Part 1 - Employment History
Part 2 - The Application
Part 3 - The Telephone Interview
Part 4 - OMG I've got the job!
Part 5 - There's always a but...
I spoke to S, my Disability Employment Advisor (DEA) today and told her the good news. She's delighted for me. Which is good, because as I'd already begun to fear the rest of the news is far from good.
Permitted Work while receiving Income Support means I can only keep £20 of anything I earn each week. I foolishly assumed that meant I could just be paid £20 a week in expenses but unfortunately it's not that simple. Minimum wage is now £5.93 an hour, but 8 hours of work for £20 is £2.50 per hour, way below that. With the word manager in the job title it is likely to attract someone's attention during the administrative process of applying for permitted work and be highlighted as concern about a company contravening minimum wage legislation and exploiting a disabled person using the permitted work scheme. That situation may well occur, but in this case my employer is desperate to do everything they possibly can to enable disabled people to work using the permitted work scheme and want to ensure they are fairly paid for everything they do.
To protect myself and my employer the only option would be for them to pay me minimum wage for the full 8 hours and for me to declare that each time to the Department of Work and Pensions. The DWP would then deduct that sum from my Income Support each week. There are other potential pitfalls to do with nominal wages and impacts on my other benefits such as Local Housing Allowance and Council Tax benefits, but the main concern is national minimum wage.
I'll be honest, I simply do not have it in me to declare the money to the DWP and have it deducted from my benefits each week. I can't deal with the bureaucracy or the constant stress that can cause, especially not so soon after filling out my Disability Living Allowance forms, never mind the chaos that would ensue should it impact upon my other benefits. All that hope and excitement I felt when I was told I had got the job has been destroyed by bureaucracy.
The anomaly surrounding permitted work has been removed from Employment and Support Allowance which doesn't distinguish between contribution and non contribution related incapacity benefits and allows either claimant to do permitted work. ESA also allows for permitted work to continue longer than the mandated 12 month maximum for Incapacity Benefit claimants after which they have to move into full time work, supported by tax credits if necessary or they have to stop their permitted work for a year, after which they can return to the permitted work scheme for another year. Presumably Iain Duncan Smith's Universal Credit scheme also allows for long term permitted work. It's great that this obstacle has been recognised and ironed out of the system but that doesn't help me or any of the other people in reciept of Incapacity Benefit or Income Support who have yet to be migrated to ESA. Whether or not claimants will still be transferred onto ESA in the years before Universal Credit is introduced is not yet clear, as going through two separate, enormous migrations of benefits within 5 years, with all the administrative costs, stress and bureaucracy would seem ludicrous, especially at a time when saving money but protecting services is supposed to be the priority. For now claimants have to deal with the system as it stands, and that means abiding by the current rules for permitted work.
I want this job enough to say to my employers that I'd like to do it on a voluntary basis, so that is what we've agreed upon. It's still exciting and I'm so happy to have the opportunity to work in a formal role for a project I really believe in, but all that joy at finally getting an actual paying job has been ruined by the inconsistencies of the benefits system.