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Returning to work after long layoff

ryan123ryan123 Member Posts: 17 Listener
I've been unemployed for 10 years. I worked throughout the early years of my mental health problems and 'got through it' by drinking quite a lot. I've since learned to live with my illness as much as i can, i've gone back to college, done a degree in psychology, and hope to do a Master's degree. But eventually this all has to lead somewhere: work! 

Returning to work petrifies me. I might have severe anxiety and agoraphobia - not as serious as it once was - but i don't see myself as 'weak' or anything like that. In fact, i'd get really quite annoyed if i was being looked down upon (one reason i still keep my issues, or at least how serious they are, secret from most people). I don't like the idea of being mocked, or even 'helped' so to speak. I see it as a case of me being able to do A, B, and C but needing X, Y and Z in place for me to be able to do so. 

With mental health issues, i find it really difficult to really get across exactly *how* things affect you. For example, where i was agoraphobic to the extent that i literally never left my flat for 8 months - my mum had to come stay with me, i had a friend come over to take bins out etc - people assume i'd prefer to be 'enclosed'. So when i say, 'actually i'm quite claustrophobic!', it's like we're back at stage one again lol. Not that i get annoyed with people not understanding, because i myself admit this is a nightmare.

I know we have the Equality Act etc to protect people in our situations, but i often wonder how such things really work in practice. I can tell you, in some of my old jobs, none of it would have meant a thing.

So, i was just wondering how people here who have returned to work were able to achieve such a thing and if you've had a positive/negative overall experience? I'm thinking maybe i should do volunteer work for a while before even daring to think about paid work.

Replies

  • ryan123ryan123 Member Posts: 17 Listener
    Oh, also, somebody at Scope on phone told me about being aware that sometimes if you work the allowed 16 hours per week (or whatever maximum wage is) whilst on ESA, it can be deducted from your actual ESA. I told him that such a ridiculous rule would hardly encourage people to get back to work! Has anybody had that happen to them? 
  • Cher_ScopeCher_Scope Community Team Posts: 2,795 Disability Gamechanger
    edited January 10
    Hi @ryan123 and welcome to our online community.  I'm chuffed you found us and I really hope we can help :)

    Firstly, congrats on your achievements!  Doing a degree in psychology is no easy feat and I hope through your learning you can better understand the mechanics behind your own mental health problems.  The lived experience you've gathered will be an invaluable way of helping others in the future, and although your career path might be a bit fuzzy at the moment, it will fall into place I'm sure.

    A lot of what you said resonated with me - the knowing you can do a job, but needing employer understanding and reasonable adjustments to do it.  Plus, finding the thought of returning into the workplace after study entirely daunting.  I've just finished a Masters and felt those exact same things.  But, I can promise you positive outcomes do happen, and a lot of those fears when confronted will slowly diminish.  Employers have a responsibility to implement reasonable adjustments, and should you need it, Scope have a webpage dedicated to what that entails and how to challenge unsupportive management if you come across it.

    I think graded exposure to work-like situations, as you say, will definitely help.  You mentioned volunteering and that would be a smashing way to make those initial steps - doing hours to suit you, testing the water and trying out coping strategies should you feel overwhelmed.  One thing that helps me when my thoughts take over, is to look for the evidence.  What can I actually observe and hear versus what my inner voice is telling me.  I'm sure you are much more knowledgeable than me regards this, but when doubt creeps in, remember what you have achieved.  

    If you need any support in looking for volunteering opportunities, please let me know :)  I hope you are keeping well today and talk soon!
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  • janer1967janer1967 Community champion Posts: 7,418 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi and welcome 

    Scope have a dedicated support for work section you may find helpful 

    I'm not sure about the financial questions you have but I will tag in our expert @poppy123456 can you advise here 

    Voluntary work is a good option but depends if it fits with the sort of work you want to do 
  • ryan123ryan123 Member Posts: 17 Listener
    Hi, thanks for the replies.

    Well, i want to do a Master's in psychology and volunteer in the same field. I received a 2:1 in my degree, so i could in theory get into clinical psychology (i believe you need at least a 2:2 or 2:1) or something else similar. 

    Through a combination of returning to work anxiety, not really knowing where to turn, and Covid, i still haven't done either. I was thinking maybe i could volunteer at my local doctor's surgery or mental health clinic or at a call centre (e.g. Childline).  
  • janer1967janer1967 Community champion Posts: 7,418 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi again 

    You could also consider the samaritans or there are people who are phone buddies for those people who are alone sorry dont know what the organisation is called 

    It might be worth checking out with the job centre who may have some ideas 
  • poppy123456poppy123456 Member Posts: 22,218 Disability Gamechanger
    ryan123 said:
    Oh, also, somebody at Scope on phone told me about being aware that sometimes if you work the allowed 16 hours per week (or whatever maximum wage is) whilst on ESA, it can be deducted from your actual ESA. I told him that such a ridiculous rule would hardly encourage people to get back to work! Has anybody had that happen to them? 

    HI,

    Are you sure this is what you were advised? It's not correct. While claiming ESA you can do what's called permitted work BUT you can only work less than 16 hours per week and earn no more than £140 per week after deductions. If you work 16 hours or more then your ESA will end, likwwise if you work less than 16 hours and earn more than £140 per week, your ESA will end.

    Working within the permitted work rules will not see anything deducted from your ESA entitlement. See link for confirmation.

    You must tell DWP that you are working and you must fill out the PW1 and return it to them.

    What you must be aware of thought is, if the work you do contradicts the reasons why you're claiming ESA then you could be reassessed early and the decision could could against you when it's made. What you need to do is look at the reasons why you were placed into the WRAG and the work you intend to do and go from there.

    Hope this helps to clear things for you.

    Also thanks @janer1967 for the tag.

    Community champion and proud winner of the 2019 empowering others award. This award was given for supporting disabled people and their families for the benefit advice i have given to members here on the community.
  • Cher_ScopeCher_Scope Community Team Posts: 2,795 Disability Gamechanger
    ryan123 said:
    Oh, also, somebody at Scope on phone told me about being aware that sometimes if you work the allowed 16 hours per week (or whatever maximum wage is) whilst on ESA, it can be deducted from your actual ESA. I told him that such a ridiculous rule would hardly encourage people to get back to work! Has anybody had that happen to them? 
    Hi @ryan123

    Ooh that's a bit odd, can you remember who you spoke to at Scope?  I hope @poppy123456 has clarified this for you now.  
    Online Community Co-ordinator

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  • ryan123ryan123 Member Posts: 17 Listener
    ryan123 said:
    Oh, also, somebody at Scope on phone told me about being aware that sometimes if you work the allowed 16 hours per week (or whatever maximum wage is) whilst on ESA, it can be deducted from your actual ESA. I told him that such a ridiculous rule would hardly encourage people to get back to work! Has anybody had that happen to them? 
    Hi @ryan123

    Ooh that's a bit odd, can you remember who you spoke to at Scope?  I hope @poppy123456 has clarified this for you now.  
    I can't remember who i spoke to but he didn't sound like he was saying it's 100% certain, he said it more like, "i've heard of it happening". I have Googled it and couldn't find any concrete evidence of such a thing, and if it did occur i'd fight it anyway. But, certainly it would be a ridiculous rule as it would put most people off actually trying to get back to work little by little. 
  • poppy123456poppy123456 Member Posts: 22,218 Disability Gamechanger
    Maybe the person you spoken advised you to be aware that doing permitted work may affect your ESA (which it can) if the work you do contradicts the reasons why you're claiming ESA.
    Community champion and proud winner of the 2019 empowering others award. This award was given for supporting disabled people and their families for the benefit advice i have given to members here on the community.
  • ryan123ryan123 Member Posts: 17 Listener
    Maybe the person you spoken advised you to be aware that doing permitted work may affect your ESA (which it can) if the work you do contradicts the reasons why you're claiming ESA.
    I don't think so, but it's possible. Certainly, that is one thing that has always made me apprehensive about returning to any kind of work (volunteered or paid). But, i am always very clear to DWP and whomever about how my illness affects me and the myriad of things i do to allow myself to have any kind of freedom. Obviously, you have to jump through hoops to prove this at assessments, but i am always very clear and very consistent. E.g. i use my car to go everywhere and as long as i can park close by to my destination, i'm usually okay. Hence a volunteer job might work if i can drive there, stay in same building, get back in car, go home. This has always been a fighting point - i took PIP to an appeal tribunal and won - but i don't let anybody convince me that i've been 'pretending' all of this for 15 years. 
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