment. The Flexible Support Fund (FSF) helps you prepare for interviews and starting work, covering things like travel costs and the clothing you might need to start your job. It can also pay for childcare for your first month in employment. You are eligible for the FSF if you are claiming certain benefits, but it is up to the Jobcentre Plus advisers to decide whether you can have access to it based on your situation.

Can you apply for a job grant?

Job grants can also help you manage financially when you start your new job. They are one-off, tax-free sums designed to cover the gap between your benefits ending and your first pay. They can also help you adjust to your role, such as paying for workwear you may need to buy. You are eligible for a job grant if you have been on certain benefits for at least 26 weeks. Your new job contract also needs to be at least 16 hours a week – or you could be increasing your hours at a current job. As job grants are discretionary payments, Jobcentre Plus will ultimately decide if you are eligible.

Support available to access job opportunities

There are a number of programmes to give you an extra helping hand when securing a job. This could be in the form of advice, work experience or government-funded training to build your skills so that you can be considered for a role. The most common ones are:

Way to Work
Way to Work – aiming to get 500,000 jobseekers into work by the end of June 2022, Way to Work is a new collaboration between the government’s Jobcentre Plus and employers across a range of sectors including construction, transport and logistics. The initiative provides Work Coaches who offer jobseekers in-person support with the aim of securing them a job within four weeks of requesting assistance or advice.

Free courses and qualifications for jobs
Free courses and qualifications for jobs – if you are 19 years or over, you may be eligible to access a learning course for free, as part of the government’s support to help those who would like to upskill themselves to get a job. Course fees are covered by the government, and include Level 3 qualifications, English language skills courses, and Skills Bootcamps. If you are not eligible for a free course, government Advanced Learner Loans are available to help cover the costs of learning.


The Skills Toolkit
The Skills Toolkit – a list of free courses to help you learn generic skills that apply to all sectors, or skills for more specialised industries.


Sector-based work academy programme (SWAP)
Sector-based work academy programme (SWAP) – a placement of up to six weeks to provide training in a specific sector, work experience and an interview for a job or apprenticeship. It may be available if you claim Jobseeker’s Allowance, Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance.


Work experience through Jobcentre Plus
Work experience through Jobcentre Plus – an opportunity to gain work experience with an employer, lasting between two to eight weeks and typically working between 25 and 30 hours a week. You can continue claiming benefits whilst you’re on the work experience placement. It may be available if you’re claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit.


Work Together Programme
Work Together Programme this is a volunteering programme through Jobcentre Plus. Your Jobcentre Plus adviser can match you to local volunteering opportunities that enable you to gain work experience. Taking part in a volunteering programme shouldn’t affect your benefits.


Work Trials
Work Trials  through Jobcentre Plus, you can get a trial in employment at a company whilst receiving your benefits. You will work for up to 30 days and have the chance to get the job at the end of the trial.


Work Preparation Support for Carers
Work Preparation Support for Carers – if you are a primary carer, you can access specialised training, advice and job-hunting support. You can also get help with childcare costs or the costs of replacement care whilst you go to interviews.


Traineeships – if you’re aged between 16 and 24, have qualifications up to Level 3 (equivalent to A Level) and little to no work experience, you can take part in a traineeship. This will give you a combination of training, application support and a work placement to put you in a better position to get a job or an apprenticeship. Even though it’s unpaid, you may get financial support for expenses.


Job support for people with disabilities or long-term health conditions

If you have a disability or long-term health condition, the Access to Work programme can help you overcome any obstacles you may experience to enter the workplace. You may be eligible for the Access to Work grant, which can cover the costs of additional support you need to find a job or stay in work. This could pay for things like transport to the place of interview or work, lip speakers, an interpreter and/or note taker for meetings, equipment and aids you may need in the workplace, and advice for your employer. Access to Work also provides practical support based on your unique needs. You might be given a plan to help you adjust to life in work, including flexible work patterns, a phased entry to the workplace, mentoring, additional training, extra time on tasks or ongoing support from an adviser. 

Charities that help jobseekers

A number of charities offer more targeted support to help different members of the community access help in finding jobs and a meaningful career. Below are some example charities offering this kind of support.

  • The Prince’s Trust – aimed at helping young people (aged 16-30) build confidence and explore career avenues. It offers free courses, mentoring and access to work experience.
  • Royal British Legion – offers support for serving personnel and veterans to find suitable jobs.
  • The Salvation Army – Employment Plus (E+) Local provides practical guidance in local centres and can give you access to computers to help with job applications.
  • Papworth Trust – supports people with disabilities into work through advice, work experience and training opportunities.

Your next steps

Whether you have been unemployed for some time or you are completely new to the world of work, entering the job market can feel intimidating. The support schemes and charities mentioned above can help give you focus and confidence from the minute you find and apply to jobs to your first day in the role. For more advice on what to do next in your job search, visit our career advice page, or to start exploring opportunities available now, search our current jobs.

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