Young people aged 16-25 have been hit hard by the recession with an increasing number being unable to find a job. If you're aged 18 or over, you can claim Jobseekers Allowance, but how do you claim it and how much do they pay out?
Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) is changing
Between now and 2017, JSA will gradually become part of Universal Credit. If you start a new claim for JSA after October 2013, you're likely to find yourself being put on Universal Credit instead. If you are on JSA at the moment you'll be moved in 2014.
The basics stay the same - you agree to job hunt and in return job centre agrees to give you some money. But a few things WILL be different - like you'll only get your benefit once a month. To find out more see our Universal Credit article.
You can get JSA/Universal Credit if you are:
- Capable of working
- Available for work
- Actively seeking work
- 18 or over
- Working less than 16 hours a week on average
How to claim
You can claim JSA by phone or online (except in Northern Ireland, where you're encouraged to fill in a claim form). When you claim you'll also have to go to your JobCentre Plus to discuss your jobseeker's agreement (an agreement setting out what steps you will take to find work). You must 'sign on' at the job centre every fortnight. You'll have a short interview to check your situation, job seeking progress and any change of circumstances, then you receive payment within a few days of signing on.
Types of JSA
1. Contribution-based JSA (will NOT become part of Universal Credit).
This is based on your National Insurance Contribution record and is paid for a maximum period of six months.
- If you are 18-24 years old you will find that the level of your benefit has been set at a reduced rate.
- You can only claim contribution-based JSA for yourself.
- Your right to claim contribution-based JSA is not affected by your partner's earnings or by the amount of savings you have.
- You cannot get contribution-based JSA if you have only been paying NI contributions for self-employment. You may be able to get income-based JSA.
It is possible to get both at the same time (such as if you have a partner or are disabled or caring for someone who is disabled).
- If you're aged 16-24 you receive £56.25 a week
- If you're aged 25 or over you receive £71 a week
2. Income-based JSA (WILL become part of Universal Credit).
Income-based JSA is 'means tested', which means it's based on how much (if any) income you already have and how much you have by way of savings. You can claim if:
- You have an insufficient National Insurance contributions record
- Your contribution-based JSA has run out after six months
- You are claiming for a partner
What about under 18s?
If you're aged 16 or 17 you can only get JSA in exceptional circumstances, for example, being cut off from or leaving your family leading to severe hardship. If you think that you might have exceptional circumstances, contact your nearest Jobcentre Plus office.
The more information you give Jobcentre Plus about the breakdown of your family relationship, the quicker they can make a decision about whether or not you're entitled to JSA. If you'd like someone else to be with you when you're interviewed, you can ask another adult who knows about your situation to go with you. Your parents won't be told about your meeting unless you want them to be.
If you don't qualify for JSA, you may be able to get Income Support.
Can I get expenses?
You can get a loan from the job centre to help with things like going to interviews, transport to work and smart clothes for interviews. These are called Budgeting Advances.
You'll be expected to develop a Jobseeker's Agreement with your Jobcentre Plus personal advisor. After 13 weeks, you may be required to go on a job scheme to help you get work experience. On some schemes, failure to do so could mean you lose some of your benefit. Your benefit could also be cut if you agree to a scheme and then fail to complete it. For more information about job schemes, including voluntary schemes, see our Government Employment Schemes article.
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.
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