If your money hasn't turned up or you've been told your Jobseeker's Allowance is being stopped, it probably means you're being sanctioned. We explain what sanctions are and how to appeal if you think you've been unfairly treated.
What are sanctions?
When you signed up for Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), you agreed to search and apply for a certain number of jobs a week. If your advisor thinks you haven't being doing enough, you could lose your benefit for a specific amount of time - this is known as being sanctioned.
Even if your benefit has been stopped, keep turning up to the job centre for meetings and keep applying for jobs, or you risk being sanctioned for longer.
Also, 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. See GOV.UK for more information.
Why am I being sanctioned?
The most common reason young people are sanctioned by the job centre is not turning up for meetings. Other reasons might include refusing to apply for a place on a mandatory work scheme or even being late to meet your advisor.
You should be informed that you are being sanctioned - so if you don't have a clue why your money hasn't turned up, call the job centre immediately.
Can I talk my way out of being sanctioned?
In a word, no. However good your relationship with your advisor is, they still have to sanction you if they think you've not kept your side of the job-seeking bargain.
There are some ways to prevent getting sanctioned, but you have to be on the ball. For example, if you can prove you missed a meeting because the bus didn't turn up, you should be treated fairly. Store your advisor's number in your phone and call them as soon as the bus is cancelled. They'll check and see if the bus really didn't turn up and if you're in the right you'll avoid losing your benefit.
How long will I be sanctioned for?
It depends what you've done (or not done) and whether this is a first offence or not.
To start with you'll be put on the lowest level of sanctions. This means losing your benefit for four weeks.
If you break the terms of your job seeker's agreement again within a year, you'll lose your benefit for 13 weeks.
In October 2012, some sanctions became harsher. If you leave a job voluntarily or are dismissed for misconduct repeatedly you could lose your benefit for between 13 weeks and three years.
For full details of the different levels of sanctions, see the DWP website.
How can I survive while I'm being sanctioned?
You can apply for a crisis loan (now called a hardship payment) while you're waiting for your JSA to start up again. Speak to your advisor at the job centre.
How do I appeal against sanctions?
You should fill in a GL24 form from the DWP website. Your appeal could take a few months to sort out but if you are successful you should be able to get backdated JSA, unless you've had a hardship payment, in which case this will be deducted from the money you're owed.
Sanctions and Universal Credit
When Universal Credit launches in April 2013, JSA will become part of it. Universal Credit is designed to encourage people to work if they can, so the same rules about job hunting in return for benefit will apply.