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Understanding JSA and benefits after losing your job

Losing your job is a major blow, and one that can take some time coming to terms with. However, it has an immediate impact on your income, so it is important to act quickly to ensure you and your family can survive.

Getting another job is the best solution but this is not always possible, especially in the current economic climate, so one of the first things to do is contact your local JobCentre Plus to find out what benefits and other types of support you might be entitled to. This will depend on your personal circumstances, such as whether you are single, have a partner and/or children and what National Insurance contributions you have made.

Benefit problems represent one of the largest areas of enquiries for Lincoln and District Citizens Advice Bureau – applying for welfare support can be quite daunting, especially for those seeking help for the first time.

If you are out of work, over 18 and under State Pension Age, you may be entitled to Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA), which will either be contribution based depending on the National Insurance payment made while in employment, or income based, which is means tested.

The amounts received while you look for work are usually the same; £57.35 per week for people under 24 and £72.40 for over 25s. However, your savings, capital and other income could affect the amounts received for income-based JSA.

You must attend a JobCentre Plus interview to get JSA, where you will have to agree to take steps to find work by, for example, improving your skills, CV or interview preparation. This is called a Jobseekers’ Agreement and your payments may be stopped if you do not follow it without a good reason.

Claimants must visit the JobCentre every two weeks (or when asked) to show how they have been looking for work – this is known as signing on.
JSA penalties, known as sanctions, may be imposed and payments stopped if you don’t visit the JobCentre when asked; turn down a job or training; do not attend training booked for you; leave a job or training or do not apply for work. The maximum sanction is three years.

Other payments such as Housing Benefit and Council Tax Relief are available to help cover living costs, and it is important to have as much information as possible to receive all the benefits you and your family are entitled to.

The Benefits section of CAB’s website can help. It covers all aspects of social security and includes useful frequently asked questions and fact sheets – the latter in several languages.

The Department of Work and Pensions has guides to benefits and links to Benefit Calculators, so you can input all your information to check your entitlements before making your claim.