Help! My Jobseeker’s Allowance has been sanctioned

If you don’t keep up the job search and follow the rules while on Jobseeker’s Allowance you could risk being sanctioned. Read our guide to avoid losing out on your benefits.

boy sitting with hand to mouth looking worried

Why don’t I have any money?

When you sign up for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)  you agree to follow a certain set of rules in return for receiving your benefit. If you break any of these rules, your benefit can be stopped for a period of time. This is a sanction.

Even if your benefit has been stopped, keep turning up to the Jobcentre for meetings and keep applying for jobs, or you risk being sanctioned for longer.

Why has my JSA been sanctioned?

Arriving late or not turning up for meetings are the most common reasons why you could be sanctioned. You could also be sanctioned for:

  • Not applying for enough jobs.
  • Refusing to apply for a suitable job.
  • Not being available for work.
  • Not attending a compulsory training or employment scheme.
  • Leaving a job voluntarily or being sacked for misconduct.

You should be told you’re being sanctioned – so if your money hasn’t turned up and you don’t know why, call your local Jobcentre immediately.

But I don’t deserve this, surely I can talk my way out of it?

In a word, no. However charming you are, your advisor is still bound by law to sanction you if they think you’ve not kept your side of the job-seeking bargain.

There’s a good reason why I was late

If you have a good reason you should be able to avoid a sanction. For example, if you tried to get the bus to the Jobcentre and it didn’t show, then you shouldn’t be sanctioned for being late to an appointment. If this happens you should tell the Jobcentre as soon as possible. It’s worth having your Jobcentre’s number stored on your phone for this very reason.

When will I start getting payments again?

That depends on what you’ve done (or not done) and whether it’s happened before.

For most offences, such as not turning up for an interview at the Jobcentre, not applying for enough jobs, or not taking a job that you’re offered, you will be sanctioned for four weeks. If the same thing happens again within a year, you’ll get sanctioned for 13 weeks for each further offence.

If you leave a job voluntarily, get sacked for bad behaviour or refuse to take part in the Mandatory Work Activity Scheme, you’ll get sanctioned for 13 weeks for a first offence. A second offence carries a 26-week sanction; a further one within a year means you’ll be sanctioned for three years. Yes – three years.

See this page for further information on the length of sanctions.

I’ve got no money, what should I do?

If you or your family don’t have enough money for essentials, such as food, heating or medical supplies without your JSA, you should be able to get a hardship payment. This is a reduced level of JSA to cover the basics while you’re waiting for your JSA to start up again. Speak to your advisor at the Jobcentre for more information.

Will this affect my housing or council tax benefit?

If you are claiming other benefits such as housing benefit or council tax reduction your council will be informed of your sanction, and they could stop paying your benefit. However, you should still be entitled as you’ll be on less money than you were before. It’s important that you contact your local council straight away and let them know your situation.

How can I fight my JSA sanction?

When you get sanctioned, you’ll get a decision letter explaining the sanction. If this isn’t clear, you can ask for a written explanation. You should do this as soon as possible.

If you believe the decision was unreasonable you can ask for it to be reconsidered. You should do this within one month of the date on the decision letter (you have slightly longer if you’ve asked for a written explanation).

If you’re still not happy with the decision, you can appeal. You can find out more about appealing a benefits decision here.

Your appeal could take a few months to sort out, but if you’re successful you should be able to get backdated JSA (if you’ve had a hardship payment this will come off the money you’re owed).

Is there anyone that can help me?

Being sanctioned is a frustrating process, but there are places you can go for help:

  • Citizens Advice Bureau know all about the benefits system and can help you understand your rights. You can visit your local bureau to get face-to-face advice and support. You must remember to bring along details of your benefits and general financial situation.
  • If you’re angry or frustrated about your treatment by the Jobcentre, you can complain.
  • Remember, if you want to challenge a decision about your benefit, you can appeal.

Is there anything else I need to remember?

Remember to tell your benefits advisor if your circumstances change – for example, if you get a pay rise, new job or get married. If you don’t you could face a £50 fine, as well as having to pay back any extra benefit.

More information