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This page is aimed at residents of Nottinghamshire. The information applies to all people who are affected by UK Social Security law. It is correct as of 1 April 2010.

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Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is a benefit for unemployed people who are required to ‘sign on’ and look for work.

Income Support is paid to people who don’t have to ‘sign on’, for example, those who have caring responsibilities. Employment and Support Allowance is for those who are incapable for work. If you are aged over 60 you may need to claim Pension Credit.

When claiming JSA you have to sign a Jobseeker’s Agreement which will require you to provide evidence that you are looking for work. If you fail to do this your benefit may be reduced or stopped.

For more details about this test for unemployed people see Section 2 ‘Jobseeker’s Allowance – Rules for Signing-On’.

Who can claim Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)?

There are two types of JSA, contributory and income-based.  They have different rules for qualifying but to get both kinds of JSA you must be:-....

  • out of work or working for less than 16 hours a week;
  • be capable of work, actively seeking and available for work for at least 40 hours a week (for what this means see Section 2);
  • not in full time education;
  • aged over 18 (16 & 17 year olds have to satisfy special rules) and under pension age.

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Contributory JSA

This type of JSA is paid for the first 6 months of unemployment, if you have paid enough National Insurance contributions in the past two tax years before you claim. You cannot get contributions based JSA if you have only been paying NI contributions for self-employment.

It is not affected by your partners earnings, or savings you or your partner may have. Any earnings you get, or payment at the end of a job is likely to affect the amount of benefit you get.

Any occupational or personal pension you receive over £50 a week will be deducted pound for pound from your JSA.

There is no extra amount paid if you have an adult dependant. But, if, for example, you have children or a partner who is not working full time, or a mortgage you may qualify for Child Tax Credit or income based JSA as well.

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Income-based JSA

This benefit is paid after 6 months when contributory JSA runs out or immediately if you have not paid enough contributions to qualify for contributory JSA.

When contributory JSA is not enough for you or your family to live on, income based JSA may also be claimed to top up your income. To get income based JSA you must have less than £16,000 savings and you and your partner have an income below a level set by the government. If you have a partner they must not be working more than 24 hours a week.

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People from abroad

If the Jobcentre Plus consider you a person from abroad (this can include people who have just been out of the country for some time) you cannot claim income based JSA. Get advice if you are refused JSA on these grounds.

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Can I study whilst claiming JSA?

Full-time Study

If you are studying full-time, except in very limited circumstances it is not possible to claim either type of JSA. You may be able to claim Income Support instead. Get advice on this.

"Full-time" means a course which the college describes as full-time, or if you have more than 16 hours per week (12 hours if you are under 19) teaching. If you are aged 25+ and have been unemployed for more than 2 years, you may be able to do a full-time employment related course for up to a year and still get JSA.

Part-time Study

It is possible to claim JSA whilst studying part-time if the course has less than 16 hours teaching per week and:-

  • you are willing and able to re-arrange the hours of your course in order to take up employment, immediately if necessary, and
  • you have been in receipt of JSA, Incapacity Benefit or Income Support because you are sick or disabled, or you are on Employment and Support Allowance or you have been on a training programme, for a period of 3 months prior to the course starting, or for a total of 3 months out of the previous 6 if you were working temporarily in between.

If you cannot fulfil these requirements you might still be able to claim JSA but will have to satisfy all the normal strict rules regarding being available for and actively seeking work. In practice this may be difficult.

The rules around studying and claiming JSA are complex. Seek advice if you are considering starting a course whilst claiming JSA.

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How much JSA will be paid and when?

JSA is paid after the first three days of unemployment unless you are claiming within 12 weeks of claiming Income Support, Incapacity Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance or Carers Allowance in which case it will start from the day you claim.

Contribution-based JSA

The amount you receive depends on your age:

  • under 25 - £51.85 (including some 16/17 year olds)
  • aged 25 or over - £65.45

Income-based JSA

The way in which the amount of income based JSA is calculated is complicated. It is made up of:

  • a personal allowance – for yourself, or for a couple,
  • premiums – to take account of disability, age and caring responsibilities
  • certain housing costs – usually mortgage interest.

Most income you or your partner already have, including contributory JSA, will be taken away from these allowances to work out the amount you will receive. Savings between £6,000 and £16,000 will reduce your income based JSA.

If you are getting income based JSA you may also be able to claim other benefits automatically such as Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, free prescriptions, dental treatment, free school meals etc. Get advice if you need to know more about these benefits.

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How will part-time earnings affect my JSA?

For both types of JSA weekly earnings will be treated in the following way:

  • £5 is ignored for single claimants;
  • £10 is ignored for unemployed couples (even if only one partner is working);
  • £20 is ignored for lone parents, people with disabilities and carers.

Earnings above these amounts will reduce your benefit pound for pound.

Maintenance and Child Benefit are disregarded.

Rules For Signing On

There are strict rules about being available for work and actively seeking work. In order to receive JSA you will have to commit yourself to carry out tasks every week to show you are looking for work. This is called a Jobseeker’s Agreement. If you fail to complete these tasks your JSA may be stopped.

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How do I claim JSA?

As soon as you become unemployed:

  • Phone (freephone) 0800 055 66 88, the new claims number. You will be asked to state your postcode which will connect you to the relevant contact centre.
  • It is best to phone from a landline as the claim process can be completed over the phone but takes approximately 40 minutes. However calls from the following mobile companies are free to Jobcentre Plus 0800 numbers: O2, Orange, Tesco Mobile, T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Vodafone.
  • You will be asked for rent or mortgage details, past and present work history, income and savings, partner's income and savings if applicable.
  • A statement will be completed by the operator who will send it t you to be signed and taken to a 'work focussed interview', which will also be arranged over the phone, excepting complications.

Most couples have to make a joint claim for income-based JSA. This affects couples where one or both of you are over the age of 18 and was born after 28th October 1957 and neither of you have dependent children. It means that both of you will have to attend an interview, sign on as available for work, and show that you are actively seeking work, to get the couple rate of JSA. One of you may be excused from this requirement in certain circumstances, for example, if you have to care for someone, you are a student, or has a disability that limits your ability for work.

Lone parents are required to be available for work and therefore have to claim JSA as opposed to IS once their child is 10 years old. This is reducing to over 7 years old from October 2010. Lone parents can restrict their availability to school time hours.

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Completing the Jobseeker's Agreement

At the 'work focussed interview' you will complete a 'Helping you back to work' form and sign a Jobseeker’s Agreement to demonstrate that you are actively seeking and available for work.

For more information on jobs you could try: Job Search

Or call Jobseekers Direct on 0845 606 0234 (charged at a local rate) and an operator will search the internet on your behalf.

Available For Work - You must be willing and able to take-up work very quickly

To establish that you are available for work you will be asked about:

  • Hours you will work – you will be expected to be willing and able to work at least 40 hours a week and not less than 24 hours a week. If you specify the days and hours you are willing to work you will have to show that you will still have ‘reasonable prospect of getting work’. It may be possible for you to be available for less than 40 hours a week if you have a mental or physical disability or because of caring responsibilities.
  • Type of work – At the start of your claim for a period of 13 weeks you may be allowed to only look for work that is your usual occupation at the usual rate of pay. Also if you have a mental or physical disability (or because of religious or conscientious beliefs) you may be able to specify the type of work you can’t undertake. Otherwise, you will be expected to look for all kinds of work that your experience and education would allow you to undertake.
  • Rate of pay – You can only specify the level of pay you will accept for the first 6 months of your claim or indefinitely if considered reasonable because of your physical or mental condition.
  • When you can start work – You will usually be expected to be able to start work immediately (within 24 hours), though there are some exceptions to this rule. Carers, volunteers and part-time workers may be allowed longer before being expected to take up a job offer.
  • Where you will look for work – You are expected to be prepared to travel for up to 1 hour to and from work.  After 13 weeks this increases to 1.5 hours.

Actively Seeking Work

To be considered to be actively seeking work you must take at least two steps a week to find work. These would include things such as:

  • applying for a number of jobs a week;
  • getting information on vacancies from newspapers, employers, Job Centres etc;
  • registering with an employment agency;
  • drawing up a curriculum vitae (CV) or getting a reference.

In some circumstances you are not expected to be available for and actively seeking work, for example, if you are sick or have a domestic emergency. If something of this nature happens you need to inform the Job Centre immediately to avoid having your JSA suspended.

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What happens after the interview?

You will have to ‘sign on’ at the Job Centre every fortnight to continue receiving JSA. You will be asked each time about what you have done to find work. You will be asked for evidence to prove that you have been jobseeking.

After 13 weeks you will be called in for a follow-up interview and then again every 6 months for a Restart interview. You will be expected to attend various courses, for example, a Restart course, a Job Plan Workshop, or partake in the New Deal programme to improve your employment prospects after you have been unemployed for between 6 to 18 months.

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Jobseekers' Directions

At these in-depth interviews you could be asked to carry out particular tasks to improve your chances of getting a job. This could mean attending a course, or you could be told to improve the way you present yourself to employers, for example, be told to have your hair cut.

This is known as a Jobseeker’s Direction and if you don’t carry out this instruction your JSA could be stopped.

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When can my JSA be stopped?

If the Employment Officer decides at an interview that you are not available for and/or actively seeking work your benefit may be withdrawn. This may be because you have placed a restriction on when or where you work, the rate of pay you will accept, or failed to attend a training scheme or apply for a vacancy.

JSA can also be stopped if you have been sacked for misconduct from your previous job, or left your job voluntarily. Your benefit can also be suspended if you fail to sign on, or attend a Restart interview, or partake in a New Deal Programme. However they must always look at whether you had ‘good cause’ for failing to meet the conditions to get benefit.

You should appeal against any decision to stop your JSA but you may not receive any benefit while the issue is being decided. See where to get help for who to contact to assist you with presenting your case.

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How long will my JSA be stopped for?

The length of time you are refused JSA will depend on why your benefit has been stopped. In some circumstances, it will be suspended, until you meet the conditions on availability and actively seeking work. For example, if you state that you are only available for work for 4 days a week instead of 5, you may have broken certain benefit rules and a sanction could apply.

If you are not classed as a vulnerable person and have your JSA stopped under these rules you may be able to claim a hardship payment after the first 2 weeks (see below).

In other circumstances, for example if you were sacked from your previous employment for misconduct or fail to attend an interview you can have your JSA stopped for between 1 and 26 weeks. This is known as a sanction. Seek advice on whether to appeal against having your benefit being sanctioned and the length of the sanction.

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What will I live on if my JSA is stopped?

You may be able to claim a reduced rate hardship payment if your JSA is suspended, but this will not be paid automatically. You must put in a claim and show that you and your family will suffer hardship unless benefit is paid.

You will not receive any payment for the first two weeks unless you are considered a vulnerable person, for example you have a child, you are pregnant, or disabled.

The amount of hardship payment you receive will be 20% or 40% less than the usual rate of JSA depending on your circumstances.

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Where to get help

If you have any queries about Jobseeker’s Allowance and how it may affect you, or you need advice about filling in the claim form, or need someone to represent you at an appeal tribunal, Nottinghamshire Welfare Rights Service (NWRS) provides advice on benefits to the public throughout the County.

There are also a number of independent advice agencies that may be able to assist you.

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The information on this page is not legal advice. If you have a query about your benefits, you should talk to an advisor before making a decision. You may wish to call the Nottinghamshire County Council Customer Service Centre or find your nearest independent advice centre in Nottinghamshire or take a look at the national CLS/CDS Directory.

The information on this page is for people affected by UK Social Security law.

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