Children's handbook Scotland
Chapter 1: Benefits and tax credits
12. Jobseeker’s allowance
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12. 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. There are two types of JSA – income-based JSA (see below) and contribution-based JSA (see Cross reference).

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is responsible for the administration of JSA.


Income-based jobseeker’s allowance

Income-based JSA is means tested and is for people with a low income. You do not have to have paid any national insurance (NI) contributions to get income-based JSA. You may have to claim universal credit instead of income-based JSA. See Cross reference and CPAG's Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook for more details.


Who can claim income-based jobseeker’s allowance

If you are not in the UC system, you qualify for income-based JSA if:Footnote you are aged 18 or over (some people can get income-based JSA if they are aged 16 or 17 but there are extra rules) and you are under pension age; and you are available for work. You must be willing and able to take up work immediately (although some people are allowed notice). You must be prepared to work at least 40 hours a week. Disabled people and people caring for a child or for a disabled person can restrict themselves to fewer than 40 hours; and you are actively seeking work; and you enter into a jobseeker’s agreement. The DWP calls this a 'claimant commitment'. This sets out, for instance, the hours you have agreed to work, the type of work you are looking for and any restrictions on travel and pay; and any work you do is for less than 16 hours a week; and your partner, if you have one, is not working for 24 hours or more a week; and you or your partner (if you have one) are not getting income support (IS), income-related employment and support allowance (ESA) or pension credit; and you are not a qualifying young person – eg, aged 16 to 19 in full-time non-advanced education; and you do not have limited capability for work (although you can continue to get JSA for limited periods while sick); and you are present in Great Britain, satisfy the 'habitual residence test', including having the 'right to reside', and are not a ’person subject to immigration control’. These terms are explained in CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook; and your income is below the amount set for your basic living needs (known as your ’applicable amount’); and you have no more than £16,000 capital.

If you are a member of a couple, one of you must claim income-based JSA for both of you, and your joint income and capital is taken into account. Many couples have to make a joint claim for income-based JSA. This means you both have to satisfy the conditions of entitlement – eg, you both have to 'sign on' as available for and actively seeking work. You have to make a joint claim unless: you have a dependent child; or you are both under 18.


Amount of benefit

The amount of income-based JSA you get depends on your circumstances and the circumstances of your partner (if you have one). The amount also depends on your income and capital. Some kinds of income are ignored. For details, see CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook.

Income-based JSA is worked out in the same way as IS (see Cross reference). The amount you get is made up of: personal allowances (see Cross reference); and premiums (see Cross reference); and housing costs (see Cross reference).

The total of these is called your ’applicable amount’. If you have no other income, you are paid your full applicable amount. Otherwise, any income you do have is topped up with income-based JSA to the level of your applicable amount. If your weekly income is above your applicable amount, you are not entitled to income-based JSA. See Cross reference for how to work out your applicable amount. The rules are almost the same as those for IS, except that:

the higher rates of personal allowance are payable to couples under 18 in slightly different circumstances;

joint-claim couples can get a disability premium (at the couple rate) if one has had limited capability for work for 364 days (196 days if terminally ill). You need to claim ESA to establish limited capability for work even if you will not get it.

See the relevant chapters of this Handbook for more information on how specific income (eg, fostering allowances and payments from the local authority) is treated.


Contribution-based jobseeker’s allowance

Contribution-based JSA is not means tested. You must have paid NI contributions to get contribution-based JSA. It can only be paid for up to 26 weeks.


Who can claim contribution-based jobseeker’s allowance

You qualify for contribution-based JSA if:Footnote you are under pension age; and you are available for work. You must be willing and able to take up work immediately (although some people are allowed notice). You must be prepared to work at least 40 hours a week. Disabled people and people caring for a child or for a disabled person can restrict themselves to fewer than 40 hours; and you are actively seeking work; and you enter into a jobseeker’s agreement. The DWP calls this a 'claimant commitment'. This sets out, for instance, the hours you have agreed to work, the type of work you are looking for and any restrictions on travel and pay; and if you are doing any work, it is for less than 16 hours a week; and you are not in relevant education; and you do not have limited capability for work (you can continue to get JSA for limited periods while sick); and you are not getting IS; and you are present in Great Britain; and you have paid sufficient NI contributions (see below).


National insurance contributions

You must have paid Class 1 contributions of 26 times the lower earnings limit in one of the two complete tax years (6 April to 5 April) before the start of the benefit year (which runs from the first Sunday in January) in which you claim. You must also have paid or been credited with Class 1 contributions on earnings of 50 times the lower earnings limit in both of these years.

For more information on contribution conditions, see CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook.


Amount of benefit

Contribution-based JSA is paid at different weekly rates, depending on your age.

Weekly rate £
Under 25 57.90
25 or over 73.10

 

You may get less than this if you have part-time earnings, or an occupational or personal pension. Other income does not affect the amount you get. Contribution-based JSA is only paid for up to 26 weeks. Unlike income-based JSA, you only get amounts for yourself, not for a partner.


13. Pension credit

Pension credit (PC) is a benefit paid to people who have reached the 'qualifying age' (see Cross reference) whose income is below a certain level. You do not have to have paid any national insurance contributions to get PC.

PC consists of two different elements: guarantee credit, designed to bring your income up to a minimum level; and savings credit, which is paid to some people who have been able to make provision for retirement over and above the basic state retirement pension.

You can qualify for either or both credits. The savings credit is being phased out.Footnote

The Pension Service (part of the Department for Work and Pensions) is responsible for the administration of PC.


Who can claim pension credit

You qualify for PC if:Footnote you have reached the 'qualifying age' (see below) or, in the case of savings credit, you or your partner are aged 65 or over; and you are in Great Britain (with some exceptions for periods of temporary absence) and you satisfy the 'habitual residence test', including having the 'right  to reside', and are not a 'person subject to immigration control'. These terms are explained in CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook; and your income is below a set level. If you are a member of a couple, one of you must claim PC for both. Your joint income is taken into account.


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