Could the Help to Work scheme help you out of long-term unemployment, or do you have other options? Here's what you need to know.
The Help to Work initiative took over from the Mandatory Work Activity scheme in April 2014, but how does it impact the exisiting 'Work Programme' available from the government?
Under the Help to Work scheme you stand to lose four weeks' worth of Jobseeker's Allowance the first time you breach the rules of your placement; while second offences could mean you lose 3 months of benefits.
Help to Work aims to provide full time, unpaid placements for the long term unemployed in which you must work for your benefits or risk being "sanctioned" and losing them.
Unlike MWA which was capped at 6 months, Help to Work is indefinite - lasting until you find employment. However you do have some say in your placements, with 3 options available:
Unpaid community work placements, such as gardening in public spaces or cooking meals for the elderly
Daily appointments at your nearest JobCentre
Compulsory training, e.g. to improve your literacy, numeracy, computer skills
If you don't choose one of the options yourself, your JobCentre Plus adviser can choose for you.
The government's existing Work Programme is an overarching policy aimed at getting jobseekers back into work within a 2 year period*.
The Work Programme rewards private contractors for placing jobseekers in paid employment, ensuring that JobCentres are not the only resource for training and advice.
In the beginning it is a voluntary scheme offering support, work experience and training to plug any skill gaps identified by your JobCentre adviser.
However, once you've been on Jobseeker's Allowance for 3 months you will automatically be enrolled on the Work Programme.
You may also have to join the Work Programme if you receive the Work Related Activity portion of Employment & Support Allowance.
Currently, if you are still on the Work Programme after 2 years you'll have to attend an assessment interview with Jobcentre Plus to target your job hunting.
* You will be moved onto the Help to Work scheme after two years on the Work Programme.
If you are worried about your employment, compare income protection plans to find the best cover, so you will be protected should the worse happen.