If you’re claiming income-related benefits, such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and you’re thinking about taking up an unpaid placement or getting a job, you may be wondering how this would affect your benefits.

The first thing to do is speak to your employment specialist. They will talk you through your options. Here’s a list of the choices you can make:

Claiming ESA if you work

Your ESA isn't usually affected if you either:

  • Earn up to £20 a week
  • Work for less than 16 hours a week and earn up to £115.50 a week, for 52 weeks or less. This is called 'Permitted Work'.
  • You can also do 'Supported Permitted Work' for longer than 52 weeks and earn up to £115.50 a week. However, this must be part of a treatment programme or supervised by someone from a local council or voluntary organisation whose job it is to arrange work for disabled people. 
  • You must tell the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) if you begin permitted or supported permitted work. The DWP will send you a form called PW1 to fill in and send back to them. 
  • Any volunteering work you do needs to be reported. It normally doesn't affect your ESA. 
  • Tell the Jobcentre Plus office dealing with your claim, if your circumstances change. For example, your income changes or you go abroad. This can affect your ESA.

Again, talk to your ES. They’ll help you fill in a permitted work form (PW1), which you have to send to your Jobcentre. Remember that your ES will continue to offer you support once you’ve started working.

To find the Disability Employment Adviser in your local Jobcentre, go to our Disability Employment Advisers page

The Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) provides a home visiting service for ‘vulnerable’ people who can’t access their services by themselves, by phone, mail or online. A DWP visiting officer can help you make sure you’re getting all the benefits you’re entitled to.

You may decide to come off (income-related) benefits if you’re well enough and you find a suitable job. Again, talk to your ES about this. They’ll help you to get benefits advice including a ‘better off calculation’ at Jobcentre Plus. Your ES will know the Disability Employment Adviser for your borough – there’s one in every Jobcentre.

They’ll work out how much better off you’ll be when you’re earning than you were on benefits. It’s unusual for anyone to be worse off when they come off benefits and start earning a regular wage.

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