Back to Work Enterprise Allowance

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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 Back to Work Enterprise Allowance scheme you can keep a percentage of your social welfare payment for up to 2 years.

A Back to Work Scheme called the Short-Term Enterprise Allowance started in May 2009. There is no qualifying period for the Short-Term Enterprise Allowance. You can get immediate access to the allowance if you meet the qualifying conditions.

The Back to Work Enterprise Allowance is payable to people aged under 66.


You can qualify for a Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) if you are:

  1. Setting up as self-employed in a business that has been approved in advance in writing by a DSP Case Officer or Local Development Company (LDC) (see 'How to apply' below)


  2. Getting one of the qualifying payments listed below for at least 9 months (234 days)


  • Combination of OFP/JST/JA for 9 months (234 days)

*Having an underlying entitlement to Jobseeker's Allowance means that you would pass the means test and other criteria. Signing on for unemployment credits following your Jobseeker's Benefit does not count towards the qualifying period.

You may also be considered for the BTWEA if you are:

  • A dependent adult of a person who is in receipt of the BTWEA. You may qualify if the person taking part in the BTWEA scheme stops their self-employment before exhausting their entitlement. The spouse or partner may avail of the scheme for the time remaining on the original claim. This involves the person who is eligible for the BTWEA transferring his or her entitlements to their spouse, civil partner or cohabitant. (In other words, the spouse, civil partner or cohabitant becomes self-employed and the original claimant becomes the 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.
  • A person released from prison who satisfies the eligibility criteria for the scheme.

Qualifying periods

Periods of time spent on full-time FET, Fáilte Ireland and Teagasc training courses, Community Employment, Social Economy Programme, Rural Social Scheme, FIT, Job Initiative, JobBridge, Work Placement Programme, Tús, BTEA and VTOS schemes are accepted as qualifying periods provided you were entitled to a qualifying payment before starting on the study or training. The Department of Social Protection also counts time spent on the Community Services Programme provided you were getting a qualifying social welfare payment for at least half of the qualifying period.

Time spent on Supplementary Welfare Allowance or in direct provision can count towards the qualifying period for BTWEA as long as you establish an entitlement to a relevant payment before starting the BTWEA.

If you have previously participated in the BTWEA scheme and used up your entitlement, you can participate a second time after at least 5 years.

Find out more about the qualifying periods for Back to Work Enterprise Allowance.

Help starting a business

In addition to income support (your weekly payment), you can also get financial support with the costs of setting up your business. These supports are provided under a scheme called the Enterprise Support Grant (ESG). (The ESG replaced the Technical Assistance and Training Scheme (TATS) from 16 April 2014.)

You can only get the ESG if you have been approved for the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance. The business plan you submit as part of your application for the scheme must set out the rationale and requirement for financial support. The ESG can pay a total of €2,500 in any 24-month period (The ESG is paid to people getting the Short-Term Enterprise Allowance on a pro-rata basis). You must be able to make a matching contribution of at least 20% to access grant support. You need to provide documentary evidence of the costs (quotations from at least 2 suppliers or, if a single supplier, the reasons for choosing a single supplier).

Eligible items for grant support include:

Category Annual limit, € Minimum contribution from applicant
Accountancy and related services including legal advice Up to €500 20%
Advertising and marketing aids Up to €500 20%
Business equipment Up to €1,000 20%
Business mentoring (this can be offered free or at a reduced rate by Local Enterprise Officers (LEOs) or local development companies Up to €250 20%
Business registration costs and fees Up to €250 20%
Compliance, guidance and training Up to €250 20%
Job-specific tools and equipment Up to €1,000 20%
Office supplies and stationery Up to €250 20%
Personal protective clothing and equipment Up to €250 20%
Public liability insurance costs associated with setting up a business - no other insurance is eligible Up to €1,000 20%
Short-term training on book-keeping, regulation, rollout of business plan, start-your-own-business and courses of training related to the start-up Up to €250 20%
Signage Up to €500 20%
Upgrading to premises where the premises is owned by the applicant Up to €1,000 20%
Website registration, related services and production Up to €500 20%
Combination of above in any 24-month period €2,500

Note that you do not have an automatic right to any of these amounts. The Department of Social Protection's Case Officer will assess your application and eligibility.

Some items are not eligible for grant support under the ESG. These include:

  • Building/premises rental costs
  • Cost of travel
  • Insurance (except public liability)
  • Personal clothing and uniforms (except protective clothing)
  • Professional development programmes arranged by professional and regulatory bodies
  • Purchase of any type of vehicle
  • Stock-in-trade
  • Training or education other than that specified

Utility costs, connection or supply and local authority rates

More information is available about becoming self-employed.

Employment grants

Employment grants from a Local Enterprise Office (LEO) or Local Development Companies do not affect your entitlement to the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance.


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:

  • 100% for the 1st year
  • 75% for the 2nd year

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 or takes up Community Employment your BTWEA payment will be reduced accordingly.

Extra benefits

You can keep your extra (or secondary benefits) for as long as you are getting the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance.

However you must be deemed eligible for the Rental Accomodation Scheme to keep your Rent Supplement. Your Rent Supplement may be affected if your earnings go up while you are on the scheme. You should check with the Department of Social Protection's representative (formerly known as the Community Welfare Officer) in your local health centre to see how your Rent Supplement may be affected by your participation in the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance.

Extra benefits include:

The Back to Work Enterprise Allowance is paid directly into your bank or building society account each week. The allowance cannot be paid into a mortgage account.

You must contact the Department of Social Protection immediately if your self-employment ends or you take up employment. You do not have to pay tax, PRSI or Universal Social Charge on the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance but you may have to pay tax, PRSI and Universal Social Charge on any income you get from self-employment.

You can claim Start Your Own Business Relief if you are getting the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA). This scheme provides a two-year exemption from income tax (up to a maximum of €40,000 per year) for people who have been unemployed for at least 12 months before starting their own business. It runs from 23 October 2013 to 31 December 2018. (However if you started to get the BTWEA before 25 October 2013 you do not qualify for the relief because you had already started your business before the start date for the scheme.)

How to apply

To apply for the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance, complete application form BTW 2.

If you live in an area covered by a Local Development Company (LDC) (sometimes known as local partnership companies) you should return form BTW 2 to the Enterprise Officer in the LDC. If you do not live in a LDC Area, you should return form BTW 2 to the Case Officer in your Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office.

The Enterprise Officer or Case Officer will look at your business proposal and may discuss certain aspects of it with you. You must not take up self-employment until you have received written approval from the LDC or Department of Social Protection.

If you are accepted on to the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance, you must register as self-employed with the Revenue Commissioners.

Appealing 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 Department of Social Protection to review your application if you feel that you have been wrongly refused the allowance.

Where to apply

If you live in an area covered by a Local Development Company (LDC) (pdf), you should apply to the Enterprise Officer in your local ILDC.

If you do not live in a LDC area, you should apply to the Case Officer in your Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office.

Last modified:02/05/2017

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