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Returning to work

Help getting work

When you are a carer who has given up work, there may come a time when you consider going back to work, particularly if your caring role has ended. You may find that work is a way to find time for yourself.

Jobcentre Plus can provide help to get a job. This might include being able to try out a job or help with equipment and adaptations to help you or the person you are looking after to get back into or begin work again. Some of this support is only available to carers or people who themselves have a disability or long-term health problem.

Remember, as a carer you have a right to a carers’ assessment, and the person you are looking after has a right to an assessment of their own needs. The local authority of the person you are looking after should take into account your desire to start work. It should take your desire to start work into account when planning the support you will get as a carer. If you do not feel that you are getting enough support then seek help.

In addition, if you are a carer you have the right to request flexible working. This might make it easier for you to juggle working and caring.

Help from Jobcentre Plus

Your local Jobcentre Plus can now give you extra support to help you back to work through:

  • access to appropriate employment programmes
  • special training for advisers who work with carers
  • care partnership managers in every Jobcentre Plus district

Carers taking part in approved employment training will be able to get funding for necessary replacement care.

Click on the bars below to find out more about the support available to help you get back to work.

Work Trial

Work Trial is a Universal Jobmatch programme that gives unemployed people the chance to try out a real job vacancy for up to 30 working days. This includes carers who maybe 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.

Universal Jobmatch will check your eligibility for the post before you start. To find out if you're eligible, contact your local Jobcentre Plus.

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, and
  • 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, or
  • 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

Many carers may think of finding work or returning to work if their caring arrangements become less demanding or when they end. After being out of paid work for a while, it may be quite difficult to get to grips with working life. Or, it might be that you try a new job but you do not like it and leave voluntarily without anywhere else to go on to.

Normally if you leave a job voluntarily, without a good reason, you will lose your entitlement to Jobseeker’s Allowance. However, Employment on Trial allows you to leave a job and make a claim for Jobseeker's Allowance without the reason for leaving affecting your right to benefit.

Employment on Trial is a programme aimed at encouraging unemployed people to try out a new job. It is run by Jobcentre Plus and is among a range of support schemes and programmes to make it easier for carers and other people to return to the workplace.

If you have not worked or you have been in education for 13 weeks or more before you start work, then Employment on Trial can give you the confidence to start a new job, even if you are not sure it will work out.

In order to qualify for Employment on Trial you must have:

  • been in the job for at least four weeks and a day
  • left before you completed 13 weeks in post; or
  • worked for more than 16 hours a week each week

However, you might lose your benefit if you are fired or leave the job because of misconduct.

Access to Work

Access to Work is a programme run by Jobcentre Plus to help people with long-term health problems or a disability find and remain in employment.

Sometimes carers may find their long-term health may have suffered as a result of their caring responsibilities – back pain is a common health problem for carers. Alternatively, it may be that the person you are looking after wants to get back into work. If you believe that a disability or health condition may affect the type of work you do is and that this is likely to last for 12 months or more, then you can contact your regional Access to Work contact centre to ask if they can help.

You can also ask the disability employment adviser at your local Jobcentre about Access to Work.

Access to Work might pay towards the cost of equipment you need at work, adapting premises to meet your needs, or a support worker. It can also pay towards transport costs if you cannot use trains or buses, or for a communicator at job interviews, if required.

You may be able to benefit from the Access to Work programme if you are:

  • unemployed and about to start work
  • self-employed, or
  • in a paid job and your disability or health condition stops you from being able to do parts of your job

The process

An Access to Work adviser will send you an application form and contact you after it has been returned. The adviser will usually talk with you and your employer to reach a decision about the most effective support for you. In some cases an assessment may be completed by a specialist organisation that will recommend appropriate support, which the adviser will base their decision on.

Jobcentre Plus will then write to you and your employer informing you of the level of support that has been agreed and the grant available. Your employer should then arrange the support and buy the equipment, the cost of which can be reclaimed from Access to Work.

Work Choice

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.

From October 2010, Work Choice is replacing Workstep, Work Preparation and Job Introduction Scheme. If you’re currently being supported by one of these programmes, your adviser will be able to tell you about any changes to the help you’re getting. 

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, from organising and arranging care support, to challenging the decisions of the local authority or the Department of Work and Pensions.

Think about any voluntary and community work you may have been involved in and identify any transferable skills - skills that you have built up during any job or activity that you can apply to other jobs.

Jobcentre Plus provides a useful fact guide on how to identify transferable skills useful in the workplace.

Drawing up a CV

The best way to identify your skills and present them to potential employers is by drawing up a CV. A good CV is essential in looking for a job. A CV is a short list of facts about you and your work history and is the best way of selling your skills and experience to a potential employer.

You should spend some time on getting it right. You can get help in preparing a writing a CV from the National Careers Service.

Career planning

In order 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 ask your family and friends to help you draw up the list. This should include hobbies and interests 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

Once you have drawn up your list, ask yourself:

  • why you chose the courses, jobs and interests that you did
  • what aspects you liked best
  • which parts you found frustrating or boring
  • which parts you were best at
  • which parts you found a challenge
  • what other people have said about your contribution
  • what other people have told you you’re good at

This is a good starting point to help identify the job or career you are best suited for and helps prepare you for writing your own CV, or when you approach a support agency or service for help in writing your CV.

Professional and Career Development Loans

If you are a carer returning to work and think that you may benefit from additional learning or a training course, you may wish to consider a Professional and Career Development Loan.

Professional and Career Development Loan is a bank loan you can use to fund learning that enhances your job skills or career prospects. You do not have to repay the loan while you are studying.

Who can apply?

You can apply to either bank for a Professional and Career Development Loan if you are already in work, unemployed or self employed. The learning provider must be on the Professional and Career Development Loan register of learning providers. Do not assume you will automatically be granted a Professional and Career Development Loan, as with any application for a bank loan this will depend upon your ability to repay it. The process can take up to three months, so apply for a Professional and Career Development Loan well in advance of the course start date.

How does it work?

You can use a Professional and Career Development Loan to fund a course lasting up to two years (or three years if it includes a year of practical learning). The loan can include the cost of the course plus some living expenses. The course should be aimed at improving your job skills and can be full-time, part-time or distance learning and does not have to lead to a qualification. 

Professional and Career Development Loans cannot normally be used for:

  • courses that only provide careers information, advice and guidance
  • franchise courses
  • foundation courses
  • access courses

How much can I borrow?

If eligible, you can borrow from £300 up to £10,000 to fund the cost of the course. The interest rates offered by the banks are fixed at 9.9%. You can only apply to one bank at a time. A Professional and Career Development Loan can cover:

  • 80% of course fees, or 100% of course fees if you have been unemployed for three months or longer
  • other course costs such as travel, books, equipment, childcare and costs associated with disability
  • living expenses such as food, fuel, housing costs, council tax etc (restrictions apply)

Course fees will be paid directly to your learning provider and living expenses will be paid to you.

How do I repay the loan?

You will then need to start repaying the loan at a fixed interest rate. This can be for up to 60 months, depending upon the loan agreement you make with the bank.

You can request an application pack and get advice from the Professional and Career Development Loan helpline on 0800 585 505 from 8am to 10pm seven days a week.


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. Many people find volunteering builds their confidence and confirms for them that they do already have good work skills.

Volunteering can provide a carer with an interest not connected to their role as a carer. It can also improve the chances of getting paid work by helping you to:

  • learn new skills
  • practise the skills you already have
  • become more confident
  • demonstrate to employers that you can keep regular hours and handle commitment

It can also help you:

  • pick up good ideas from other people
  • meet others who can help you find paid work
  • have things to talk about in a job interview
  • obtain references

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. See the section on the benefits you are claiming to check how any expenses you receive if you volunteer are treated.

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 benefits adviser or Jobcentre Plus office about the work you are allowed to do that won’t affect your entitlement to benefits.


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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

devils30 said on 08 June 2014

i found this very helpfull, thank you.

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Page last reviewed: 13/12/2013

Next review due: 13/12/2015

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