Jobseeker interviews and appeals
So you know the basics, but what's involved with signing on?
You're entitled to receive Jobseeker's Allowance if you're aged 18 or over, out of work and actively looking for employment. You can claim it online or over the phone (except in Northern Ireland) but you may also be asked to go to your local Jobcentre Plus to meet with a personal advisor unless you are only claiming for JSA arrears. You will need to show that you're able to start work and are looking for a job.
If you're claiming Jobseeker's Allowance in Northern Ireland, you normally have to visit your local Jobcentre Plus.
When you visit the Jobcentre Plus the 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 and given all the information they need
- Make sure you know about other benefits you are entitled to
To get JSA you must have a Jobseeker Agreement - you and the advisor will make this agreement at your first interview, and you will both sign it.
Your Jobseeker's Agreement will include details of:
- Your availability for work
- The kind of work you are looking for
- What you will do to look for work and improve your chances of finding work
- The services Jobcentre Plus provide
If you and the advisor can't agree on the content of the Jobseeker's Agreement, a decision maker will decide if the proposed contents are reasonable. If you do not agree with their decision, you can ask for it to be looked at again by another decision maker. If you still do not agree, you can appeal.
When you sign the agreement, you will have to provide three types of job you are willing to apply for. If you include a category of work, you will be expected to apply for a job in that category if it comes up. You can restrict how far you are prepared to travel as long as you can show you have a reasonable chance of getting a job in that area.
You're normally also expected to provide details of the hours you're happy to work. If you rely on public transport, make sure you take account of the times of the earliest buses or trains when putting down your start time.
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.
Visiting your Jobcentre Plus
Once you begin receiving JSA you will need to go into your local Jobcentre Plus at least once every two weeks. If you fail to go to a meeting you will risk losing your benefits. When you visit the Jobcentre Plus your advisor will talk to you about whether you still meet the rules for JSA and what you must do to keep on getting it. You will also need to prove that you're doing everything that was in your Jobseeker's Agreement and find out if there are any jobs you can apply for, or training courses that you can take.
If you don't take the steps recommended by your JobCentre Plus advisor, you may be given Jobseeker's Directions, which is an instruction for you to take a specific step (such as registering with an employment agency). If you don't comply with your direction, your JSA may be suspended. Your local Citizens Advice will be able to advise you (see appeals below).
I'm in full-time education - can I get Jobseeker's Allowance?
You can't get JSA if you're under 20 and still at college or university, although you could be eligible to get Income Support. You will be able to claim JSA if you study with the Open University as courses are for part-time students.
If you feel you have been wrongly assessed as capable of work or you have been sanctioned for a reason such as leaving or turning down a job without good reason, or you think that the benefits you're receiving are incorrect for some other reason, you should contact your local Jobcentre Plus immediately and ask for an explanation.
If you're unhappy or disagree with their explanation you can appeal to an independent tribunal who will decide if the decision was wrong. But it is important to remember that you will have to show that you are taking the necessary steps to be available for, and actively seeking, work under the rules mentioned above while you wait for your appeal.
If you win your appeal, your benefits will be backdated. Signing on in the meantime won't prejudice your chances of appeal. If it's an appeal against a sanction or the length of a sanction you may be able to claim a hardship payment. Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau to find out how to appeal against the decision.