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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
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Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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I need a lawyer who is versed in the english benefits system. I

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I need a lawyer who is versed in the english benefits system.

I am helping a friend get back on his feet by working (architectural artist) again after falling on hard times.
With Government benefits he makes a subsistence living. Working again will give him some meaning in life and get him some much needed additional cash.

However, and here's the problem, he is terrified of losing benefits when he simply can't afford to. I advised him to visit the social security office and discuss with them. He said they were "po faced, formal and suspicious" and came away even more nervous.

I need a way forward that allows him to start working (self employed) without risking his benefits until such time as he is reasonably established and/or if the venture fails he doesn't lose out.

Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.

What type of benefits is he on?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Benefit 1 Housing Benefit from council £192 fortnightly = £4,992.00 per annum issued against universal benefit for single bedroom status, which is my entitlement.

Benefit 2 Pension credit from DWP currently £24.03 weekly, this is a top-up pension added to my state pension of £110.50 issued weekly.




Are you asking if he can keep these benefits whilst working?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

No - clearly if he earns money (more than a certain minimum?) his benefits will be affected.


If he starts working again as self employed - he may or may not be successful. For example he may get 0/1/6/12/or even 20 jobs per year each worth in the region of £300-£400.


The people in the council seem to look at this as a reason to "threaten" him with loss of benefits (unbelievable!!) and quite reasonably he doesn't want to relaunch his career with the sword of damocles hanging over him.


Question: how does he move forward without taking loss of benefits risk (in the case that he fails) and/or without being any worse off in the case that he is (partially) successful?





The truth is that there isn't really a way of doing that safely.

These are means tested benefits. If he works at all it must be declared. If he earns then his benefits will be reduced to take that into account.

Its not all that likely that he would lose his benefits altogether unless he starts earning over a certain amount. But there probably would be a reduction.

I'm really sorry but there are no magic wands that remove the risk here. If he works then he must declare it. If he declares it then they will assess. In the act of an assessment there is a risk that he will lose or have his benefits reduced.

The only way to avoid that for certain is not to work.

In fairness, he will have to start earning a substantial amount before he loses housing benefit or before its even really reduced but you cannot completely stamp out that risk.

Im very sorry.

Can I clarify anything for you?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Yes, quantification of your last statement is a large part of the answer. Ideally a graph of earnings vs loss of benefits - how do I generate that? The 2nd part of the answer is to do with timing. They appear to want him to commit to the amount of earnings up front - which is clearly impossible for him to do. If we went with a proposal to the council that we would report in with actual earnings each quarter for example would that work?





You cannot qualify the exact amount. It is an equation of the number of hours worked and the amount of earnings for the council to assess.

I know they do ask for sight of the exact amount of earnings. They generally behave as though everybody is employed. They will ultimately accept that is not possible for a self employed person but you do need to tell them several times and commit it to paper. Usually the way around this is to devise a protected income which is obviously an approximation and no more and then advise them of any changes. You need to do it more regularly than every quarter though unless, of course, there are no changes to report which might actually be the case within the first three months of trading.

Generally speaking you will loss all means tested benefits if you generate over £16k and start to lose on a sliding scale if over £6k but it depends upon how quickly that is earned.

He is not on a benefit that relates to his working hours though so he is not under restrictions over what the number of hours that can be worked. Its only an issue of income.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

No wonder people on benefits never get off!!


Ok If I understand you correctly we go to the council and say he expects to earn say 3.6k (12*£300) in the first year and we will revert each month with actuals, emphasising that he is self employed and not on a wage - we do that in writing.

Would that a) allow him to get started without worrying about his benefits and b) Provide the council with a proposition that they could accept - without taking unilateral action?



Yes, I do agree!

Above should have read projected income not protected.

Do everything in writing. Do not trust the DWP to record things.

The truth is that he cannot ever start without worrying. They will assess and they do make some very unfair decisions.

The way to be sure that he will not be charged with benefit fraud in years to come though is to tell them in advance of any changes from the projected earnings.

If he is on an overall yearly income of £12k then he probably would be considered low income and allowed to keep benefits of this nature.

If he has been on benefits for more than 26 weeks then he should get a respite of one month.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Jo, sorry. One omission on my part, the guy is 70+ yrs old does that change anything substantially?



No, not really.

He isn't claiming a benefit on the basis that he is too ill to work or anything else that would be undermined by the fact of him starting a business.
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