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Government employment schemes

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

Help finding work

This information describes the main Government employment schemes. Most schemes are provided through JobCentre NI offices, where you can get more details. Some employment schemes are compulsory for people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) while others are voluntary. You can also find information here about employment schemes for the self-employed, training schemes, and other types of help on offer.

Help for disabled people

Every Job Centre NI office has an Employment Service Adviser attached, providing specialist advice to disabled people and actual or potential employers. The Employment Service Adviser can advise on finding work, job retention and getting practical help through the Access to Work scheme and supported employment.

There are specific schemes to help you return to work if you are disabled. The programmes available are: Access to Work, Condition Management Programme, Job Introduction scheme, Work Connect and Workable.

For further information on the schemes see the nidirect website

Compulsory Schemes

There are a number of schemes you must take part in if you are unemployed and claiming jobseeker’s allowance, and your employment officer asks you to do so. Your benefit may be affected if you refuse or leave a scheme before completing it.

“Work for your benefit” schemes do not currently apply in Northern Ireland.

Benefit sanctions

If you refuse to take part in, or leave a compulsory scheme before completing it, you may suffer a benefit sanction. This means JobCentre NI will stop, or in some cases reduce, your Jobseeker’s Allowance for a certain period.

For more information about sanctions, see Benefits for people looking for work.

Jobseeker’s agreement

If you go to a JobCentre NI office to find work, you will be interviewed by a personal adviser who will help draw up a jobseeker’s agreement. This details the steps you should take to find work and forms the basis of your interviews with the personal adviser.


A review can take place at the discretion of the personal adviser. This will depend on your individual circumstances. The interview may take place on a day other than the unemployed person’s usual attendance day. Attendance at the interview is compulsory.

As a result of the review interview, you may:

  • be put in touch with local employers with vacancies
  • have your jobseeker’s agreement reviewed to reflect the fact that you will widen the range of jobs you will look for
  • be issued with a direction aimed at improving your prospects of finding work
  • be referred to a scheme or programme.

If you do not attend the review or fail to act on your personal adviser's suggestions, you may suffer a benefit sanction.

Steps 2 Success

Steps 2 Success is an employment programme that is personalised to meet your needs to help you into work. You will be allocated an adviser who will provide you with support and guidance to help you prepare for work and find a job. There is also support available after you find a job to help you stay in work.

If you have been claiming Jobseeker's Allowance for a specific amount of time you will be required to take part in the Steps 2 Success programme:

  • after 9 months, if you are aged 18-24
  • after 12 months, if you are aged 25 or over

You will be required to participate in the programme for 52 weeks and you will continue to receive your benefit payments as usual. If you fail to take part in any part of the programme you may have your benefit sanctioned.

You can also take part in the programme voluntarily if you are claiming Income Support, Pension Credit or are in the Support Group of Employment Support Allowance.

For more information about Steps 2 Success visit

Voluntary Schemes

Apprenticeships NI

An apprenticeship could work for you whatever career you’re in, or whatever stage of life you’re at.

Apprenticeships NI is a Northern Ireland programme that offers training to 16 year olds and over across a wide range of apprenticeships.

For more information on Apprenticeships NI contact Apprentices General Freephone 0800 0854 573 or visit

Bridge to Employment for Jobseekers

Bridge to Employment is a pre-employment training programme that helps people aged 18 and over to find a job if they are unemployed, whatever their experience of work.

The programme provides suitable training and if you successfully complete the training programme you will be interviewed by the company with a view to being offered employment.

When in training you:

  • will retain your benefits
  • will be reimbursed weekly travel expenses, limited to the cheapest cost of using public transport
  • may be eligible for child care allowance
  • may be eligible to receive a lodging allowance depending on where you live

You can apply to go on a Bridge programme if you are unemployed. You do not have to be in receipt of benefits. If you work under 16 hours a week you can also apply for Bridge.

Applications forms can be obtained from your local Jobs and Benefits Office or downloaded from jobcentre online website for the particular Bridge to Employment vacancy.

You can find out more by contacting 0300 200 7828

Training for Success

Training for Success is designed for young people aged 16-17 (up to 24 years for those who qualify under extended eligibility) and provides training to give them the tools and skills they need to get a job.

This training provides young people with relevant qualifications as well as the required personal and behavioural skills to progress into work.

If you are aged over 17, but have a disability, are aged under 22 (i.e. up to the day before your 22nd birthday) and have not completed your training entitlement under previous training programmes such as Jobskills or Training for Success 2008, you may still be eligible for Training for Success.

If you are aged over 17 but, you are under 24 (i.e. up to the day before your 24th birthday) and you are in care, and have not completed your training entitlement under previous training programmes such as Jobskills or Training for Success 2008, you may still be eligible for Training for Success.

If you turn 18 after 1 July and before first Monday in September, you will be allowed to join Training for Success, providing you start during the first week of September immediately after your 18th birthday.

To find out more about whether you qualify for Training for Success, talk to your local Careers Adviser or visit

If you go into training through Training for Success you will automatically qualify for a non means tested Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) of £40 per week. If your parent(s) / guardian(s) receive Income Support, means tested Job Seeker's Allowance or Housing Benefit, that benefit will not be affected by the EMA.

If you are entitled to one of these benefits in your own right, then that benefit will not be affected either. Your parent(s) / guardian(s) will also be entitled to receive Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit provided all other conditions for receipt of the benefits are met.

In addition you will receive Participant Bonuses at various stages of your training from your Training Supplier.

Travel, lodging and childcare allowances may be paid depending on individual circumstances.

Local Employment Intermediary Service (LEMIS)

The Local Employment Intermediary Service (LEMIS) is an initiative designed to help unemployed people in the community overcome those issues that may be preventing them from finding and keeping a job.

The service is provided by local community employment organisations in the Belfast area, Derry, Strabane, Newry and Mourne, Moyle and Cookstown District Council areas.

In addition to these areas LEMIS is also available on an outreach basis throughout Northern Ireland to individuals with a common employability barrier to employment:

  • young people (16 to 24 years) Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET)
  • individuals that are homeless
  • ex-offenders / ex-prisoners
  • individuals with a history of drug/alcohol abuse
  • care leavers

These organisations offer an impartial and confidential advice and support service to help people find a job which best suits their skills and abilities.

How does the service work?

The service provided is person centred, flexible and puts your needs first. You can use the service on a voluntary basis at a time that suits you and this will not affect any benefits you may receive.

An Employment Adviser will provide you with one-to-one support and create an action plan to help you get a job.

The Employment Advisers have extensive knowledge of the labour market and provide a 'professional employment service on your doorstep' at their offices and at outreach centres in your community.

For those clients across Northern Ireland with a common employability barrier, the Employment Advisors will make arrangements to meet you in your local area.

Who can use the service?

The service is available to:

  • benefit recipients (for example, people receiving Incapacity Benefit, Employment Support Allowance, Severe Disablement Allowance, Income Support and Carers Allowance and Job Seekers Allowance provided you meet certain LEMIS eligibility conditions)
  • individuals who may have a common employability barrier, such as young people (16 to 24 years) Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET), homeless, ex offenders/ex-prisoners, individuals with a history of drug/alcohol misuse and care leavers
  • out of work partners of benefit recipients
  • people who are not claiming any benefits including returners to the labour market

What support will I receive?

An Employment Adviser can support and help you find a job by providing information, advice, guidance and practical help in:

  • motivation and self-confidence building
  • developing solutions to overcome barriers
  • looking at employment opportunities
  • finding the type of job you want
  • CV preparation and completing job application forms
  • job interview techniques
  • benefit advice and calculations on returning to work
  • provide information on issues such as childcare
  • career, training and educational opportunities
  • support when you are in employment

How do I use LEMIS?

For further information on LEMIS see

Help setting up in self-employment

JobCentre NI offices sometimes advertise details of self-employment possibilities for unemployed people, including contract work and commission-only vacancies. They may also be able to provide information on starting a small business or arranging a franchise. If you want information, you should speak to your personal adviser.

New Enterprise Allowance

If you are unemployed, you may be able to claim New Enterprise Allowance to help you start a business.

You can also get further information on starting your own business by contacting Invest Northern Ireland on 0808 127 0000 or by visiting their website

If you're aged between 18 and 30 and have a business idea, the Prince's Trust may be able to help with advice and funding. The website is:

Other help

Other help is available for unemployed people looking for work or who have found work but need assistance to start.

Universal Jobmatch

Universal Jobmatch is a government website to help people find jobs. You can use it to:

  • search for jobs
  • create and upload your CV
  • get email alerts about jobs
  • apply for jobs online
  • keep a record of your job search activity.

You can find Universal Jobmatch through the Gov.Uk website at To use some of the services, you will need to register for a government gateway account.

Employment on Trial

Under the Employment on Trial scheme, if you are a previously unemployed person, you can try out a job without risking losing benefit if you leave, provided that you leave the job voluntarily and do not lose the job because of your misconduct. If you refuse to take a suitable job, your Jobseeker’s Allowance may be affected.

Your Jobseeker’s Allowance will not be affected if:

  • you had done no work at all for at least 13 weeks immediately before you started employment (you need not have claimed benefit) and not been in full-time education; and
  • you worked at least 16 hours a week in the job concerned; and
  • you left the job after the end of four weeks (that is, you must have started the fifth week of work) but no later than the end of the 12th week (excluding days of sickness, holidays, jury service, self-employment and any weeks when you were not working).

You will not qualify for Employment on Trial, even if signing on as unemployed, if you worked part-time for any of the days in the 13-week unemployment period. There are exemptions for work done for the emergency services.

The following count towards the 13-week qualifying period:

  • periods of vocational training, such as Work Based Learning for Adults
  • time spent on Work Based Training for Young People, provided the person was a trainee and not an employee
  • time when you received an Employment Rehabilitation Allowance
  • time spent on part-time study/education
  • periods of sickness when you received either statutory sick pay, incapacity benefit or statutory maternity pay.

If you want to return to or claim benefits after Employment on Trial, check that you satisfy all the conditions before you leave the job.

Job Grants

If you are a customer of JobCentre NI, you may be able to get a payment called a job grant to cover any expenses you run up while taking up work or training. However, it's up to your local JobCentre NI to decide whether they will meet these costs, you don't have a right to claim these expenses.

To find out what help you're likely to get, ask your JobCentre NI personal adviser.


The government website , provides lots of information for people looking for work.

Work in Europe

Job vacancies and information on living and working conditions across Europe are available on the EURES website at

EURES stands for the European Employment Services organisation, which is an organisation of EU government bodies.

Other financial help

You may be entitled to other financial help as a result of starting work and coming off benefits, for example:

  • extended payment of Housing Benefit or rate relief
  • mortgage interest run-on payments, if you have been getting certain means-tested benefits
  • Working Tax Credit.

For more information on any of these you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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