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Government employment schemes

Help finding work

This information describes the main Government employment schemes. Most schemes are provided through Jobcentre Plus offices, where you can get more details. Some employment schemes are compulsory for people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) while others are voluntary. You can also find information here about employment schemes for the self-employed, training schemes, and other types of help on offer.

Help for disabled people

Every Jobcentre Plus office has a Disability Employment Adviser (DEA) attached, providing specialist advice to disabled people and actual or potential employers. The DEA can advise on finding work, job retention and getting practical help through the Access to Work scheme and supported employment.

For more information about Access to Work, see Disability discrimination at work.

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Compulsory schemes

If you are claiming Jobseeker's Allowance, you must take part in certain schemes if you are advised to do so by a personal adviser. Your benefit may be affected if you refuse to do so or leave a scheme before completing it. The Work Experience programme is different in that it is voluntary to join, but it becomes compulsory after you have accepted an offer of a place.

Benefit sanctions

If you refuse to take part in, or leave a compulsory scheme before completing it, you may suffer a benefit sanction. This means Jobcentre Plus will stop, or in some cases reduce, your Jobseeker’s Allowance for a certain period.

For more information about sanctions, see Benefits for people looking for work.

Jobseeker’s agreement

If you go to a Jobcentre Plus office to find work, you will be interviewed by a personal adviser who will help draw up a jobseeker’s agreement. This details the steps you should take to find work and forms the basis of your interviews with the personal adviser.

13-week review

If you have not found work after 13 weeks, your personal adviser will review the situation with you. The interview may take place on a day other than the unemployed person’s usual attendance day. Attendance at the interview is compulsory.

As a result of the 13 week interview, you may:

  • be put in touch with local employers with vacancies
  • have your jobseeker’s agreement reviewed to reflect the fact that you will widen the range of jobs you will look for
  • be issued with a direction aimed at improving your prospects of finding work
  • be referred to a scheme or programme.

If you do not attend the 13 week review or fail to act on your personal adviser's suggestions, you may suffer a benefit sanction.

Restart interviews

If you are still out of work after 26 weeks, you will be asked to attend a Restart interview with a Jobcentre Plus Office personal adviser. Attendance is compulsory and failure to attend could affect your benefit.

The Work Experience programme

The Work Experience programme is for people aged 16 to 24, although Jobcentre Plus can accept people aged 25 or over in exceptional circumstances. It aims to give you experience of a working environment and normally lasts for between two and eight weeks.

If you're already claiming jobseeker's allowance (JSA) and take part in the programme, you will still get JSA and must continue to actively seek work as normal.

Although Work Experience is voluntary to join, it becomes compulsory once you have accepted a place. If you are 18 or over, this means that if you lose your place because of gross misconduct, your JSA can be stopped.

The Help to Work Scheme

If you finish on the Work Programme but you're still unemployed and claiming jobseeker’s allowance, you move on to the Help to Work scheme. On the Help to Work scheme, you have to do one of the following three activities:

  • go to the jobcentre every day. This involves discussing your progress in looking for work, or new activities to improve your skills
  • take up a Community Work Placement
  • accept intensive support from Jobcentre Plus. This means Jobcentre Plus will spend more time with you looking at how to you can get back into work. It may involve going on training schemes, funding to overcome barriers to work such as travel costs or clothes for a job interview, or local work experience.

Jobcentre Plus will decide which of these three activities is appropriate, after discussing your barriers to work with you, and taking into account a report from your Work Programme provider.

The Help to Work Scheme is mandatory, so if you fail to take part in it without a good reason, Jobcentre Plus may sanction you.

For more information about jobseeker's allowance and sanctions, see Benefits for people looking for work.

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'Work for your benefit' schemes – the Mandatory Work Activity Scheme

The Mandatory Work Activity Scheme is a 'work for your benefit' scheme for people claiming jobseeker's allowance who are aged 18 or over. It's aimed at people who need extra support to look for jobs and to gain work-related skills. Jobcentre Plus can decide whether you must take part.

The scheme is intended to provide work or work-related activity for up to 30 hours a week over a four-week period to help you improve your chances of getting work. To be on the scheme, you have to be available for and actively seeking work, and you have to enter into a jobseeker's agreement.

If you are required to take part in the scheme, but you don't without a very good reason, you will be sanctioned. This means your Jobseeker's Allowance will be reduced or stopped for a certain period. However, you may be able to challenge a decision to sanction you.

For more information about how to challenge a JSA sanction, see. Benefits for people looking for work.

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'Work for your benefit' schemes – other schemes

There are other 'work for your benefit' schemes. These are:

  • the Work Programme
  • New Enterprise Allowance
  • Sector-based Work Academies
  • Skills Conditionality in England
  • Community Work Placements
  • Traineeships.

The Work Programme

What is the Work Programme

The Work Programme aims to get people claiming certain benefits into sustained work. There are several schemes around the UK run by different organisations for Jobcentre Plus. The organisations are paid by their results. The more people they help to find work, the more they are paid.

Organisations running the Work Programme have to offer a minimum level of service. However, they are free to set the rules of their own schemes based on local economic and employment conditions. This means the rules for qualifying to take part in the Work Programme can vary from area to area.

Who has to take part in the Work Programme

You will have to take part in the Work Programme if you belong to any of the following groups of people:

  • you are aged 18-24 and have claimed jobseeker's allowance for nine months
  • you are aged 25 or over and have claimed jobseeker's allowance for 12 months
  • you are seriously disadvantaged in the labour market, for example because a disability has made it hard to find work. When you qualify and whether you can choose to take part will depend on which area you live in and what your circumstances are
  • you have recently claimed incapacity benefit, after claiming jobseeker's allowance for three months
  • you are claiming income-related employment and support allowance, are in the work-related activity group, and are expected to be fit for work within twelve months.

Who can choose to take part in the Work Programme

You can volunteer to take part in the Work Programme at any time if you belong to one of the following groups of people:

  • you are claiming employment and support allowance but are not required to take part
  • you get pension credit
  • in England, you get income support or incapacity benefit.

Benefit sanctions for the Work Programme

If you don't take part

Unless you have a good reason, if you fail to take part in the Work Programme, your Jobseeker's Allowance may be stopped or cut.

If you're guilty of gross misconduct

However, if you are on a work experience placement on the Work Programme, your benefit can only be stopped or cut if you are guilty of gross misconduct.

You may be able to challenge a decision to stop or cut your benefit.

For more information about how to challenge a JSA sanction, see Benefits for people looking for work.

Complaints about the Work Programme

The organisation that runs the Work Programme must have a complaints procedure and tell you what it is. If you make a complaint and the organisation can't sort it out, you can refer your complaint to the Independent Case Examiner. They deal with unresolved complaints on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.

Sector-Based Work Academies

What are Sector-Based Work Academies

A Sector-Based Work Academy is a government initiative to help you get work. It lasts for up to six weeks and normally consists of:-

  • pre-employment training
  • in some cases, the possibility of achieving units towards a qualification
  • a work experience placement
  • a guaranteed job interview.

Various employers, colleges and training providers in different parts of the UK run Sector-Based Work Academies for Jobcentre Plus. This means the steps you're expected to take to participate in a Sector-Based Work Academy may vary from area to area and according to your circumstances.

Who takes part in Sector-Based Work Academies

You can take part in a Sector-Based Work Academy if you're aged 18 or over and claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance. You can also take part if you're claiming Employment and Support Allowance and you're in the work-related activity group. Deciding whether or not to take part is voluntary, but once you accept a place, taking part is mandatory. This means you may be sanctioned if you fail to take part in a Sector-Based Work Academy once you have accepted a place.

Benefit sanctions for Sector-Based Work Academies

If you don't take part

Unless you have a good reason, if you fail to take part in a Sector-Based Work Academy, your Jobseeker's Allowance may be stopped or cut.

If you're guilty of gross misconduct

However, if you are on a work experience placement in a Sector-Based Work Academy, your benefit can only be stopped or cut if you are guilty of gross misconduct.

You may be able to challenge a decision to stop or cut your benefit.

For more information about how to challenge a JSA sanction, see Benefits for people looking for work.

Skills conditionality

What is Skills Conditionality

Skills Conditionality is a requirement for certain benefit claimants to improve their skills and so help them find work. You will have an initial assessment of your need for skills at a college or other training organisation and if your skills need improving, you will be given training by a college or other training organisation. Skills which may need improving include literacy, maths and other vocational subjects such as information technology.

If your Jobcentre Plus decides to refer you to Skills conditionality, then you have to do it. You may suffer a benefit sanction (link) if you do not take part and you don't have a good reason for not taking part.

If you are claiming employment and support allowance, the rules about doing work-related activity, and benefit sanctions for failing to do it apply to you if you do Skills Conditionality.

If you are getting jobseeker’s allowance and you take part in Skills Conditionality, you will transfer from jobseeker’s allowance to a training allowance from Jobcentre Plus’s Flexible Support Fund if you do Skills Conditionality:

  • for more than 16 hours a week, and
  • for more than two weeks in a 52 week period.
  • If you have to take part in Skills Conditionality, you may be able to get help with travel and childcare costs from the Flexible Support Fund.

Who has to take part in Skills Conditionality

You have to do Skills Conditionality if you are:

  • aged 18 or over and claiming jobseeker’s allowance. This includes partners in a joint claim and people claiming national insurance credits for unemployment only
  • claiming employment and support allowance and are in the work-related activity group. Jobcentre Plus can require you to do Skills Conditionality as a work-related activity to improve your skills.

Community Work Placements

Community Work Placements is a scheme that aims to help you if you need further support to get and keep employment. It involves work placements for the benefit of the community and work-related activity. It will run until October 2016. No-one will be referred to it after March 2016. Various different organisations will run Community Work Placements for Jobcentre Plus.

An organisation running the scheme will have up to 30 weeks to work with you from when Jobcentre Plus refers you to them. You'll spend up to 26 of these 30 weeks on a work placement, for 30 hours a week.

Government guidance says Community Work Placements will be aimed at long-term unemployed people whose key barrier to work is a lack of work experience or motivation. It also says the scheme will be designed to enhance your CV, employability skills and motivation. It is for people claiming jobseeker's allowance who are coming off the Work Programme.

Jobcentre Plus will be able to sanction your jobseeker's allowance if you fail without good reason to take part in the Community Work Placements scheme.

For more information about jobseeker's allowance and sanctions, see Benefits for people looking for work.

Traineeships

The Traineeships scheme is a government-funded course that gives you work preparation training, a work experience placement, and where required, English and Maths tuition. Tuition is required if you don't have a grade C or above in an English or Maths GCSE. Traineeships last for up to six months.

Traineeships are for people who get jobseeker's allowance. On the first day of the course you must be between 16 and 23 years old. If you have a learning difficulty assessment from a local authority, you must be between 16 and 24 years old.

Jobcentre Plus will first of all try to get you to agree to take part in Traineeships. If you don't agree, Jobcentre Plus can require you to take part in the work preparation and English and Maths parts of the scheme. If you fail without good reason to do this, Jobcentre Plus may sanction you. However, Jobcentre Plus will not require you to take part in the work experience part of Traineeships.

For more information about jobseeker's allowance and sanctions, see Benefits for people looking for work.

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Voluntary schemes

Some government schemes are voluntary and you can ask your personal adviser for advice on joining one.

In some cases, however, attendance may be compulsory if the personal adviser feels you will benefit from attendance. In these cases, you will be referred via a jobseeker’s direction. If you are given a jobseeker’s direction to attend any of the schemes below, failure to do so, or leaving before the scheme is completed, can lead to a benefit sanction.

Training for Work in Scotland

Training for Work is a training programme for adults in Scotland, aged 18 or over, who have been unemployed long-term. Contact your Jobcentre Plus office for more information. You can also find information about Training for Work on the Scottish Enterprise website at: www.scottish-enterprise.com.

Community Jobs Scotland (CJS)

Community Jobs Scotland (CJS) is a Scottish Government scheme which helps 16-24 year olds get a paid job in the voluntary sector. You need to have been unemployed for at least six months to be considered. If you are over 25, you can apply if you live in a designated area of high unemployment and have also been unemployed for at least six months. All CJS jobs must be for at least 25 hours a week and last for at least 26 weeks, or 39 weeks if you're 16 to 17. All jobs will be paid at the national minimum wage or above.

Your Jobcentre Plus adviser would need to refer you to this scheme if you're over 18. If you're 16 or 17, you'll need to contact a Skills Development Scotland Adviser for information and referral to the CJS scheme.

For more information about this scheme, go to the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) website at www.scvo.org.uk.

Work clubs

Many areas have work clubs. A work club can help you look for work and get a job, for example, by helping you write a CV or prepare for a job interview. To find out more about what a work club does and to see if there is one in your area go to the website of the National Work Clubs Network at www.nationalworkclubs.net.

Work Trials

If you have applied for and been offered a job, a Work Trial allows you to try it out while still receiving benefits. It also enables the employer see how you get on in the post before deciding whether to take you on permanently. Most Work Trials only last for a few days.

For a Work Trial to take place:

  • the employer must have a Work Trial Agreement with Jobcentre Plus
  • you must be eligible (see below) and willing to take part
  • your Jobcentre Plus adviser must agree that the trial is appropriate
  • the job must be for over 16 hours per week and must be expected to last at least three months.

You will automatically be eligible for a Work Trial if you are 18 or over and getting one of the following benefits:

  • Jobseeker's Allowance for six months or more
  • Income Support
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Severe Disability Allowance
  • Carer's Allowance
  • Bereavement Benefit
  • Pension Credit.

Some other unemployed people are also eligible for a Work Trial, so if you want to apply, you should ask your Jobcentre Adviser about this.

The employer will guarantee to consider you for permanent employment if you prove suitable but the employer or you can terminate the trial at any time. Your benefit will not suffer if you or the employer decide not to continue with the trial.

On a Work Trial, you will continue to receive your usual benefit and will also be able to claim travel expenses.

If you are offered a job at the end of the Work Trial but decide not to accept it, you will not suffer a benefit penalty. If you are not offered a job, Jobcentre Plus will ask the employer and you for feedback. Information given in the feedback may be used by your personal adviser when considering how you should continue your search for work.

Jobs Growth Wales

Jobs Growth Wales is a Welsh Government programme, starting in April 2012, which provides unemployed 16-24 year olds who are classed as 'job ready' with a job opportunity for six months. School leavers are eligible if they are not in education, employment or training.

The work will be:-

  • paid at or above the National Minimum Wage level; and
  • for at least 25 hours per week; and
  • for a minimum of 6 months.

Jobs Growth Wales is not a training scheme.

Young people in the programme will have a contract of employment and therefore be employees.

Young people can choose whether not to join the scheme.

As it is a paid employment scheme, if a young person refuses to take up a job offer or, after starting, gives up the job, or is dismissed, there could be benefit sanctions if they then try to claim Jobseeker's Allowance.

Young people can be referred to the jobs from Jobcentre Plus or Careers Wales.

For more information about how to challenge a JSA sanction, see. Benefits for people looking for work.

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Help setting up in self-employment

Jobcentre Plus offices sometimes advertise details of self-employment possibilities for unemployed people, including contract work and commission-only vacancies. They may also be able to provide information on starting a small business or arranging a franchise. If you want information, you should speak to your personal adviser.

Jobcentre Plus offices can also refer you to your local Enterprise Club. Enterprise Clubs are run by local businesses and can give advice and support to unemployed people who want to start their own business. There is more information about Enterprise Clubs on the DWP website at: www.dwp.gov.uk.

New Enterprise Allowance

If you are unemployed, you may be able to claim New Enterprise Allowance to help you start a business.

In England, information on help for unemployed people who want to start up in business is available through the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.

In Wales, business.wales.gov.uk is a Welsh Government programme designed to help people who wish to start, maintain or expand a business in Wales. You can contact their helpline on 03000 6 03000. Their website is: www.business-support-wales.gov.uk.

In Scotland, help for unemployed people who want to start their own business is available through Business Gateway. You can contact their helpline on 0845 609 6611, or minicom 0800 023 2071. Their website is: www.bgateway.com.

If you're aged between 18 and 30 and have a business idea, the Prince's Trust may be able to help with advice and funding. The website is: www.princes-trust.org.uk.

For general advice about starting up in self-employment, see Self-employment: checklist.

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Training schemes

Apprenticeship programmes

Apprenticeships provide work-based training to young people and adults who want to learn new skills and gain qualifications while working.

For more about apprenticeship programmes in England, go to: www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

For more about apprenticeship programmes in Wales, go to www.careerswales.com, or phone Learn Direct on 0800 100 900.

For more about apprenticeships in Scotland, go to www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk, or phone the helpline on 0845 8 502 502.

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Other help

Other help is available for unemployed people looking for work or who have found work but need assistance to start.

My World of Work (Scotland only)

In Scotland, the Skills Development Scotland My World of Work website has advice, tools and information on training schemes, choosing a career, learning, applying for jobs, starting your own business, and making a career change. The My World of Work website is at www.myworldofwork.co.uk.

Universal Jobmatch

Universal Jobmatch is a government website to help people find jobs. You can use it to:

  • search for jobs
  • create and upload your CV
  • get email alerts about jobs
  • apply for jobs online
  • keep a record of your job search activity.

You can find Universal Jobmatch through the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk/jobs-jobsearch. To use some of the services, you will need to register for a government gateway account.

Employment on Trial

Under the Employment on Trial scheme, if you are a previously unemployed person, you can try out a job without risking losing benefit if you leave, provided that you leave the job voluntarily and do not lose the job because of your misconduct. If you refuse to take a suitable job, your Jobseeker’s Allowance may be affected.

Your Jobseeker’s Allowance will not be affected if:

  • you had done no work at all for at least 13 weeks immediately before you started employment (you need not have claimed benefit) and not been in full-time education; and
  • you worked at least 16 hours a week in the job concerned; and
  • you left the job after the end of four weeks (that is, you must have started the fifth week of work) but no later than the end of the 12th week (excluding days of sickness, holidays, jury service, self-employment and any weeks when you were not working).

You will not qualify for Employment on Trial, even if signing on as unemployed, if you worked part-time for any of the days in the 13-week unemployment period. There are exemptions for work done for the emergency services.

The following count towards the 13-week qualifying period:

  • periods of vocational training, such as Work Based Learning for Adults
  • time spent on Work Based Training for Young People, provided the person was a trainee and not an employee
  • time when you received an Employment Rehabilitation Allowance
  • time spent on part-time study/education
  • periods of sickness when you received either statutory sick pay, incapacity benefit or statutory maternity pay.

If you want to return to or claim benefits after Employment on Trial, check that you satisfy all the conditions before you leave the job.

Flexible Support Fund

If you are a customer of Jobcentre Plus, you may be able to get a payment from the Flexible Support Fund to cover any expenses you run up while taking up work or training. However, it's up to your local Jobcentre Plus to decide whether they will meet these costs, you don't have a right to claim these expenses.

You may be eligible for help from the Fund if you are not in the Work Programme. The Work Programme is a government scheme for getting people into work.

To find out what help you're likely to get, ask your Jobcentre Plus personal adviser.

Return-to-work credit

Return-to-work credit is being abolished so you will not be able to start getting it after 30 September 2013. In order to get it before then, your claim for benefit must have started before 2 July 2013.

If you were claiming Incapacity Benefit, Income Support because of incapacity or Employment and Support Allowance and you took a job where you were working for at least 16 hours a week, you may have been able to get a return-to-work credit worth £40 a week. You could only get this if your earnings were less than £15,000 a year. Payments can continue for up to 52 weeks, so some people may still be getting it.

In-work credit

In-work credit is being abolished so you will not be able to start getting it after 30 September 2013. In order to get it before then, your claim for benefit must have started before 2 October 2012.

If you were a lone parent claiming Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance and you took a job where you were working at least 16 hours a week, you may have been able to get in-work credit worth £40 a week, or £60 if you live in London. Payments can continue for up to 52 weeks, so some people may still be getting it.

National Careers Service (England)

The National Careers Service provides confidential and impartial information, advice and guidance to help you make decisions on learning, training and work opportunities.

You can contact them by telephone, text message, email and webchat between 8.00am and 10.00pm seven days a week. You can find contact details at www.nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk

University for Industry (UFI) (for people aged 19 or over)

UFI promotes training among businesses and individuals in occupational sectors where there is a shortage of skills, and encourages adults with low literacy or numeracy skills into training to improve these skills.

Businesses which join the UFI corporate membership scheme qualify for financial help from the UFI so that they can provide training for their staff. UFI will not provide training directly to business or individuals but will direct people to existing training available or encourage the creation of new training provision.

If you are interested in accessing training through the UFI, contact your local Jobcentre Plus office or the learndirect website at: www.learndirect.co.uk.

Individual Learning Accounts Scotland

Individual Learning Accounts Scotland (ILA Scotland) is a Scottish Government scheme for people aged 16 or over who live in Scotland, who are not currently in education or training and who have not previously gained a degree or postgraduate qualification. If you earn £22,000 a year or less or are on benefits, you can apply for an ILA account that will give you up to £200 a year towards a wide range of courses from learning providers throughout Scotland.

You can get more information about the ILA Scotland scheme from the ILA Scotland website at: www.ilascotland.org.uk or on freephone 0808 100 1090.

GOV.UK

The government website GOV.UK, provides lots of information for people looking for work.

Work in Europe

Job vacancies and information on living and working conditions across Europe are available on the EURES website at www.ec.europa.eu.

EURES stands for the European Employment Services organisation, which is an organisation of EU government bodies.

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Other financial help

You may be entitled to other financial help as a result of starting work and coming off benefits, for example:

  • extended payment of Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction
  • mortgage interest run-on payments, if you have been getting certain means-tested benefits
  • Working Tax Credit.

For more information on any of these you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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