Permitted to work

New rules mean disabled people can now look
for work without their doctors’ approval, writes Gary Vaux.

Trying to get into work, or back into work,
when you are sick or disabled, is difficult. Apart from the
problems of finding the right work and getting the employer to hire
you, you also have to consider the benefit system.

From 8 April, what were known as the
therapeutic earnings rules were replaced by new permitted work
rules. Disabled people can try some paid work without the need for
prior approval from a doctor. But they will still need to tell
their social security office before they start work. The £20
“earnings disregard” on income support is left unchanged.

Any disabled person will be able to work:

l For an unlimited period, if their earnings
are up to £20 a week without their benefits being

l For 26 weeks if they work less than 16 hours
a week, on average, with earnings up to £66 a week.

This 26-week limit can be extended by another
26 weeks if someone from the Job Centre (like a job broker,
personal adviser or disability employment adviser) agrees that it
will help the claimant towards work of 16 hours or more a week.
There is no limit to the number of times someone can do permitted
work in this category. But there must be a gap of at least 52 weeks
between periods of working.

l In “supported work” for earnings up to
£66 a week for an unlimited period. “Supported work” means
work in the community with ongoing support or supervision from a
professional caseworker employed by a public or local authority or
a voluntary organisation; it also includes people who work in a
sheltered workshop.

People will be able to carry on getting
incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance while doing
permitted or supported work without it affecting their benefit.
However, for people on income support, housing benefit or council
tax benefit, any earnings above £20 will still mean a cut in
their benefits.

Transitional protection
People who are already doing therapeutic work on 7 April
may be able to carry on until 6 April 2003. After that they can
apply to do
permitted or supported permitted work. Here are a few examples.

Billy is 45 and on incapacity benefit. He
hopes to go back to full-time work in the future. He is offered a
job for four hours a week for £18. This is fine, so long as he
tells his social security office in advance. He doesn’t need a
doctor’s permission.

After a few months, he increases his hours to
15 per week and his wages go up to £60. This is fine too, but
he can only work like that for six months (or a year if someone
from the Job Centre is helping him). After that he has to stop
work, go back to earning less than £20, or come off incapacity
benefit and live on his wages (topped up by disabled persons tax
credit if he works 16 hours a week or more).

Sonia is 26 and gets income support. She is
unlikely ever to be able to do a full-time job but she is keen to
do some work. She gets a job in a supermarket, after help from her
local social services, for 10 hours a week, which pays £45.
Her income support is cut by £25 per week, but she can carry
on doing this “supported” work for as long as she likes with no
time limits.

Sanjay is on incapacity benefit and has been
doing therapeutic work for the last few months. The work has
carried on indefinitely after 8 April. He doesn’t have to do
anything until April 2003 – then he has to meet the new rules for
“permitted work”.

Gary Vaux is head of money advice,
Hertfordshire Council. He is unable to answer queries in person,
either by post or by telephone. If you have a question to be
answered in Welfare Rights, please write to him c/o Community

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