How to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

If you’ve sent dozens of job applications and still had no success, it’s a good idea to apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). Let us walk you through applying for JSA and what to do if you’re working or studying part-time. 

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How do I know if I can apply for JSA?

Jobseeker’s Allowance is a fortnightly payment to help with living costs while you’re searching for a job (or trying to get more hours in your current job). To get JSA you need to be:

  • 18 or over.
  • Capable of work.
  • Available for work.
  • Actively seeking work.
  • Working less than 16 hours a week.
  • Not in full time education.
  • Living in the UK.

The two types of JSA

There are two types of Jobseeker’s Allowance. When you apply the Jobcentre will find out which one you can apply for.

1. Contribution-based JSA

If you’ve been working and paying Class 1 National Insurance Contributions for most of the past two full tax years, you may be able to claim contribution-based JSA.

It’s important to remember:

  • You can’t get contribution-based JSA if you’ve only been self-employed (you might be able to get income-based JSA instead).
  • Your savings, or a partner’s earnings don’t affect the money you’ll get.
  • You can only claim contribution-based JSA for yourself (not a partner).
  • You can only claim for six months but can claim income-based JSA after that.

 

2. Income-based JSA

You can claim income-based JSA if you haven’t worked for long enough to claim contribution-based JSA. The majority of JSA claims are for income-based JSA:

  • If you (and your partner if you live together) have over £6,000 in savings, your JSA will be reduced. If you have £16,000 or more in savings you won’t get anything.
  • You can claim income-based JSA as a couple.
  • You can claim income-based JSA at the same time as contribution-based JSA if you’re claiming for a partner, you’re disabled, or you’re caring for someone who is disabled.

How much JSA will I get? 

For 16-24 year-olds, the basic rate is £57.90 a week. For 25 and over, it’s £73.10. Your allowance can be reduced if you have part-time earnings (or a pension).

How do I claim JSA?

The Jobcentre prefers you to claim online. You can also phone 0800 055 6688 (open 8am–6pm Monday to Friday), but you’ll need to explain why you can’t make the claim online.

In Northern Ireland you’re encouraged to fill in a claim form – find your local office here.

The ‘jobseeker interview’

When you claim you’ll also have a jobseeker’s interview. Your advisor will:

  • Make sure you understand the rules for JSA.
  • Discuss the kinds of work you’re looking for and the best ways of finding a job.
  • Give you information about jobs, training and other opportunities.
  • Check that you have filled in your form fully.

 

The Jobseeker’s Agreement

You will also have to sign a Jobseeker’s Agreement (in some areas this is now called a Claimant Commitment). This sets out:

  • What hours you’re available to work.
  • The kind of work you’re looking for.
  • What you’ll do to find jobs and improve your chances of finding work.

 

Be realistic and make sure you agree with what’s set out in the agreement – you can have your benefits stopped if you don’t fulfil your side of the bargain.

When will I get my first payment?

It can take up to two weeks to get paid after signing on. You’ll then have to ‘sign on’ at the Jobcentre every fortnight. This involves a short interview to check your situation, job seeking progress and any change of circumstances (e.g. if you got a job). You should get your money fortnightly, within three working days of your visit.

They said they’re putting me on Universal Credit instead. What is it?

Over the next couple of years, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance will gradually be phased out and replaced with Universal Credit (contribution-based JSA won’t become part of Universal Credit).

The basics will stay the same – you agree to job hunt in return for some money. But some things will be different. You’ll probably have to do more job-hunting, you’ll only get your benefit once a month and if you’re a couple applying you’ll only get one monthly payment between you.

Anyone currently on JSA will be transferred to Universal Credit gradually and if you’re newly unemployed you may be asked to apply for Universal Credit now. In Northern Ireland, Universal Credit won’t be introduced until 2017.

What if I get a job?

Remember to tell your benefits advisor if your circumstances change – for example, if you get a pay rise, new job or move in with a partner. If you don’t you could face a £50 fine, as well as having to pay back any extra benefit. See gov.uk for more information.

 

More information

  • Use a benefits calculator to find out what benefits you could get and how to claim.
  • Citizens Advice Bureau offer free help with housing, money and legal problems. Find your local bureau.
  • Go to Money Advice Service for free and impartial money advice.
  • Call Money for Life's helpline for free on 0808 801 0666 to get the support you need on money, debt, benefits and more. Open 11am – 11pm every day.