The Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) scheme encourages people getting certain social welfare payments to become self-employed. People taking part in the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance scheme (pdf) can keep a percentage of their social welfare payment for up to 2 years.
From 1 May 2009, the qualifying period required for BTWEA is reduced from 2 years to 12 months provided you have an underlying entitlement to Jobseekers Allowance.
A new Back to Work Scheme called the Short-Term Enterprise Allowance started May 2009. There is no qualifying period for the Short-Term Enterprise Allowance. You can get immediate access to the allowance but you must meet the qualifying conditions.
Back to Work Enterprise Allowance
You can avail of the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance if you are:
Setting up as self-employed in a business that has been approved in advance in writing by a Job Facilitator or Partnership Company
Getting a Jobseeker’s Allowance for 12 months
Unemployed for 2 years and getting Jobseeker’s Benefit. However, if you have an underlying entitlement to Jobseeker’s Allowance and are unemployed for one year you can qualify for the allowance. If you don’t have an underlying entitlement to Jobseeker’s Allowance, you must have a combination of qualifying social welfare payments for 2 years. Signing on for unemployment credits following your Jobseeker’s Benefit will not count towards the qualifying period.
Getting One-Parent Family Payment, Disability Allowance, Blind Pension, Farm Assist, Incapacity Supplement, Pre-Retirement Allowance, Invalidity Pension, Carer’s Allowance, Widow’s/Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner’s (Non-Contributory) Pension, Deserted Wife’s Benefit/Allowance or Prisoner’s Wife’s Allowance for at least 12 months
Getting Illness Benefit for 3 or more years
Getting Farm Assist for 12 months, providing that the self-employment is now in relation to the holding and not the continuation of an existing operation.
You may also be considered for the BTWEA if you are:
A qualified adult of a person eligible to claim the BTWEA. This involves the person who is eligible for the BTWEA transferring his or her entitlements to their spouse/civil partner or cohabitant. (In other words, the spouse/civil partner or cohabitant becomes self-employed and the original claimant becomes the qualified adult on the BTWEA). If the original claimant is entitled to credits, he or she can continue to claim them.
A person released from prison who satisfies the eligibility criteria for the scheme
Periods of time spent in FÁS Training, Community Employment, the Community Services Programme, Job Initiative, CERT, Teagasc, FIT and Back to Education Schemes are accepted as periods of unemployment.
Time spent on Supplementary Welfare Allowance or in Direct Provision can count towards the qualifying period for BTWEA provided you are entitled to a qualifying payment before starting on the scheme.
If you have previously participated in the BTWEA scheme and exhausted your entitlement, you can participate a second time after a period of at least 5 years has elapsed.
More information on the qualifying periods for Back to Work Enterprise Allowance is available.
Help starting a business
The Technical Assistance and Training (TAT) fund is designed to help people getting the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance with certain costs involved starting a business. You do not have an automatic entitlement to TAT; assistance from this fund must be approved by the Jobs Facilitator in your Social Welfare Local Office. Payments from the fund must be made directly to the provider of the service.
More information is available about becoming self-employed.
Employment grants from a County Enterprise Board (CEB) or Integrated Local Development Companies will not affect your entitlement to the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance.
Back to Work Enterprise Allowance
If you take part in the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance scheme before 1 May 2009, you will keep the following portions of your social welfare payment, including increases for a qualified adult and qualified children:
100% of your weekly social welfare payment for the 1st year
75% for the 2nd year
50% for the 3rd year
25% for the 4th year.
From 1 May 2009, new participants will keep the following portions of their social welfare payment, including increases for a qualified adult and qualified children, for a maximum of 2 years:
100% for the 1st year
75% for the 2nd year.
You will also keep any secondary benefits (apart from Rent or Mortgage Interest Supplement) for as long as you are getting the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance provided your household income is less than €317.43 gross per week. Household income includes your spouse’s/civil partner’s or cohabitant’s income, but allows for PRSI and reasonable travel expenses. Income from the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance or the Short-term Enterprise Allowance is not taken into account for the purpose of the €317.43 weekly income limit but your income from work is taken into account. You should check with the Community Welfare Officer in your local Health Centre to see how your Rent Supplement or Mortgage Interest Supplement may be affected by your participation in the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance.
Secondary benefits include:
Medical Card (the €317.43 weekly income limit does not apply here)
Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance
Differential Rents (from your local authority)
The Back to Work Enterprise Allowance will be paid directly into your bank or building society account on a weekly basis. The allowance cannot be paid into a mortgage account.
You must contact the Department of Social Protection immediately if your self-employment ends or you take up employment.
How to apply
To apply for the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance, complete application form BTW 2.
If you live in an area covered by a local Partnership Company or Integrated Local Development Company (ILDC), you should return form BTW 2 to the Enterprise Officer in your local Partnership or ILDC. If you do not live in Partnership/ILDC Area, you should return form BTW 2 to the Jobs Facilitator in your Social Welfare Local Office.
The Enterprise Officer or Jobs Facilitator will look at your business proposal and may discuss certain aspects of it with you. You must not take up self-employment until you have received written approval from the Partnership/ILDC or Department of Social Protection.
If you are accepted on to the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance, you must register as self-employed with the Revenue Commissioners. You can find further information on self-employment from your local tax office.
Where to apply
If you live in an area covered by a local Partnership Company or Integrated Local Development Company (ILDC), you should apply to the Enterprise Officer in your local Partnership or ILDC.
If you do not live in Partnership/ILDC area, you should apply to the Jobs Facilitator in your Social Welfare Local Office.