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 dont’s and the possibilites...
What is it?
Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is paid to help unemployed people (mostly) who 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.
Depending on your eligibility and age, you can expect to be paid the following:
- Aged 16-24 - Up to £56.25 a month
- Aged over 25 - Up to £71 a week
- Couples and civil partnerships aged over 18 - Up to £111.45 a week
- Single parents aged over 18 – Up to £71 a week
- Single parents aged under 18 - Up to £56.25 a week
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.
There are some important things you need to know about the two types of JSA.
With a contribution-based JSA:
It's important to know it could be reduced if you’ve got earnings from part-time work or an occupational or personal pension.
You can also only claim it for six months, although after this you may still be eligible for income-based JSA. You might get some income-based JSA if you’re on a low income and have a partner, a disability, or are caring for a person with a disability, or have housing costs such as a mortgage
What you need to know about an income-based JSA is:
To qualify for it, your partner (if you have one) must work less than 24 hours a week and you and your partner should have less than £16,000 in savings.
Any funds that you have, such as savings over £5,999, pensions and your household income can affect what you get.
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Am I eligible?
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, living in England, Scotland or Wales and – unsurprisingly - looking for a job.
The other important point is you need to be available to work straight away and definitely not working more 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.
How do I claim?
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 CV, preparing 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 jobsearch 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.
The nitty gritty
Once you’ve been awarded a JSA, your payments will be backdated to when you applied and then paid fortnightly into your bank account or a Post Office card 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.
Things are changing and from April 2013, there will be a cap on the amount of benefits those of you aged 16 to 64 can claim.
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.
To keep receiving JSA payments you have to keep looking for work and be 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.
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?