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JSA sanctions

If you don’t follow the rules when you're on job seekers allowance, you risk being sanctioned. Here’s how to avoid having your JSA stopped.

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Don't break the rules

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What are sanctions?

When you sign up for JSA you agree to follow a certain set of rules in return for receiving your benefit. If you break any of these rules, your benefit can be stopped for a period of time. This is called a sanction.

IMPORTANT!

Even if your benefit has been stopped, keep turning up to the Jobcentre for meetings and keep applying for jobs, or you risk being sanctioned for longer.

Why am I being sanctioned?

The most common reason young people are sanctioned by the Jobcentre is being late or not turning up for meetings. You could also be sanctioned for:

  • Not applying for enough jobs
  • Refusing to apply for a suitable job
  • Not being available for work
  • Not attending a compulsory training or employment scheme
  • Leaving a job voluntarily or being sacked for misconduct

You should be informed that you’re being sanctioned – so if your money hasn’t turned up and you don’t know why, call your local Jobcentre immediately.

Can I talk my way out of being sanctioned?

In a word, no. However charming you are, your advisor is still bound by law to sanction you if they think you’ve not kept your side of the job-seeking bargain.

But I had a good reason for being late…

If you have a good reason you should be able to avoid a sanction. For example, if you tried to get the bus to the Jobcentre and it didn’t show, then you shouldn’t be sanctioned for being late to an appointment. (You should tell the Jobcentre as soon as possible if this happens.) It’s worth having your Jobcentre’s number stored on your phone for this very reason.

How long will I be sanctioned for?

That depends on what you’ve done (or not done) and whether it’s happened before.

For most offences, such as not turning up for an interview at the Jobcentre, not applying for enough jobs, or not taking a job that you’re offered, you will be sanctioned for four weeks. If the same thing happens again within a year, you’ll get sanctioned for 13 weeks for each further offence.

If you leave a job voluntarily, get sacked for misconduct or refuse to take part in the Mandatory Work Activity Scheme, you’ll get sanctioned for 13 weeks for a first offence. A second offence carries a 26-week sanction; a further one within a year means you’ll be sanctioned for three years. Yes – three years.

See this page for further information on the length of sanctions.

Will being sanctioned affect Housing Benefit/Council Tax benefit?

If you receive Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction your council will be informed of your sanction, and they could stop paying your benefit. HOWEVER, you should still be entitled as you’ll be on less money than you were before. It’s important that you contact your local council straight away and let them know your situation.

How can I survive while I’m being sanctioned?

If you or your family don’t have enough money for essentials, such as food, heating or medical supplies without your JSA, you should be able to get a hardship payment. This is a reduced level of JSA to cover the basics while you’re waiting for your JSA to start up again. Speak to your advisor at the Jobcentre for more information.

How do I appeal against sanctions?

When you get sanctioned, you’ll get a decision letter explaining the sanction. If this isn’t clear, you can ask for a written explanation. You should do this as soon as possible.

If you believe the decision to be unreasonable you can ask for the decision to be reconsidered (unless you’re in Northern Ireland, in which case you can skip this stage). You should do this within one month of the date on the decision letter (you have slightly longer if you’ve asked for a written explanation).

If you’re still not happy with the decision, you can appeal.

Find out more about challenging a benefits decision.

Your appeal could take a few months to sort out, but if you’re successful you should be able to get backdated JSA (if you’ve had a hardship payment this will come off the money you’re owed).

Where can I go for help with being sanctioned? 

Being sanctioned is a frustrating process, but there are 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.
  • If you’re angry or frustrated about your treatment by the Job Centre, you can complain. Find out about the complaints process.
  • Remember, 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

  • The Citizens Advice Bureau has a great Advice4Me page, which explains legal rights specifically for under-25s.
  • Use the Turn2Us calculator to work out what benefits and grants you're entitled to, or call their helpline on 0808 802 2000
  • 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 07-Aug-2014

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