Your guide to care and support

Jobseeker's Allowance

Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is a benefit for people who are unemployed and on a low income. It can also be claimed to top-up contribution-based JSA (which is based on previous National Insurance contributions).

JSA is just one of the benefits you may be eligible for if you have care needs (such as a disability) or you are a carer. You might find it useful to speak to someone at Citizens Advice or Jobcentre Plus about your options if you are on a low income.

Eligibility rules for income-based JSA

To get income-based JSA, you must sign a Jobseeker’s Agreement, which sets out what you will do to find work and what Jobcentre Plus will do to help you. You must also be:

  • capable of work 
  • available for work 
  • actively seeking work 
  • resident and present in Great Britain, and permitted to work in Great Britain

You're normally expected to look for work of 40 hours a week or more, but if you have a disability or you're a part-time carer, you may be able to place restrictions on the hours and type of work you're expected to search for.

You can’t claim income-based JSA if:

  • you’re a full-time student
  • you work 16 hours a week or more
  • you have a partner who works 24 hours a week or more
  • your income and savings are too high – for more information, read about what JSA you'll get on GOV.UK

There’s no time limit on receiving income-based JSA, as long as you continue to meet all the rules. There is a time limit, however, on some help that you get, such as housing costs.

Age rules for JSA

You can claim income-based JSA if you're over 18 and under pension age. This means that if you're a man over 60, you can choose between claiming income-based JSA and Pension Credit. You can ask Jobcentre Plus to advise you on the choice, or you can seek independent help, which can be provided through the Citizens Advice Bureau.

You can’t normally claim income-based JSA if you're under 18. However, in special cases, it may be possible for 16- or 17-year-olds to claim, although you need to seek advice about this.

Claiming JSA

You make your claim for JSA with Jobcentre Plus, or you can apply online.

For more information, read about how to claim JSA on GOV.UK.

If you receive income-related JSA, you will be entitled to other financial help such as free NHS dental treatment, sight tests, prescriptions and housing grants.

You must also have a valid Jobseeker’s Agreement.

How much income-based JSA you get depends on your circumstances, including who you can claim for. Your income and capital (for example, your savings) are also taken into account. You can only claim income-based JSA if your capital is below £16,000.

Your income includes wages from any part-time work that you or your partner do, any benefits you may be claiming and other sources of income, such as occupational pensions. You will need to give full details of your income and capital when you claim.

Who you can claim JSA for

You can claim income-based JSA for you and your partner. If you're in a couple, you may have to consider which one of you should claim.

If you're eligible for income-based JSA but your partner could claim another benefit such as Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit, you should ask for help to decide which to claim.

Interviews for JSA

To receive income-based JSA, you must claim and "sign on" correctly, and attend interviews arranged by Jobcentre Plus.

To get your claim started, you will have two interviews: one to establish your Jobseeker’s Agreement and one to establish your income and savings, so that the correct level of benefit can be calculated.

You'll have to attend further interviews when you sign on to check that your Jobseeker’s Agreement is correct and up to date, and to see what steps you've taken to seek work. At these interviews, you can discuss problems with your search for work. You should also declare any changes in your circumstances and you may be told of possible jobs, training or employment schemes.

If you have disabilities that make seeking work difficult, you could be referred to disability employment advisers who have specific training in giving this assistance. You can ask to be referred to a disability employment adviser if you feel you need extra help.

You may be asked to attend additional interviews at any point during your claim. Notification of an interview could be by letter, telephone or email.

Missing interviews and failing to sign on

If you fail to attend an interview or to sign on (at Jobcentre Plus or by post), you have five days to show that you have good cause for not attending. A good cause could be something like the fact you’re a carer or you’re doing voluntary work and you were given less than 48 hours’ notice of an interview.

If you don't do this, your claim could be stopped. If Jobcentre Plus does not agree that you have good cause for not attending, sanctions can be placed on your benefit.

Sanctions

To get income-based JSA, you must be capable of work, available for work and actively seeking work. You must also comply with the terms set out in your Jobseeker’s Agreement. If you fail to do so, payment could be stopped. This is known as a "sanction". Sanctions apply for fixed periods.

The government's official online source of information on benefits is GOV.UK.

Page last reviewed: 15/01/2015

Next review due: 30/09/2017

Ratings

How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 20 ratings

All ratings

11  ratings
2  ratings
0  ratings
4  ratings
3  ratings

Add your rating

Coping with money worries

Financial problems can cause emotional distress. Get tips on coping with anxiety and advice about when to seek help

Financial stress and relationships

Money worries can put pressure on your relationship with a loved one, but there are ways to help ease the strain