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ESA - Caution! It may not count as voluntary work. (Read 52 times)
Liz944
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ESA - Caution! It may not count as voluntary work.
23.08.12 at 19:13:32
 
Caution! It may not count as voluntary work.
 
Many thousands of people claiming benefits because of disability or long-term health problems do voluntary work without any problems at all. For some it can be an excellent first step towards paid employment. For others, who are not aiming for paid employment, it is simply an opportunity to get out, meet people and know they are making a valuable contribution to their community.
 
For a small proportion of claimants, however, doing voluntary work can cause real problems with their benefits and even lead to having to repay large sums of money.
For some organisations, too, it can lead to the National Minimum Wage Unit instructing them to give thousands of pounds of back pay to people they thought were volunteers. This brief guide looks at how voluntary work can be deemed to be paid employment and gives 8 simple steps you can take to avoid it happening to you.
Please note, though, that it doesn’t deal with the ways in which voluntary work may be taken into account when deciding whether you are still incapable of work or whether you still meet the criteria for an award of Disability Living Allowance. For more information on these issues, see our brief guide to Work and benefits for people with long-term health conditions. In addition, this guide doesn’t apply to people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, for whom there are additional rules about availability for interviews, for example.
 
It may not be voluntary work if you get paid some of the time.
Carla has experienced depression and anxiety for many years. She finds it very difficult to be around people but enjoys the company of animals. With the help of a local mental health support agency Carla begins doing some voluntary work for a local animal sanctuary, cleaning out and caring for dogs, cats and other animals until they can be rehomed. The sanctuary is a registered charity, with lots of volunteers doing dog walking and other tasks. Because no money is involved Carla doesn’t think she needs to tell the DWP about her voluntary work.
 
After a few months the sanctuary offers Carla the chance to do a small amount of paid work, getting the minimum wage of £5.80 an hour for 3 hours work a week – a total of £17.40 a week. The sanctuary were told about the permitted work rules by another volunteer and have been helping out several volunteers in this way as a small reward for all the hard work they do for the charity. Carla informs the DWP before she starts doing paid work, completing a form PW1 and receiving confirmation that she is covered by the permitted work rules. Because Carla is on income support and gets a disability premium, she is allowed to keep the £17.40 on top of her benefits.
 
As well as the 4 hours a week paid work, Carla continues to come in and work as a volunteer at the sanctuary because enjoys being there and knows there is always more work than the paid staff can manage.
 
Unfortunately for Carla, if the DWP find out about her voluntary hours they may well decide that she is not covered by the permitted work rules after all. This is because they are likely to take the view that if Carla is being paid for doing 4 hours work it is not reasonable for her to do the other hours unpaid. Carla will be deemed to have been doing paid employment for all the hours she spent at the sanctuary and the
DWP may seek to recover the income support that Carla has received since beginning her permitted work. As a result there may also be overpayments of other benefits, such as housing benefit.
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