Everything you need to know about the Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
If you find yourself unemployed, one of your options may be Jobseekers Allowance. Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) is an unemployment benefit paid by the government in the United Kingdom. It is administered by the Department for Work and Pensions. There are two types of JSA: income based and contribution based.
Income based JSA
You can get income based JSA if one of the following applies to your situation:
- You were paid less that £153 a week on average when you were employed over the last two years.
- You have been claiming contributions based JSA for 182 days.
- You haven’t worked in two years.
- you have £16,000 or less in savings
Contribution based JSA
You can only get contribution based JSA if you have paid enough Class 1 National Insurance contributions in the two years before the current benefit year that you are hoping to claim in. This means that you must have:
- Worked for 26 weeks in one of these years earning at least the lower earnings limit for that tax year.
- Paid class 1 contributions or received National Insurance credits in both of those tax years that amount to 50 times the lower earnings limit. For 2013-2014, the lower earnings limit, primary Class 1 was £109 a week, and for 2014-2015 it was £111.
#1 Eligibility for JSA
In order to apply for Jobseekers Allowance in the UK, there are several conditions that you must meet:
- You must be over 18 and below the Pension age. (Some exceptions can be made for 16 and 17 year olds)
- Not be in full-time education.
- Be in England, Scotland or Wales.
- Be available for work.
- Be seeking work.
- And be working less than 16 hours a week.
The JSA you can apply for is affected by you income, including your pensions and savings (if you have over £6,000 pounds). In order to be eligible for income based JSA, you must work less that 16 hours a week and have less that £16,000 in savings. Your partner, if you have one, has to be working less than 24 hours a week.
If you are self employed, you may be eligible for Job Seekers Allowance, tax credits, or Employment and Support Allowance. For 16 and 17 year olds, it works on a case by case basis and you should call or visit your local Jobcentre Plus to find out if you are eligible. If you are 18 or 19, you are eligible for JSA as long as you are not in full time education or your parents are not claiming Child Support Benefit for you.
If you are in full-time education, you cannot claim Jobseekers Allowance until after your course has finished, however you may be able to claim JSA during the summer holidays if you have children. If you are a part-time student (including studying at the Open University), you may claim it as long as you take a job when it is offered to you and you do everything you can to find work, as agreed by your work coach.
New to the UK
If you are new to the UK or recently returned, you have to prove you have been living in the UK, the Isle of Man, the Republic of Ireland or the Channel Islands for 3 months before you can claim income based JSA. You also have to be either:
- A UK national who has recently returned from abroad and has not worked since you have returned, or
- An EEA national.
#2 Applying for JSA
You can apply for JSA either at your local Jobcentre Plus, over the phone or online. After filing an application, you will have to go for an interview with a member of the team.
Claim JSA online
If you apply online (form found here) you will get a text or phone call within two working days confirming the date of your interview. Sometimes the interview will take place on the same day as you submit your application, so be prepared! You can bring someone with you if you need moral support.
Claim JSA over the phone
You can also phone at these numbers:
- Telephone: 0800 055 6688
- Welsh language: 0800 012 1888
- Textphone: 0800 023 4888
Between Monday and Friday, 8am till 6 pm. 0800 numbers are free to dial from landlines in the UK, but can cost anywhere between 7p to 40p a minute on mobile networks.
Information required to claim JSA
When applying for JSA, there is information you have to give about you and, if relevant, your family. This information is:
- Savings and income.
- Any work you and your family have done.
- Where you live.
- Who lives with you.
- Bank or Building Society Account details.
If you do not provide the details of your Bank or Building Society Account, it may delay payment of your Jobseekers Allowance. You will not get any money for the first seven days after making your claim, in what is usually known as the ‘waiting period’.
If you need an interpreter of any kind, bear in mind that you will have to bring your own as Jobcentre Plus will not provide one.
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#3 If your JSA application is successful
If you are successful in applying for JSA, you will have to draw up and stick to a contract with your work coach. This contract is called the “Claimant Commitment”. In this contract will be detailed what you need to do in order to continue to qualify for payments, for example making a work plan and going for job interviews. What you agree to do will be regulated by your health, your other commitments, how much help you need to find work and how much you need to increase your income by.
What you'll have to do
When you are claiming JSA, you have to report to Jobcentre Plus once every fortnight and show to your work coach what you have been doing to find work, for example going to job interviews or handing in job applications. Failure to do this, or to not stick to your terms of the Claiment Commitment, can result in your JSA being stopped for a period if you cannot give a good reason as to why you didn't do it.
How much does it pay?
You will be paid bi-weekly into bank account. If you are on contribution based JSA, the payments will be as follows:
18-24: up to £57.90 a week
25+: up to £73.10 a week
Couples, both aged over 18: up to £114.85 a week
If you are unsuccessful in your JSA application
You can appeal to the Social Security and Child Support Tribunal. Usually, you must ask for mandatory reconsideration before you appeal.
I hope this information has proven helpful to you! For more information on the services of Jobcentre Plus, and job listings in your area, feel free to check out jobcentreguide.co.uk. We are an independent resource unaffiliated with Jobcentre Plus, dedicated to helping people find new and fulfilling work.
You may also want to check out the article about the 5 key steps to get a job in London.