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by Tombenefits

news and thoughts from the world of welfare rights
10 May 2011 at 21:23

Recovery and part-time work

For those who are able to make it, the journey back to work after treatment is, I suspect, a very individual one.

Besides the questions surrounding your personal level of health and confidence ('Will I be able to sustain a full day let alone a full week? Will I cope with the emotional demands?')  there are so many other variables...

If you are the main earner, have children or a mortgage then you are probably not as free to make decisions about your future work patterns as someone whose income is less 'essential'.

The options offered and the understanding shown by employers will make a big difference too - is a phased return to full time hours possible? Or might they contemplate a permanent reduction (if that's something you want too...)

Permitted Work
Along this journey, the Permitted Work rules - which I touched upon last May with the promise to return to them in greater detail in the future - can make life a bit easier, even if they're a bit complex in themselves.

They're there for people who are not yet well enough to be able to return to work completely, but who can do some work. I say return to work, but Permitted Work rules could also be applied to any new job or to self employment, whether returning to it or taking it up for the first time.

How many hours and for how much?
Two different things limit how much work you can do under the Permitted Work rules. The first is the hours limit – in that the work must be, on average, for less than sixteen hours a week.

The second is that you can only earn up to £95 a week (after some deductions) so that some people’s hourly rates of pay will put an upper limit on how many hours they are able to work – e.g. someone on £10 an hour after deductions would only be able to work 9.5 hours a week…

The £95 a week is the figure for October 2010 to October 2011 and changes each year, usually going up by a couple of pounds.

Who can benefit?
The main financial benefit of Permitted Work is that it enables some people to keep their sickness route benefit – i.e.
•    Employment and Support Allowance or
•    Incapacity Benefit or
•    Severe Disablement Allowance
whilst also earning. It’s not just financially attractive either in that it can often provide a protected opportunity to try out work and decide how possible – or impossible – it’s going to be.

People receiving Income Support for sickness fare less well, being able to keep only £20 worth of earnings before it starts being deducted pound-for-pound from their benefit.

For how long?
At one time you used to be able to benefit from this ‘part time’ pattern indefinitely, under the old ‘Therapeutic Earnings’ rules, but this is now not the case for many people. In fact the only people who can carry on earning up to £95 a week indefinitely under the Permitted Work rules are:
•    Those on the Support Component of Employment and Support Allowance, and
•    Those on Incapacity Benefit  who were exempt from the old ‘Personal Capability Assessment’ - e.g. because of getting the higher rate of DLA Care, and
•    Those doing something called ‘Supported Permitted Work’

Supported Permitted Work is work supervised by someone whose job it is to arrange work for people with illnesses and disabilities and support them in it – it’s most common in the world of learning disabilities and mental health and also includes work people do as part of a hospital treatment programme.

The indefinite period of being able to earn up to £95 weekly for those with the Support Component of ESA ends immediately if someone is medically re-assessed and, as a result, is awarded the Work Related Activity Component instead.

Similarly, people currently on Incapacity Benefit with Personal Capability Assessment exemption may find themselves losing their route to indefinite Permitted Working at this higher level of earnings if, when they are migrated to Employment and Support Allowance they are not awarded the Support Component.

Those originally on the Work Related Activity Component of Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit without exemption from the Personal Capability Assessment or Severe Disablement Allowance return, after a year, to only being able to earn up to £20 a week.

Once, however, you have been off the higher £95 earnings limit for a year, you can return to it for another 52 week period – unless on Income Support.

Plans to introduce the Personal Independence Payment from 2013 will also have an (as yet unknown) affect on Permitted Work.


On both Incapacity Benefit and Income Support?

In these circumstances the Income Support part of your entitlement would be subject to the £20 limit but you could still earn up to £95 a week on top of the Incpacity Benefit.

Remember though, when weighing up what you might gain and what you might lose that having entitlement to Income Support also brings with it access to things like the Social Fund, free school meals, automatic help with the cost of fares to hospital, free prescriptions etc. - get advice!

What about Council Tax Benefit and Housing Benefit?
Basically, as long as you are entitled to earn and keep up to £95 under Permitted Work rules, then Council Tax and Housing Benefits ‘ignore’ it too.

What about Disability Living Allowance?
As DLA is not to do with your being well enough to work, it can remain in payment no matter how many hours a week you work or how much you earn, provided you continue to meet the qualifying criteria. Be aware though that deciding to return to work may suggest to the DWP that your health has changed for the better and that they may, as a result, decide to look again at your entitlement to DLA.

Of course returning to work and the extra associated demands on your energy might actually mean that you need more help and support, not less... but don't assume that the DWP will automatically realise this! 

The practicalities
In the old days, you had to get your doctor’s recommendation to allow you to undertake ‘Therapeutic Earnings’. This is no longer the case with permitted work, although of course you may still want to discuss your health and planned return to work with your GP or Consultant if you have any doubts about it…

You do, however, need to tell the DWP about your plans. There is some concern that doing so might prompt them to review your entitlement to your sickness route benefit – it’s hard to say how much of a risk this is – in theory it should depend on your individual circumstances and whether there has been a ‘relevant change’ in them.

Their official line is that ‘If a medical assessment is due as part of your ongoing benefits-related review, it will go ahead as planned’ but they will not guarantee that you won’t be reassessed!

You also need to bear in mind that whenever you are next re-assessed, the fact that you are undertaking some work will inevitably form some impression on the Disability Analyst looking at your health. And being found fit for work sometimes goes on to have an impact on your DLA entitlement too…

Well, that more or less wraps it up for Permitted Work, although for the sense of completeness I’ll leave you with a list of other kinds of work you’re allowed to do:
•    looking after a relative or domestic tasks in your own home
•    work as a local authority Councillor with any payments over £95 a week being deducted from your Contributory ESA, Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance.
•    work as a member of the DLA Advisory Board or as a ‘disability member’ of an appeal tribunal – one day or two half days a week are allowed
•    an approved work trial arranged by the DWP (or an organisation providing services to the DWP) for which you will receive no wages
•    self-employed work done whilst you are 'test trading' for up to 26 weeks with help from a self-employment provider arranged by Jobcentre Plus.
•    any actions in an emergency to protect another person or prevent damage to property or livestock.

Be aware though that if in rounding up the cattle which escaped you are observed to have jogged two miles over uneven ground and climber over half a dozen hedges, it could affect your sickness route status...!

See you next week…

Tagged with: Permitted Work

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