The benefits system has seen a massive shake-up in recent years, and it’s easy to imagine that people who need transitional support might be denied it. However, there is still flexibility within the system to provide reassurance and support to people with brain injuries who are keen to return to work, as Lee Ryan explains.
Returning to work after a brain injury can be overwhelming, especially if you are still experiencing health problems. But financial pressures mean many people claiming benefits don’t have a choice. There are several avenues back into work, however, that don’t have an immediate or negative impact on the benefits payable. For Claimants to decide on their best course of action, they need to know about the options available and the likely effect on benefits of a structured return to work.
Work experience: If a Claimant has received benefits for a long period or, if they need to consider an alternative path because of the long-term impact of a brain injury, they may want to consider work experience in an area they’re interested in. The Department for Work and Pensions actively encourages work experience as a gateway back into employment, and it can be done whilst still receiving benefits.
Permitted work: This route allows benefit Claimants to try out work within certain limits. Permitted work earnings at the lower limit will disregard £20 per week for means-tested benefits, and up to £101 per week at the upper level before benefits are affected. Helpfully, there is no time limitation for permitted work.
Part-time work: Another viable option might be to go part-time. Depending on the number of hours worked, this could lead to entitlement to Tax Credits to supplement earnings, as well as help with rent and Council Tax payments. Receiving a qualifying benefit, such as Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP) may entitle a Claimant to additional Tax Credit elements, thus increasing overall income.
Disability-related benefits on return to work
Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Attendance Allowance (AA) are payable regardless of whether or not someone is working. They are not means-tested, but starting a job may, in certain circumstances, suggest that care or mobility needs have changed leading to them being reduced or stopped. It really depends on the type of work undertaken but, in many cases, they will not be affected. Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Incapacity Benefit (ICB) will stop when a Claimant starts work, but it’s worth remembering that entitlement to these benefits can be re-established if a Claimant stops work within a 12-week period. This effectively gives Claimants a chance to try returning to work again, safe in the knowledge that they can go back to their previous level of benefit within 12 weeks if things don’t work out, and without having to re-apply.
Evidence suggests that moving from benefits to employment proves a positive step for many. Returning to a work environment can help Claimants avoid isolation and improve their self esteem. It may also be a chance to socialise more, learn new skills and become more active in their community. Overcoming the fear factor of getting back to work can therefore be hugely beneficial, especially if allied with expert advice on what ‘in-work’ benefits are available.
Working out how best to structure a return to work is the key to minimising the impact on a person’s benefits and can help make sure it happens in a way that suits their individual needs.
Lee Ryan is a Welfare Benefits Consultant with Nestor, an independent financial advice company with many years’ experience in the complex personal injury field. Contact Lee on 0161 763 4800
or at firstname.lastname@example.org.