Re: There are also several web sites that specialize in IT gigs
Hey Beornfrith, thanks for sharing your story and being open. Although IT is generally conducive to working from home, one of the problems is getting your foot in the door first. So for example, I've never been able to work from home for the first few weeks of any new role, at least. This is partly to get the new recruit up to speed with the role, partly so others get to know you so you can all communicate when not face to face, and partly so the manager trusts the new guy, I suppose.
Maybe it would help if you offered the first x weeks of work for free? Hopefully, this wouldn't impact on your benefits, while allowing an employer to get comfortable with the idea of you working remotely, since from their perspective, they would have little to lose from giving you a trial?
Or, how about this. Learn something like dotnetnuke, develop a couple of sites (you'd need one for yourself anyway), then try finding work on 99designs or fiverr or whatever. Admittedly this could affect your benefits if you earned money one week but not the next.
As much as the following sounds a bit iffy, you could try playing the system:
1. Set up a limited company with your wife as sole director.
2. Said company then touts for work on (for example) 99designs, as above.
3. A job comes in, which is fulfilled by an unpaid volunteer (guess who?!)
4. Money is paid to the limited company. Paying that out to your wife would incur tax, but that's ok, because at least you've earned money to be taxed on in the first place, rather than losing benefits and having nothing at all in it's place.
5. You might reach a point where there is sufficient money in the company to take on an employee (again, guess who?!) at which point you drop the benefits and take a salary.
And all this time, your wife isn't doing much for the company, so no extra work for her. You get to use your brain, extra money comes into the house, and if it doesn't work, you've still got the benefits to fall back on.