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JSA complications

Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) rules can be complicated. What happens if you start living with someone? Or go on holiday? What if the money doesn’t turn up? We answer some common questions about JSA.

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It's not always as simple as getting the money and going

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If I live with my boyfriend/girlfriend, does that affect my JSA?

Your partner’s income or savings won’t affect your contribution-based JSA.

However, if you’re on income-based JSA the Jobcentre will assume that you share income and savings with your partner. If your partner’s working, or has savings over £6000, then your benefits will be reduced. If they work 24 hours a week or more you probably won’t get any income-based JSA.

If you live together and are romantically involved, then for benefits purposes you’re classed as “living together as husband and wife or as civil partners”. So your income and savings affect each other even if you only met a month ago and he/she doesn’t give you a penny.

If you can’t get JSA you might still be able to get other support, such as Tax Credits or Housing Benefit. This benefits calculator will give you a rough idea and tell you how to claim.

Jobseeker’s Allowance is normally paid within three working days of signing on (although, if you’re signing on for the first time it can take two weeks).

If you should have been paid and haven’t been paid yet, it’s important to find out what’s going on as soon as possible. The first step is to contact your local Jobcentre and ask them to explain why.

If your benefit has stopped because of something you’ve done (or haven’t done), then read our article here on JSA Sanctions.

If you don’t understand why you haven’t been paid yet, or disagree with the decision, then you can get advice and support from your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). They can also contact the Jobcentre on your behalf and help to clear things up.

JSA and going on holiday

When you’re on JSA, you’re entitled to two weeks holiday a year, but only in Great Britain. It’s very important that you let the Jobcentre know that you’re going away. You won’t need to sign on, but will need to be able to receive job information and come home for an interview or start a job at relatively short notice.

You aren’t usually allowed to take overseas holidays while claiming JSA. The system is getting harsher, so if you don’t follow the rules (by not signing when you’re meant to, or not going to a job interview or training programme), you could lose your JSA for four or more weeks.

If you plan to go abroad, the best thing to do is to sign off just before you go. When you get back you can make a rapid reclaim online, which should only take 10 minutes. You’ll lose a week or two’s benefit, but you risk losing a lot more otherwise.

I don’t get on with my advisor

Some benefits advisors are great, some not so great. But as they’re holding the purse strings, it’s worth trying to get along with them.

If you’re angry about your situation, or your advisor, try and vent your rage at a family member or friend. When you’re in the Jobcentre, try and be polite.

Remember, most of the things that are frustrating about claiming benefits and finding work won’t be up to your advisor, so try not to blame too much on them – they appreciate that.

Jobcentre staff should be respectful to you, give you correct information and not discriminate for any reason (including race, religion, gender and sexuality). If you feel that they’ve broken these rules, then you can make a complaint.

Universal credit and changes to Jobseeker’s Allowance

Income-based JSA will gradually become part of the Universal Credit system between now and 2017 (contribution-based JSA will stay separate). Find out more from our Universal Credit article.

Where can I go for help with JSA?

Getting benefits is often a frustrating process. But there are lots of places you can go for help:

  • Citizen’s advice volunteers know all about the benefits system and can help you understand your rights. You can visit your local bureau to get face-to-face advice and support. You must remember to bring along details of your benefits and general financial situation.
  • This benefits calculator from Turn2us shows you how much benefit you should be getting – many people don’t realise how much they’re entitled to.
  • If you’re angry or frustrated about your treatment by the Job Centre, you can complain. Find out about the complaints process.
  • If you want to challenge a decision about your benefit, you can appeal.

Unfortunately we are unable to offer benefits advice here at TheSite.

Important!

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.

Next Steps

  • Use the Turn2Us calculator to work out what benefits and grants you're entitled to, or call their helpline on 0808 802 2000
  • The Citizens Advice Bureau has a great Advice4Me page, which explains legal rights specifically for under-25s.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Danny Sherwood

Updated on 25-Apr-2014

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