Q: I’ve been slogging away for some time now as a sole trader. Since January, a couple of major clients have gone out of business and I’m left with just a few hundred Euro at the end of each month. Because I’ve been self-employed for most of my working life, I won’t be able to just pack it in and claim Jobseeker’s Benefit. However, are there other supports that could help me in this situation?


A: You may well be entitled to Jobseeker’s Allowance , but the process of claiming is a bit more complicated because of your status. This payment is given based on your means rather than your PRSI contributions.


Jobseeker’s Allowance pays €188 a week, plus €124.80 for each adult dependant and €29.80 for each child. However, any money you make from self-employment is subtracted from this. So, if you’re married with a child, you might be entitled to  €332.60 per week. If you or your spouse is making €100 a week from self-employment, however, this would fall to €232.60 per week. Aside from your self-employed income, investments or property that you own (besides your own residence) will be considered as means.


As you can imagine, much depends on how the social welfare office assesses your means. When you apply, you will have to meet with a social welfare inspector to find out about your business. The inspector will be looking to assess the income you may reasonably be expected to get from your business over the next 12 months. Usually, the income from your past 12 months in business will be taken as a guide. However, if you can demonstrate that circumstances have changed – if, for example, your former clients have made concrete moves to shut up shop – this will be taken into account. You will be asked for your receipts and payments or audited accounts for the current and previous year – so, if you’re applying in July, you’ll have to supply details to cover the year to date and 2013. In some cases, you may have to show your audited accounts going back even further.


Because estimating your means is so complex, it may take some time to process your claim. However, you can also apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance to cover any immediate needs you have. To get started, you can download the formhere and make an application. If it turns out that you qualify for Jobseeker’s Allowance, you can also apply for supplementary supports such as Rent Supplement, a Medical Card, and Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance.


At this point, you may well be evaluating the future of your business – is this something that you can revive? Do you have the energy and motivation to do so? There is no shame in shutting down your business if it isn’t working, or taking it in another direction. When you (hopefully) get the immediate financial crush addressed through Jobseeker’s Allowance, you should devote some time to considering the next step in your career.


Declan Dolan