Benefits for Students in Scotland Handbook
Part 1: Benefits and tax credits
Chapter 8: Jobseeker's allowance
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Chapter 8: Jobseeker's allowance

This chapter covers:

1. What is jobseeker's allowance (below)

2. Who is eligible (Cross reference)

3. Basic rules (Cross reference)

4. Amount of benefit (Cross reference)

5. Claiming jobseeker's allowance (Cross reference)

6. Challenging a decision (Cross reference)

7. Other benefits and tax credits (Cross reference)

Basic facts

– Jobseeker's allowance provides basic financial support for people who are expected to 'sign on' for work.

– Full-time students cannot normally claim.

– Student couples with children can claim in the long vacation.

– Lone parents can claim in the long vacation if they are not eligible for income support.

– Part-time students can claim 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.


1. What is jobseeker's allowance

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 can claim 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.

If you live in a universal credit (UC) 'full service' area, you cannot claim income-based JSA and must claim UC instead, unless you have three or more children (Note: this exception may end from February 2019) (see Chapter 12). All areas in Scotland are expected to be full service by the end of 2018.

2. Who is eligible

To qualify for jobseeker's allowance (JSA), you must not be excluded as a student, and you must satisfy the basic rules. See below for details of students who can claim. The basic rules are covered on Cross reference.

Note: the following rules for full-time students and young people in relevant education do not apply to contribution-based JSA  if you are in a UC 'full service' area (see Cross reference). If this is the case, you can only get 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.Footnote

Under 20 in relevant education

You cannot get JSA while in 'relevant education'.Footnote

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;Footnote 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 claim 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 employment and support allowance (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.

19 or over and a full-time student

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'.Footnote

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.Footnote 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.Footnote

You are not a student in between courses. For example, you can claim 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'.Footnote If you do claim, 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.

What counts as full time

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 income support (IS – see Cross reference).

Who can claim jobseeker's allowance

You can get JSA in the following circumstances. If you are claiming contribution-based JSA and are in a UC 'full service' area, see the note on Cross reference.

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 Cross reference). 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.Footnote You are a single person with a dependent child aged under 16, or aged under 20 and a qualifying young person (see Cross reference). You can get JSA during the summer vacation only.You must be available for work and meet all the other basic rules for JSA. Check whether you can claim IS instead. This depends on the age of your youngest child and whether you meet the usual IS rules (see Cross reference).Footnote You are on a course 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.Footnote You are on a full-time employment-related course approved by your work coach at the Jobcentre Plus office. You can claim JSA for just two weeks.Footnote


Kiera and Mike are a couple and are both studying full time on degree courses. They have a seven-year-old son. Kiera signs on for JSA during the summer, claiming benefit for herself and Mike, who is not working. They also get CTC and child benefit throughout the year.


Under 19 and in full-time advanced education

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 Cross reference).

Studying part time

You can claim 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.

What counts as part time

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.Footnote The rules are the same as for IS (see Cross reference).

However, if you are under age 20 and in relevant education, there is a 12-hour rule (see Cross reference). 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:Footnote  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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