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By Beverley Davies and Stacey Baker, from Engage to Change partners ELITE Supported Employment

Starting a new paid job is exciting but can also be a concern for young people and their families who are receiving any form of benefit, such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). At ELITE Supported Employment we ensure that every young person we are working with through the Engage to Change project has the opportunity of completing a “Better off in work” calculation to assess whether there is a financial benefit in moving into work. Most people are better off if in work. Working is also good for our health and well-being. It contributes to our happiness, helps us build confidence and self-esteem and builds on friendship and social inclusion.

The advantages of completing a “Better off in work” calculation are:

a) The calculation helps the young person and their family make an informed decision on what is right for them financially when starting work.

b) It can guide young people and their families on how many hours of paid work would be best for them and their current financial position.

c) It can maximise their income through increasing take-up of appropriate and entitled benefit.

d) It can provide guidance on what benefits could be available subject to eligibility.

e) It can provide information on the impact of welfare reform.

To help young people on the Engage to Change project we provide an on-line “Better off in work” calculation, with one of our Employment Advisers acting as a guide for the family. We aim to provide up-to-date advice and ensure that no one is placed in financial hardship by starting work. The system enables the user to present a hypothetical circumstance of employment and see clearly the impact on their income – both their total net income and the impact on the individual’s benefits. It clearly shows whether there are financial benefits of moving into work.

This can be useful as families often find that the process also provides advice on benefits that have not yet been claimed but may be available if eligible.

Here are examples of some of the “Better off in work” calculation results we have had:

Example 1
John lives with his partner Jane who is also on the Engage to Change project. A placement had been found for John, and a BOIWC was carried out. Due to the joint claim to ESA with his partner, who is the lead claimer, we checked the “Better off in work” calculation with Job Centre Plus (JCP). It was identified that for John to go into work it would be a change of circumstances for himself and his partner. This would mean Jane would have to come off ESA and go onto Universal Credit (UC), which would make her worse off on benefits. John would then have to go onto UC due to his change of circumstances, making him worse off in the long run. It was advised for both parties to wait until they are migrated over to UC, and to volunteer in the meantime.

Example 2
Bob is on ESA. A placement was found for him. During a “Better off in work” calculation it came to light the amount he was receiving for ESA was incorrect. He was getting paid the amount for the assessment rate which should have only lasted 13 weeks. Bob had been on this rate for 4.5 years. After discussing this with my colleagues, Bob and his dad spoke to JCP who will arrange an assessment for Bob and will reimburse the back pay from the 13-week phase onward.

Please note names have been changed to ensure confidentiality.