The Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) scheme encourages people getting certain social welfare payments to become self-employed. If you take part in the BTWEA scheme you can keep a percentage of your social welfare payment for up to 2 years. BTWEA is a payment made by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) to people aged under 66.
A new applicant should meet with a Case Officer who will conduct a brief initial assessment with you to assess your suitability for the scheme in line with your progression plan. Once this is completed you will be referred to a Local Development Company (LDC) who will assist you in discussing your options and explore the viability of your business idea. The LDC will assist with preparing your business plan to outline the new enterprise. Once the plan is completed it will be returned to the Case Officer who will review the proposal and then make a recommendation to the Deciding Officer.
Once you are accepted onto the scheme your new enterprise your new enterprise can avail of the supports from the Case Officer and mentoring from the LDC over the two years of the scheme.
You can qualify for a Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) if you are:
Setting up as self-employed in a new business that has been approved in advance in writing by a DEASP Case Officer and a Local Development Company (see 'How to apply' below)
Getting Jobseeker's Benefit or Jobseeker's Allowance continuously for at least 9 months (234 days). If you have been getting either of these payments continuously for 12 months (312 days) immediately before BTWEA, you can have a maximum of 30 days off the Live Register during this time
(*with an underlying entitlement to Jobseeker's Allowance - see 'Jobseeker's Benefit and underlying entitlement to JA' below)
Getting one of the qualifying payments below continuously for at least 9 months:
Qualifying from Illness Benefit: 3 out of last 5 years in receipt of a qualifying social welfare payment
Combination of One-Parent Family Payment/Jobseeker's Transitional Payment/Jobseeker's Allowance continuously for 9 months
You may also be considered for the BTWEA if you are a qualified adult of a person who is already getting the BTWEA.
You may qualify if the person who is getting the BTWEA stops their self-employment before exhausting their entitlement due to certain circumstances. Valid circumstances would include a long-term illness or injury which prevents the original claimant from working, or the illness of an immediate family member which requires them to become a full-time carer. If you are the qualified adult of a BTWEA claimant who stops their self-employment to take up other employment, this is not a valid circumstance to qualify you for BTWEA.
If you qualify for BTWEA in this way, you may avail of the scheme for the time remaining on the original claim. This involves the original claimant transferring his or her entitlements to you as their spouse, civil partner or cohabitant. (In other words, you become self-employed and the original claimant becomes your qualified adult on the BTWEA). If the original claimant is entitled to credits, he or she can continue to claim them. However BTWEA cannot be paid at the same time as another social welfare payment so if the original claimant (now a qualified adult) decides to claim another payment you must stop claiming BTWEA.
If you have been recently released from prison, you may qualify for BTWEA. Time spent in prison can count towards the qualifying period for the BTWEA if you establish an entitlement to a relevant social welfare payment before becoming self-employed.
If you qualify for the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance you can keep the following portion of your social welfare payment, including increases for a qualified adult, and qualified children for a maximum of 2 years:
Change of circumstances
If your circumstances change, your rate of payment for a qualified adult, or additional qualified children may be increased or decreased, depending on your situation. However, if your BTWEA claim is based on a previous entitlement to One-Parent Family Payment or Carer's Allowance, you cannot claim an increase for a qualified adult as this would not have been payable on your underlying entitlement.
If your qualified adult finds employment, this does not affect your BTWEA. However, if your qualified adult claims another social welfare payment in their own right, your BTWEA payment will be reduced accordingly.
To apply for the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance, you must complete the BTW2 application form:
You should return your BTW 2 to the Case Officer in your local Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office.
The Case Officer will look at your business proposal and may discuss certain aspects of it with you. You may then be referred to your Local Development Company. You must not take up self-employment until you have received written approval from the DEASP.
If you are accepted on to the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance, you must register as self-employed with the Revenue Commissioners.
Reviewing a decision
The BTWEA is an administrative scheme. This means that you cannot appeal a decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. However, you can ask the DEASP to review your application if you feel that you have been wrongly refused the allowance.