If you’re unemployed and looking for work, there’s a range of employment schemes you can access. These aim to do a variety of things, including developing your skills and experience, to help you find and stay in work.

If you’re claiming benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or you’re a Universal Credit claimant who is expected to look for work, some of these employment schemes are compulsory. This means you could lose your benefits if you don’t take part in an employment scheme you’ve been asked to attend by your local JobCentre Plus (this request is called a jobseeker’s direction). You could also lose some of your money if you start a compulsory employment scheme, but give up before completing it. These penalties are called benefit sanctions.

If you’re invited to take part in a government employment scheme, always ask if it’s compulsory. It’s also a good idea to find out about the type of government employment schemes that are available in your area, as they may be able to help you find a job and make the most of your career.

The following help sheet gives practical tips on programmes like Work Experience, The Work Programme, Help to Work Scheme and others as well as details of where you can go if you need further information.