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How to claim jobseekers allowance

If you’re between jobs and actively looking for work, you might be entitled to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance. But how do you know if you are eligible for it?

Read on to get the lowdown on the dos, the don’ts and the possibilities...

 

 

 

 

What is jobseekers allowance?

Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is paid to help people who are unemployed or on a low income that are out there looking for a job. If you’ve paid enough National Insurance contributions you’ll be given a non-means-tested contribution-based JSA, while those of you who haven’t will be paid a means-tested income-based JSA.

There two types of JSA, and the job centre will work out which you are eligible for in your first interview with them.

 

Contribution-based JSA

You can receive contribution-based JSA if you’ve paid enough National Insurance contributions as an employee in the last 2 tax years.

Depending on your eligibility, personal circumstances and age, you can expect to be paid the following:

  • 16 to 24: £57.35
  • 25 or over: £72.40

You can only get this type of JSA for 6 months, although you may be able to get income-based JSA after this. You also might get some income-based JSA if you’re on a low income and have a partner, a disability, caring for a person with a disability or have housing costs such as a mortgage.

It's important to know that this amount can be reduced if you receive a certain amount of earnings from part-time work or from an occupational or personal pension.

 

Income-based JSA

You can receive income-based JSA if you haven’t paid enough National Insurance contributions and you’re on no or a low income.

Depending on your eligibility, personal circumstances and age, you can expect to be paid the following:

  • Single (under 25): £57.35
  • Single (25 or over): £72.40
  • Couples (both aged 18 or over): £113.70
  • Lone parent (18 or over): £72.40
  • Lone parent (under 18): £57.35

This type of JSA is based on your circumstances, so your current income and savings over £6,000 affect how much you receive.

Still confused about how much you’ll receive? If you want to do a few quick calculations yourself, the benefits calculator is there to help.

 

Am I eligible for jobseekers allowance?

This is the all-important question you’re bound to be asking right now. To be eligible to claim JSA you need to be:

  • Aged over 18
  • Not claiming a pension
  • Not in full-time education
  • Living in England, Scotland or Wales
  • Be able and available to work
  • Working less than 16 hours a week

In special circumstances, 16-17 year olds may be eligible, so it might be worth discussing this at your local JobCentre Plus if this applies to you.

If you’re looking to claim income-based JSA and you have a partner, they must work less than 24 hours a week in order for you to be eligible and you both should have less than £16,000 in savings.

If you’re self-employed you may struggle to claim contribution-based JSA as you pay a different type of National Insurance. However you may be eligible for income-based JSA, tax credits or Employment and Support Allowance.

If you’re in full-time education you can’t claim JSA, however you may be eligible if you’re a part-time student as long as you can work while you study or are willing to stop your course in order to take on work.

Due to changes in the benefits system, there’s now a cap on the amount of benefits those of you aged 16 to 64 can claim. So if you currently claim other benefits the amount of JSA you receive might be reduced.

 

How do I claim jobseekers allowance?

So you’ve realised you’re eligible, so how do you claim? It’s actually fairly simple. There are two ways:

You’ll then have to attend an interview at your local Jobcentre Plus where you and your adviser will agree what steps you’ll take to find work. This might include improving your skills through training schemes, getting help in writing a CVpreparing for interviews and so on.

Once you’ve agreed a plan of action, the adviser will record it in a jobseeker’s agreement and every fortnight you’ll both have a review meeting to check you’re being proactive in your job search and doing all the things you said you would.

To speed the process up, you should take relevant documents along to your first meeting. These include your National Insurance number and a driving licence or birth certificate. You’ll probably have to provide your partner's National Insurance number too if they live with you, plus evidence of your income and savings, bank statements, pay slips and so on.

If you and your partner intend to apply for income-based JSAs and at least one of you is aged over 18, you’ll need to make a joint claim.

 

How do I receive my jobseekers allowance?

Once you’ve been awarded a JSA, your payments will be backdated to when you applied and then paid fortnightly into your bank account.

Additional good news is, if you have a valid reason for having made a late application, it’s possible to get back payment for up to three months.

If you disagree with any decision made about your claim you can ask for a written statement of reasons. If necessary, there is an appeals process you can go through, but you’ll usually only get a month to dispute the decision, so seek advice and act quickly.

For this reason, you must tell your Jobcentre Plus adviser if your circumstances change – for instance, if you start working or your income changes. Volunteer work won’t affect anything, but you’ll still need to tell them as soon as possible.

 

How do I keep receiving jobseekers allowance?

To keep receiving JSA payments you have to keep looking for work and are available to take up a suitable job.
You could lose your payments for up to 13 weeks if you:

  • Miss an interview with your advisor
  • Fail to make an effort to improve your skills (e.g. not attending a training course when asked)
  • Fail to apply for or accept a place on an employment or training programme you’ve been told about - or leave voluntarily
  • Lose your place on an employment or training programme because of misconduct

 

Even worse, you could lose them for up to three years if you:

  • Don’t apply for a job that your adviser tells you about
  • Don’t accept a suitable job offer
  • Leave a job voluntarily, or lose your job because of misconduct
  • Don’t take part in a compulsory work-related programme

 

Last but not least - even if your payments are temporarily stopped, you still need to check in at your local Jobcentre Plus or attend any employment programme you’re on otherwise you could lose your benefit altogether.

For more information on jobseekers allowance, talk to your local job centre or check out the official GOV website.

 

Think you're entitled to Jobseeker's Allowance? Fill out an application form.

Not entitled to the allowance? Why not upload your CV to totaljobs and start applying for the latest jobs?

 

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