Jobseeker's Allowance is paid if you are capable of working, if you are available for work, and if you are actively seeking work. Note: this leaflet gives a brief summary of Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) and is for guidance only. It does not cover all situations, nor is it a full statement of the law. If you are not sure if you qualify, or whether you qualify for other benefits, then seek expert advice. See the section at the end of the leaflet for further sources of help and advice.
What is Jobseeker's Allowance?
Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) is for unemployed people and paid by the Jobcentre. There are two types of JSA. The first is contribution-based and depends upon your National Insurance contributions. The second is income-based and depends upon your financial and home circumstances. You may qualify for either or both of these parts, depending upon your circumstances.
What are the basic rules for Jobseeker's Allowance?
There are basic conditions which you must fulfil to qualify for JSA. These include:
- You must be available for work. This means being ready to take a full-time job without being unreasonable about the work you will accept. If you are not able to work, for example, because of illness or family circumstances, you may be eligible for other benefits such as Income Support, Incapacity Benefit, etc.
- You must be actively seeking work. This involves being asked to show what steps you are taking to find work.
- You must not be working 16 hours a week or more.
- You must be below state pension age.
- You have to be aged 18 or above (although there are some exceptions in special circumstances).
- You may be expected to attend courses to improve your skills as directed by an employment officer.
Who is contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance intended for?
You qualify for contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance if you have recently been working and have paid a certain level of National Insurance contributions during recent tax years. No extra contribution-based JSA is payable for spouses, partners or children. Contribution-based JSA stops after six months.
Rates of contribution-based JSA vary according to age and from April 2012 are:
- Aged 18-24 - £56.25 per week
- Aged 25 or over - £71.00 per week
Who is income-based Jobseeker's Allowance intended for?
- If you do not qualify for contribution-based JSA because you do not have enough National Insurance contributions.
- If your contribution-based JSA has run out (that is, usually after six months).
- If you qualify for contribution-based JSA but it is not enough for you to manage on. For example, if you have a family to support.
How is income-based Jobseeker's Allowance worked out?
Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance is means tested and depends on your circumstances. Regulations approved by Parliament specify how much you should have coming in for your basic living expenses. This depends upon age, family size, disabilities, etc. If the money coming in is less than this amount, you will get income-based JSA to make up the difference.
Capital or savings up to a certain level do not affect benefit but income-based JSA entitlement will reduce if they are more than a specified amount. With couples, the needs and finances of both partners are taken into account when working out income-based JSA.
Income-based JSA does not cover rent and Council Tax. However, if you are getting income-based JSA you can get help with these from separate schemes run by the local council (Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit). If you are buying your home, an amount for the interest part of your mortgage payments may be added into the calculation of your income-based JSA entitlement.
If I get income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, what else am I entitled to?
You are entitled to certain other benefits. For example:
- Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.
- Help with health costs. For example, free prescriptions, free NHS dental treatment, vouchers for glasses, help with fares to hospital if you have hospital appointments.
- Grants and loans from the Social Fund.
- Free school meals for your children.
What can affect Jobseeker's Allowance?
In certain circumstances JSA may be refused or stopped. It can then only be paid at a reduced rate to prevent hardship. For example: if you give up a job without a good reason; if you have lost a job through misconduct; if you do not comply with the basic JSA conditions such as refusing to attend a training course recommended by an employment officer.
How can I claim Jobseeker's Allowance?
When you become unemployed go to the Jobcentre and ask for a claim form. An appointment will usually be made for you to come back for interview when you should bring the completed form with you. You may have to attend the Jobcentre at regular intervals until you get a job.
There is also a way to claim online at www.direct.gov.uk/en/Diol1/DoItOnline/DG_178228
JSA is usually paid directly into a bank account, building society account, Post Office account, or National Savings account.
Further information, help and advice
Directgov provides information from across UK government departments
Citizens Advice Bureau
Provides independent advice on many issues including benefits. Listed in the phone book under 'Citizens Advice Bureaux'. Also, see their website: www.citizensadvice.org.uk
Dr Tim Kenny