Benefits for Students in Scotland Handbook
Part 1: Benefits and tax credits
Chapter 8: Jobseeker's allowance
This chapter covers:
1. What is jobseeker's allowance (below)
2. Who is eligible ()
3. Basic rules ()
4. Amount of benefit ()
5. Claiming jobseeker's allowance ()
6. Challenging a decision ()
7. Other benefits and tax credits ()
– Jobseeker's allowance provides basic financial support for people who are expected to 'sign on' for work.
– Full-time students are not normally eligible.
– Student couples with children and lone parents may be eligible in the long vacation.
– Part-time students are eligible if they are available for work.
– You do not need to have paid national insurance contributions to qualify, but you might get more money if you have.
– The amount is usually affected by any grant, loan or other income you may have.
Jobseeker's allowance (JSA) provides basic financial support for people of working age who are not working full time and who are expected to 'sign on' as available for work.
Full-time students are normally excluded from JSA, but there are exceptions. Part-time students are eligible if they are available for work.
If you have paid sufficient national insurance contributions, you get contribution-based JSA for the first six months. This is paid on top of any student or other income you might have. Otherwise, you may get income-based JSA. This is means tested, so most of your student income and most other income is taken into account when working out how much benefit you get. Chapter 17 explains how your income affects your benefit.
Note: you cannot usually make a new claim for income-based JSA, as it is in the process of being replaced by universal credit. However, an exception applies if you get, or got in the past month (and continue to satisfy the rules for it), a severe disability premium in your income-based JSA, income support, income-related employment and support allowance or housing benefit.
As new claims cannot usually be made for income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA) (see above for exceptions), most students getting income-based JSA will be those who were already on this before starting the course, and who are eligible for income-based JSA as a student (which mainly applies to part-time students). If you cannot claim income-based JSA, you may be able to get universal credit instead (see Chapter 11).
To qualify for JSA, you must not be excluded as a student, and you must satisfy the basic rules. See below for details of students who are eligible. The basic rules are covered on .
Note: the following rules for full-time students and young people in relevant education do not apply to contribution-based JSA if you are making a new claim for JSA and you do not already get income support (IS), income-related employment and support allowance (ESA) or housing benefit (HB) that includes a severe disability premium. This is sometimes called 'new-style' JSA. You can only get 'new-style' contribution-based JSA and study full time if you took time out of your course because of illness or caring responsibilities, you have now recovered or the caring responsibilities have ended, and you are waiting to rejoin your course.
You cannot get JSA while in 'relevant education'.
You are in 'relevant education' if:
– your course is non-advanced (ie, school level or below degree, Higher National Certificate or Higher National Diploma level) of more than 12 hours a week; and
– you are under 19, or aged 19 and were accepted on, enrolled on or started your course before you turned 19.
This is the same definition as that used for child benefit and similar to that for child tax credit (CTC). So, although you cannot get JSA for yourself, your parents may still be able to get child benefit and CTC for you.
A special rule allows part-time students who have been on benefit for some months to study and get JSA at the same time, even though their course is over 12 hours a week. This applies if your course is not full time according to the rules below that apply to most students over 19, and you got JSA or ESA, or you were on an Employability Fund course or other similar training:
during the last three months before the start of the course; or
for three out of the last six months before the course if you were working the rest of the time.
You cannot usually get JSA as a full-time student aged 19 or over (and not in relevant education - see above), whether in advanced or non-advanced education, at any time during your 'period of study'.
Period of study
Your 'period of study' is the whole of your course from the first day you attend or undertake the course to the last day - ie, the last day of the final academic year, including short and long vacations. It includes a period of study in connection with the course after you have stopped doing the course itself. It does not include freshers' week, unless your course actually starts that week.
You are not a student in between courses. For example, you can get JSA in the summer between completing an undergraduate degree and starting a postgraduate course.
Postgraduates writing up their thesis at the end of a course may be regarded by the DWP as being in 'a period of study undertaken by the student in connection with the course'. However, guidance for decision makers says someone is 'not a full-time student during the period after the end of the course when they are expected to complete any course work'. To get JSA, you must show that you are available for and actively looking for work. If you say you are not prepared to fit your thesis writing around a job, should one come up, the DWP will decide that you are not available for work.
In most cases, the college or university defines whether the course is full or part time. However, for some further education (FE) students, there is a 16/21-hour study rule. The JSA rules are the same as those for IS (see ).
You can get JSA in the following circumstances. Note: you cannot usually make a new claim for income-based JSA (see ).
You are in a couple, both of you are full-time students and you have a dependent child aged under 16, or aged under 20 and a qualifying young person (see ). You can get JSA during the summer vacation only. The person who claims must be available for work and meet all the other basic rules for JSA. You are a single person with a dependent child aged under 16, or aged under 20 and a qualifying young person (see ). You can get JSA during the summer vacation only.You must be available for work and meet all the other basic rules for JSA. Your course must be regarded by your work coach at the Jobcentre Plus office as a qualifying course. You must be aged 25 or over and have been getting JSA for at least two years before the course starts. During term time you are not expected to sign on or look for work, although you may be required to provide evidence of your attendance and progress on the course. During vacations, you are expected to look for casual work. You are on a full-time employment-related course approved by your work coach at the Jobcentre Plus office. You can get JSA for just two weeks.
You cannot usually get JSA if you are under 19 and studying full time in advanced education. The rules are the same for you as they are for full-time students aged 19 or over (see ).
You can get JSA while studying part time. You must continue to pass all the basic rules for JSA, including being available for work and actively looking for work.
Generally, your college or university determines whether you count as a part-time or full-time student, rather than the number of hours you study or attend lectures. The rules are the same as for IS (see ).
However, if you are under age 20 and in relevant education, there is a 12-hour rule (see ). Your course is full time if it is more than 12 hours a week of classes and supervised study in term time.
If you are aged 19 or over (and not a 19-year-old in 'relevant education') at an FE college but not on a higher education course, there is a 16/21-hour rule for courses funded, or partly funded, by the Scottish government. A part-time course is: up to 16 hours a week classroom or workshop-guided learning, under the direct guidance of teaching staff; or up to 21 hours when hours of structured learning are added on, provided classes are no more than 16 hours a week.
This is set out in a learning agreement provided by your college.
Shona is 20 and attending an FE college, studying for National Qualifications at higher level. She has 10 hours a week of classes and 10 hours a week of timetabled independent study. She is classed as a part-time student.
Gwyneth is 24 and at an FE college on a Scottish Vocational Qualification level 2 course. She has classes for 18 hours a week and three hours of timetabled study. She is classed as a full-time student.
Russell is 18 and studying for a National Certificate. He has 15 hours of classes a week. He is classed as full time.
Saleem is 19 and studying for a degree. He has 15 hours of lectures a week. The university regards his course as full time. He is classed as a full-time student for JSA.
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