Work, Benefits … and Recovery
These pages give an overview of Government Benefits not a definitive guide. There is more specific information about benefits at the end of this page.
However, if you are in employment and considering getting drug and alcohol free, or going on a maintenance programme, this is a section you need to read.
So let’s consider what a typical recovery might entail:
Firstly, you will need time.
Most people will need to stabilise their substance use or ‘detox’ themselves from their drug of choice and/or alcohol. A typical alcohol or drug ’in patient’ detox takes around 10 to 15 days, and you may be required to attend a series of ‘pre-tox’ meetings to prepare you, although personal circumstances will be taken into account.
A ‘home detox’ can vary widely due to individual circumstances, but 3 to 6 months is around the mark.
For a drug maintenance programme you will need around a week of attending the service at first, usually every day for around an hour to stabilise you on a replacement medication, such as methadone for heroin addiction.
Services recognise the need to cater for these circumstances and have late or early clinictimes, although you may have to wait a little longer to see your worker. Other services run structured recovery programmes in the evenings, and there are week-end services run by peer run organisations.
Can I do a detox and work?
You can, and I know people who have. We’d strongly advise you to talk with someone in your local treatment service first and get as much information around how your treatment can be adapted to your personal circumstancesto provide you with the support you will need.
You probably should also talk with your employers. Now, this can be difficult I know, but if you think your employer would be approachable(and these days a lot more are than you might think) we’d definitely advise this.
With a ‘home detox’ you can probably duck and dive around the old work life balance; it will take a bit of determination, and if your employers can work with you, all the better.
For an ‘in patient’ detox you will have to make some choices. You could arrange a holiday or if you’re fortunate and have an understanding employer, you may be able to arrange some time off.
Another option, if you think you need some time to concentrate on your treatment and recovery, is to reduce your hours, and, depending on your circumstances, pick up some working tax credits to offset reduced pay. You’ll need to do your sums here, look at an on line tax credit calculator to help you, and the Citizens Advice Bureau can provide useful advice here.
How does Recovery and Work, work?
Perfectly well, in fact further along the line work can play a valuable part in the success of your recovery.
However, early recovery can take a bit more effort, good advice here is to decide what you want to do, and make arrangements beforehand so you can move from detox and through treatment as smoothly as possible.
As we’ve said there are early and late appointments to be had with your local service provider and certain chemists open late and early for methadone consumption and pick up.
AA, NA and CA collectively called “the rooms” hold meetings virtually round the clock in London and you’ll find many people there who work, and such is their non-disclosure policy, you’d not know, unless they choose to volunteer the information. And truly, a work colleague of mine used to pop out to a lunchtime AA meeting for years before he told me; we all thought he was having some sort of secret love life!
There are evening groups that are highly supportive and useful, run by organisations such as SMART and Intuitive Recovery as well as some run by the mainstream Services. You can mix and match these to your time and needs.
Peer run organisations also run services in the evenings as well as at week-ends, so there are plenty of options for receiving advice and support outside of working hours.
So hopefully you can see that there are plenty of options available to help you deal with a substance use problem without having to lose your job, so if you’re working and have been wavering about getting help, hopefully this has helped you.
Now, you may have had to quit working, or perhaps you are currently unemployed, so let’s move onto benefits.
Benefits and Recovery
Barring Universal Credit (which no doubt is coming sometime, we’ll update this site when it becomes more……universal!) the current benefit you are likely to be placed on is:
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
ESA is a ‘gateway’ benefit, which simply means that you can claim certain other benefits such as housing benefit and council tax relief. Other support allowances may be awarded around your health and mobility dependant on your circumstances.
There are two phases to ESA:
- The assessment phase rate which is paid for the first 13 weeks of your claim while a decision is made on your capability for work through the Work Capability Assessment.
- The main phase which starts from week 14 of your claim, if the Work Capability Assessment shows that your illness or disability does limit your ability to work.
As a result of the assessment you will be put in either:
- The Work-Related Activity Group. You will be expected to take part in work-focused interviews with your personal adviser. In return, you will receive a work-related activity component in addition to your basic rate. If you refuse to go to the work-focused interviews, or to take part fully in the work-focused interviews, it may affect your entitlement to ESA.
- The Support Group. You will be placed in this group because your illness or disability has a severe effect on your ability to work. You will not be expected to take part in any work and do not have to go to interviews. However, you can ask to talk to a personal adviser if you want to. You will receive a support component in addition to your basic rate.
Most people claiming ESA must have a medical assessment to prove they are unable to work because of their condition or disability. This is called the Work Capability Assessment which is made up of two parts:
- The Limited Capability for Work to find out what benefit you are entitled to based on how much your illness or disability affects your ability to work.
- The Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity to find out if you need to be put into the Support Group because your condition is so bad it is unreasonable to expect you do any work-related activity.
It is fair to say if you are going into treatment you will be put into the Support Group which should cover your detox and a while after, this can vary widely due to your personal circumstances, whether you are called for a re-assessment, and can also vary from area to area.
Eventually you will be reassessed and put in the work capability group, where you’ll be required to attend work focused interviews, you can however appeal the decision to be put into this group if you think that your circumstances have not been fairly assessed, you will be asked to provide medical evidence to support your appeal.Even further down the timeline in recovery you may be placed on-
Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
This is a benefit for people who are unemployed but capable of work. To get Jobseeker’s Allowance you also have to meet several other conditions, which include showing that you are looking for work.
Currently, you will have to attend your local Jobcentre every two weeks to ‘sign on’ and usually you will be asked to produce evidence that you have been looking for work, such as print-outs from job-searches and copies of application letters and forms.
The best bit of advice here is to be polite, show your evidence, sign, listen to the advisor, then go….Do not get on the wrong side of jobcentre staff, whilst most are reasonable there are some that will ‘sanction’ you if you give them half a chance.
However help is at hand! Your Services can supply you with a TPR2 form to take to the Jobcentre, they in turn will take this into account when assessing your job-search and signing criteria, this can take the pressure off you somewhat, and may avoid you being sanctioned.
These were introduced in October 2012 and in the first year over half a million that’s around 5% of claimants have lost benefit through being sanctioned.
There are three levels:
At the lower level, for say, missing an appointment with an advisor, you can lose benefits for 4 weeks for a first failure and 13 weeks for subsequent ones. Not actively seeking employment can lead to intermediate sanctions between 4 and 26 weeks, and finally high level sanctions, for example leaving a job voluntarily of anything from 13 weeks to 3 years!
As if these don’t appear harsh enough, Government has announced a further tightening up of these in 2014.
So, try to avoid picking up a sanction.
You may, if sanctioned, be able to claim a hardship payment, but you’ll need to prove it, and on most cases it is a ‘loan’, you’ll have to pay it back.
The other major benefit that you may be entitled to is:
If you are on one of the ‘gateway benefits’ and pay rent, you should be able to claim housing benefit, it doesn’t matterwho your landlord is, or whether you live in a house, flat, bedsit, hostel,or bed and breakfast. As long as you are, or your spouse, civil partner or cohabitee is responsible for paying the rent, you can make a claim.Housing benefit cannot be used to pay a mortgage. If you have amortgage, you may be able to get help with paying the interest throughSupport for Mortgage Interest (SMI).
The total amount you can claim is related to your age, whether you have children or dependents living with you, whether it is rented through a Local Housing Authority/Agency (Social Housing) or through a private landlord and your Local Council which sets the rates paid, yes, it’s complicated, and made more so by recent Government legislation on Benefit Caps and Spare Rooms.
Housing Benefit is administered by your local council, although you can claim through the Jobcentre when arranging other benefits.
If you are responsible for paying Council Tax you can also claim for CT relief, this used to be the full amount due, however some councils have reduced this, so you may have to pay a percentage.
The Benefit Cap and Spare Room Subsidy (The Bedroom Tax)
Recent legislation has sought to cap the total benefits receivable, and rent is such a big component, this can effect what you can pay to keep a roof over your head, particularly in London.
If you are a couple, with or without children the total maximum benefits are capped at £500 per week. For single without children, or children not living with you, the cap is set at £350 per week. Certain benefits such as some discretionary payments and free school meals are outside the totals are excluded, but see the full lists on the websites we recommend.
The spare room subsidy (aka The Bedroom Tax) applies to tenants in Social Housing who’s full rent will not be covered because they have one or more spare bedrooms, again there are rules and exceptions and differing local authority interpretations… so this last section may be of help.
How and where to seek advice (and other useful tips).
It would have been impossible to relate all the rules and legislation around Benefits, but we’ve supplied a list of recommended Agencies and websites where you can explain your individual circumstances and receive support and information.