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Job seeker's allowance

If you are unemployed, you can claim jobseeker's allowance also known as unemployment benefit. Read this page to find out how.

What is job seeker's allowance?

Jobseeker's allowance (JSA) is a benefit paid to people who are unemployed and available for work. There are two kinds:

  • contribution based jobseeker's allowance
  • income based jobseeker's allowance.

Can I claim job seeker's allowance?

If you are unemployed and actively seeking work, you can apply for JSA.

There are some circumstances where you probably won't be able to claim JSA. These are described below.

  • If you are 16 or 17 years old, although in circumstances of severe hardship, you may be entitled to help. Read our page on benefits for 16-17 year olds to find out more.
  • If you are a full-time student. However, if you are responsible for a child you may be able to claim during the summer holidays.
  • If you are working for more than an average of 16 hours a week.

In addition, single people under the age of 25 who are not responsible for any children are entitled to less JSA than people over 25.

Other restrictions apply, depending on the kind of JSA you are claiming. These are described below.

Contribution based job seeker's allowance

You can claim this for up to six months if you have worked in the past and paid a certain number of national insurance contributions.find a  contact number for your local Jobcentre Plus here to find out if you are eligible to claim.

If you are still unemployed when your entitlement to contribution based JSA ends, you can claim income based JSA.

Income based job seeker's allowance

You probably won't be able to claim income based JSA if:

  • you have savings over £16,000, or
  • your partner works an average of more than 24 hours a week, or
  • you are over 60 (women) or 65 (men) - in this case you may be entitled to pension credit. If you're a man aged 60-64 you may be better off claiming pension credit instead - speak to a benefits adviser to make sure.

Savings below these amounts can also affect how much JSA you receive.

I am homeless can I still claim jobseeker's allowance?

You can still claim jobseeker's allowance if you are homeless. If you have no fixed address you will be paid a reduced rate of jobseeker's allowance. Having no fixed address is different from having no accommodation. Having no accommodation means that you are sleeping at different address most nights, such as friends and family, and your jobseeker's allowance should be paid at the normal rate and not at the reduced rate.

What if I can't get jobseeker's allowance?

If you don't qualify for JSA, you may be able to get some payments under a 'hardship provision', if you can show that your family will suffer if you don't get JSA. Contact your local Jobcentre Plus to find out more.

You could also apply to the Scottish Welfare Fund for a Crisis grant.

Applying for jobseeker's allowance

To claim JSA, call 0800 0 55 66 88 or visit your nearest Jobcentre Plus to arrange a jobseeker's interview. Don't forget to bring your national insurance number and P45 (if you've worked in the past). You'll be asked to sign a jobseeker's agreement, stating that you are actively looking for a job, and will then need to 'sign on' every two weeks. You'll also need to attend a 'back to work session' during the first 13 weeks of your claim, where you'll get advice on how to find a job and the facilities the Jobcentre Plus can offer to help you.

Sanctions

If you don't stick to all the conditions of entitlement of your jobseeker's allowance, then the DWP can sanction your benefit. This means your jobseeker's allowance will be reduced or suspended for a period ranging from 4 weeks to 156 weeks, depending on the reason.

If you have had your jobseeker's allowance sanctioned you can ask for the decision to be reconsidered, this is called a mandatory reconsideration. If the reconsideration fails then you can appeal. Find out more about appealing a benefit decision. If your appeal is unsuccessful or you don't appeal and you are sanctioned again, your next sanction may be more severe - meaning your payments will be reduced for a longer period of time.

If your benefit is sanctioned you may be able to claim for a hardship payment, which is a discretionary award of jobseeker's allowance from the DWP. Ask your Jobcentre Plus for more information about hardship payments.

You can also apply to the Scottish Welfare fund for a crisis grant

You can find your nearest Trussell Trust foodbank here.

Find out more about jobseekers allowance

To find out more about claiming JSA, call the Jobcentre Plus telephone line on 0800 0 55 66 88 or textphone 0800 0 23 48 88 (this is a service for hearing impaired people, and doesn't accept texts).

You can also get help and advice in claiming JSA at your local Citizens Advice Bureau or welfare rights centre - use the Advice Services Directory to find help near you.

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