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Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)

Key information

Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) is a benefit for people who are not in full time employment, are capable of working and are looking for a job. 

Applies to: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

Age rules: you must be under state pension age and usually aged over 18 to qualify.

If you are aged 16/17 - see our section for Young People for information on the rules around claiming JSA as a young person

Type of benefit: There are two types of JSA;

Taxable: Yes

Administered by: JobCentre Plus

 

Index

You can read through this information sheet, or go directly to the sections you want to read by clicking on these links:

Who does it help?

Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) is a benefit for people who are:

  • unemployed (or work less than 16 hours), and
  • are capable of working, and
  • are looking for a job.

See our information on how to calculate your Working Hours

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Types of JSA

There are two types of JSA:

  • contribution-based JSA. You can get this for up to six months if you have been working and have paid enough national insurance contributions within the last couple of years. It is paid just for you. 
  • income-based JSA. You might get this type of JSA if your income and savings are low enough. There is no time limit on receiving this. You do not need to have paid any national insurance contributions. But if you have a partner they must either not be working, or working fewer than 24 hours a week.

If you get contribution-based JSA, you may get some income-based JSA as well if you are on a low income and:

  • have a partner, or
  • have a disability, or
  • are caring for a person with a disability, or
  • have housing costs (eg a mortgage).

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How much does it pay?

Contribution-based JSA is £57.35 per week if you are under 25 and £72.40 if you are 25 or over; but you may get less if you have part time earnings or a personal/occupational pension.

It is difficult to say how much income-based JSA you might get. Your income is compared to an amount which the government considers you need to live on and you get the difference. The amount can vary from one person to another because your needs depend on your family circumstances, for example:

  • If you live alone or in a couple.
  • If you or your dependants are disabled.
  • If you're caring for someone who has a disability.
  • If you have savings of over £6,000.
  • If you have any other income.
  • If you have housing costs such as a mortgage.

Use the Turn2us Benefits Calculator to find out how much income-based Jobseeker's Allowance you may be entitled to.

Jobseeker's Allowance is included in the Benefit Cap which limits the total amount in some benefits that working-age people can receive. See our Benefit Cap information page for more details.

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How do I make a claim?

Online Claim

Claim online at the Gov.UK website (link opens in a new window)

Telephone Claim

Phone Jobcentre Plus:

Telephone: 0800 055 6688
Textphone: 0800 023 4888
Welsh language Line: 0800 012 1888

In Northern Ireland

Contact your local Social Security/Jobs and Benefits Office (link opens in a new window) for a claim form

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What documents will I need?

You must give your national insurance number and evidence of who you are, for example, a driving licence or birth certificate. You normally also have to give your partner's national insurance number if they live with you. You also have to give evidence of your income and savings, for example, bank statements or pay slips.

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Can it be backdated?

Jobseeker's Allowance can be backdated for up to three months before the date of the claim if you would have been entitled to it earlier. You have to have an acceptable reason for claiming late. Request this when claiming.

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Sanctions

There have been a number of changes to the rules about the conditions you have to meet in order to remain entitled to JSA and the penalties that can be imposed if you do not meet these conditions.

These amendments are part of the preparation for Universal Credit which will bring together the main working age benefits and introduce common rules about conditionality and the sanctions that may be applied if you fail to carry out a required action.

For more information, see our JSA sanctions information sheet 

Please note: No sanction should be imposed if you can show good reason for your action that led to the sanction being considered. All decisions to apply a sanction are able to be appealed if you disagree.

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Challenging decisions

If you disagree with the decision made on your benefit claim you can ask for a written statement of reasons. If you still believe the decision is wrong, for example due to incorrect information being used, you can ask for it to be looked at again, and/or appeal.

The time limits are strict, you will usually be given one month to dispute a decision, so it is important to seek advice and act quickly.

Further information on Challenges and complaints

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Change of circumstance

You must report changes in your circumstances which might affect your entitlement to this benefit

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Recent/Upcoming changes to this benefit

The planned changes to Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) from April 2014 include:

  • Extending the waiting period for first claims from three days to seven
  • You must take positive steps to find work from day one. As part of this, if you claim online you must prepare a CV, and there will be longer initial interviews
  • If you have poor spoken English you will be required to attend classes, or face sanctions (to be introduced in Scotland and Wales at a later date)
  • If you are thought not to be doing enough to find a job you will have to attend weekly work search reviews with Job Centre advisers. To be phased in between 28 April and October 2014
  • There will be work search interviews every three months to review your activities for that period, your skills and your Jobseeker’s Agreement/Claimant Commitment as well as to discuss widening the scope of your work search.

Last updated: 4 August 2014

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