If you’ve been unemployed for a while and are having difficulties finding work, setting up your own business could seem like an attractive prospect. If you’re interested in doing just that and becoming your own boss, the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance scheme might be for you. This allows you to set up your own business with special supports while still receiving most of your current welfare payments.
How does Back to Work Enterprise Allowance work?
The Allowance lets you start a business and keep most of your unemployment payments for up to two years (100% for year one and 75% for year two). You don’t pay any tax on your welfare payments, though you may have to pay tax on your business earnings.
Along with your weekly payments, you can get financial support with business costs through the Enterprises Support Grant (ESG) scheme as long as you’re getting the Allowance.
You can keep any extras from your Jobseeker’s Benefit, such as a medical card entitlement, so long as you continue to meet their conditions. If you’re receiving Rent Supplement, you should discuss how it may be affected with the Department of Social Protection’s representative at your local health centre before applying.
How do I qualify for Back to Work Enterprise Allowance?
To get the Short-Term Enterprise Allowance, you’ll first need to be prepared to do what it takes to set up and run your own business.
You also have to be receiving one of the welfare payments listed below for at least 12 months, or Illness Benefit for three or more years. Time spent on government training schemes or programmes, such as the Rural Social Scheme or JobBridge will generally count towards your total qualifying time.
You may also be considered if you are a Dependent Adult of a person already receiving the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance, or if you have been recently released from prison who meets the criteria for the scheme.
Qualifying Payments for Back to Work Enterprise Allowance:
- Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Jobseeker’s Benefit (if you would also qualify for Jobseeker’s Allowance via the means test)
- One-Parent Family Payment
- Blind Pension
- Disability Allowance
- Carer’s Allowance (having stopped caring duties)
- Farm Assist
- Invalidity Pension
- Incapacity Supplement
- Deserted Wife’s Benefit or Allowance
- Prisoner’s Wife’s Allowance
Applying for the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance
The application form for Back to Work Enterprise Allowance is the BTW 2, available here. You can either print it off or pick up a copy at your local Intreo or social welfare office.
The form will ask you for details of your business proposal. It’s a good idea to include a separate business plan that lays out in detail what you want your business to do and how you intend to do it. This will show you’re serious and passionate about getting started.
Your chances of getting approved for Back to Work Enterprise Allowance will also go up if you’ve attended a Start Your Own Business course. Your local Intreo office will have details of government-run entrepreneurship courses you can take part in to bulk up your business skills.
Once you’ve completed the form and written your business plan, you can return it to either:
- A Case Officer based in an Intreo Office or local social welfare office; or
- An Enterprise Officer in your local development (or “partnership”) company, if your area has one.
- They will review your application and discuss your business plan with you. They’ll need to approve your plan in writing for your application to be successful.
If you do get approved you will need to register as self-employed with the Revenue Commissioners. Remember to contact the Department of Social Protection immediately if you ever take up different employment or stop being self-employed for any reason.
If you weren’t approved, don’t worry. There’s no reason you can’t change your plan and try again, so long as you are still eligible. You can also contact the Department of Social Protection if you feel your application was unfairly refused.
After the Allowance Ends
When your entitlement to the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance comes to an end, you may still be eligible for extra support. Jobseeker’s Allowance can be paid to people in self-employment if their income is low enough and they are also seeking full-time employment. If you feel you need it, consider applying.
Need more information?
We are here to answer your questions and talk through your options. Our online chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm. Chat to us now about your situation.