If you want to start or return to work, there are lots of things to consider and many schemes that can help you as a carer.
You may need to return to work to earn money. For some carers who haven't worked for some time, this can be daunting. You may have lost your confidence, or feel you no longer have the skills you once had or the skills you need to re-start your career.
The kind of support that's available to help you ease back into the workplace includes:
- training, guidance and work placement programmes
- work experience, volunteering and job trials
- help with starting your own business
- help with child care or caring responsibilities
If you are a carer and want to return to work, you may be able to get help from Jobcentre Plus. The Work Preparation Support for Carers scheme offers advice and training.
You may also be able to get replacement care paid for while you are taking part in approved activities. For more information, contact your local Jobcentre Plus office or call the Jobcentre Plus phone service on 0845 6060 234 (Textphone: 0845 6055 255), Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm).
Your working pattern
You may not want to have a full-time job or you may prefer to work for yourself rather than for someone else but if you are already in employment or are looking for a job you should consider what type of working arrangement would work best for you and your employer/prospective employer. Options you can consider include:
- full-time work
- requesting a flexible working pattern (including part-time work, flexi-time, working compressed hours, and job-sharing)
- voluntary work
Find out more about the employment rights of carers and the options available to you.
Financial support and career loans when you go back to work
If you're ready to look for a job there are benefits, such as Jobseeker's Allowance, to help you. Jobseeker's Allowance includes a payment that helps with any mortgage interest you have to pay. You may also be paid Housing Benefit to help you pay rent.
Alternatively you may be able to get a mortgage interest run-on. You may get this if certain other benefits are stopping because you are returning to work. If you qualify you will be paid mortgage interest run on for the first four weeks you are in full-time work.
Universal Credit is a new benefit designed to give financial assistance to people who want to work. Universal Credit provides support for housing costs, children, childcare costs, disabled people and carers. It is replacing:
- income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
- income-related Employment Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
Universal Credit will be available for claimants who are in work and on low incomes, as well as for those who are out of work. This means that there is ongoing support if you're moving in and out of work (Universal Credit support doesn't suddenly stop during the critical period when you start a new job or increase your part-time hours).
Other financial support
You may also be eligible for a Professional and Career Development Loan. This is a bank loan of between £300 and £10,000 to fund the cost of learning that enhances your job skills or career prospects.
If you're 19 or over, on a further education course and facing financial hardship, you could apply for Discretionary Learner Support. This can help to pay for things such as accommodation and transport, course materials, equipment and even childcare.
You may no longer be eligible for Carer's Allowance or Income Support if the person you look after goes into a residential or nursing home. You must inform the Carer's Allowance Unit or Jobcentre Plus about any change in your circumstances or those of the person you care for.
Schemes to help you back into work or support you in work
Schemes to help people on benefits back into work include:
- Work Trial
- Employment on Trial
- Access to Work (support in work)
- Work Choice
Work Trial is a programme that gives unemployed people the chance to try out a real job vacancy for up to 30 working days. This includes carers who may be considering returning to work. It is a voluntary scheme that aims to show a potential employer you are right for the job they are seeking to fill.
A Work Trial offers you the chance to:
- try out a job and show the employer that you are the right person for the job
- continue receiving benefits during the trial period
- have your travel expenses to and from work paid for plus a £3 a day meal allowance
Your benefits will not be affected if you:
- decide to leave the Work Trial before the trial period ends
- turn down the job if it is offered to you at the end of the trial period
If the job is offered to you and you agree to accept it Jobcentre Plus will inform you about the type of in-work benefits and tax credits you may be able to claim while working.
Arranging your own Work Trial
Ask at your local Jobcentre Plus office if you would like to arrange your own Work Trial. They will usually give you a copy of the letter "Work Trials: try it for yourself", which you can send to the employer along with your application form and job application or CV. Either the employer or your Jobcentre Plus office will then contact you.
Alternatively, if you are at a job interview and the employer expresses doubts about your ability to do the job, then you can show them a copy of the letter "Work Trials: try it for yourself" to let them know that you qualify for a trial. Mention that the letter tells them who to contact if they are interested.
Employment on Trial
Employment on Trial allows you to leave a job and start claiming Jobseeker's Allowance again without this affecting your benefit (unless you're sacked or leave because of misconduct).
You must have worked more than 16 hours a week for between four and 12 weeks before leaving the job.
Access to Work
An Access to Work grant can pay for practical support if you have a disability, health or mental health condition to help you:
- start working
- stay in work
- move into self-employment or start a business
The grant is not for business start-up costs.
How much you get depends on your circumstances. The money doesn't have to be paid back and will not affect your other benefits.
If you are a disabled carer thinking about returning to paid work after a long period out of the workplace, the Jobcentre Plus Work Choice programme may provide the support you need. It's designed to help disabled people whose needs can't be met through other programmes such as Access to Work.
The support you get through Work Choice can be tailored to meet your needs, and consists of:
- Work entry support: includes help with personal skills and finding work and can last up to six months. You can be helped to get supported or unsupported work.
- In-work support: which can give you help with starting work and staying in your job. This support can last up to two years.
- Longer term in-work support: which can help you to progress in your job. If appropriate, you may be helped to move into unsupported work.
If you'd like to find out more about Work Choice, contact your local Jobcentre Plus.
Getting your career back on track
You may want to return to work once your caring role ends. If you have given up work to become a full-time carer or have not been able to take up paid employment before because of your caring responsibilities, you may want to get your career back on track.
Identifying your skills
You may be unsure of what you want to do, or even what it is that you are capable of doing. It may help to first identify the skills you have. Think of what you have learned from being a carer. As well as paid work, this may include the tasks and responsibilities involved in being a carer such as organising and arranging care support.
Think about any voluntary and community work you may have been involved in and identify any transferable skills you have built up during any job or activity (that you can apply to other jobs).
Jobcentre Plus and the National Careers Service can give you more advice on identifying transferable skills.
If you feel you no longer have the skills you once had, or you'd like to brush up on them, you may be entitled to fully funded vocational skills training including National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs), employability, English, maths and ICT. If you are receiving benefits your Jobcentre Plus Work Coach will be able to offer advice, or you can approach your local college directly about accessing training.
National Careers Service
The National Careers Service offers careers and skills advice for people looking for work, including carers. Ways the National Careers Service can help include:
- advice on drawing up and perfecting your CV
- the ability to search for courses and training in your area
- help with finding funding for different courses
- advice on work experience, apprenticeships and looking for work online
To find the job or career that is right for you, it is often worth spending time thinking about the kind of job you want to do and what motivates you. You can draw up a list of your hobbies, interests and experience inside and outside of your work history, such as:
- qualifications and courses
- jobs you have had - both paid and unpaid
- achievements in these jobs, especially if you can use examples to show what you did, such as awards, sales targets met, increases in efficiency or profit
- interests and hobbies
- transferable skills you gained as a carer, such as problem solving and the ability to be flexible
If you're not sure what kind of work might suit you, you could try out the National Careers Service Skills Health Check. This is a set of online questionnaires that produce an end report giving you information about your skills, interests and motivations in the workplace. The tools help you to think about the kinds of jobs that might be best for you in future.
You can contact the National Careers Service on 0800 100 900 (free to call from a landline, mobile charges vary), Monday to Sunday, 8am to 10pm. You can also arrange for a National Careers Service adviser to call you. This won't cost you anything.
Many carers' caring responsibilities can prevent them from taking up work, or force them into giving up work in the short or long term.
For carers who may have been out of the workforce for some time, a good way of reintroducing yourself to work, when and if that time arises, is through voluntary work.
Volunteering can provide a carer with an interest not connected to their role as a carer. Many people find volunteering builds their confidence and confirms for them that they do already have good work skills, as well as giving them something to talk about in a job interview.
You are allowed to work as a volunteer without your benefits being affected, as long as the work you do is unpaid and you meet the rules of your benefit.
You will be considered as being a volunteer, for benefits and tax credits purposes, if you:
- do not receive any money for the work you do (this does not include expenses)
- are not legally obliged to volunteer
- volunteer for a not-for-profit organisation
- volunteer for someone who is not a family member
However, you will not be considered as a volunteer if it's your choice not to be paid for work that you otherwise would be. Speak to your Work Coach or Jobcentre Plus office about the work you are allowed to do that won't affect your entitlement to benefits.
Article provided by NHS Choices