- Jobseeker's Allowance
Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) is a United Kingdom benefit, colloquially known as the dole (or, in Northern Ireland & Scotland, as broo). It is a form of unemployment benefit paid by the government to people who are unemployed and seeking work. It is part of the social security benefits system and is intended to cover living expenses while the claimant is out of work. It is paid by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in England, Wales, and Scotland, and in Northern Ireland by the Social Security Agency - an executive agency of the Department for Social Development. It is a working age benefit, and is generally available only to those aged 18–60 (the exact maximum age for claiming the allowance is linked to the rise in State Pension age). Jobseeker's Allowance is likely to be replaced by the Universal Credit during the current parliament. There are two forms of Jobseeker's Allowance, contribution-based and income-based.
To be eligible for JSA the claimant must prove that they are actively seeking work. This is done by filling in a Jobseeker's Agreement form and attending a New Jobseeker interview (NJI). They must also present themselves at their local Job Centre every two weeks thereafter to "sign on". Receiving Jobseeker's Allowance is therefore also known colloquially as "signing on". Claims for Jobseeker's Allowance are maintained by the Jobseeker's Allowance Payment System (JSAPS).
Outside the United Kingdom, similar payments are made in the Republic of Ireland and in Australia. Ireland has its own version of Jobseeker's Allowance which is also colloquially known as the dole (see unemployment benefit section Ireland). Australia has implemented strikingly similar unemployment/welfare policies, which also have official titles based on informal, colloquial terminology. (e.g. see Centrelink and Work for the dole).
The first unemployment benefits were paid in 1911, to job seekers who had paid National Insurance contributions ("the stamp"). These payments were thus made only to people who had recently been in work, and not simply to those on low incomes. Furthermore, benefits were only paid for up to twelve months, by which time a claimant had to have regained work.
After the Second World War, the National Assistance Act 1946 was passed, and from 1948 anyone of working age on a low income could apply for support. National Assistance was replaced by Supplementary Benefit in November 1966, and Unemployment Benefit claimants could transfer to this after their initial entitlement had expired. Supplementary Benefit was later replaced by Income Support in April 1988.
To streamline the system of benefits, improve claimant compliance and partially remove the distinction between means-tested claimants and those claiming against contribution records, long-term job seekers were disallowed from claiming Income Support in 1996 when the current Jobseeker's Allowance was introduced.
Contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance
Contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA(C)) entitlement is based on Class 1 National Insurance contributions in the two complete tax years preceding the calendar year of claim. This allowance is paid regardless of assets.
Certain other benefits including Statutory sick pay, Statutory paternity pay, Statutory maternity pay, Statutory adoption pay, Employment and Support Allowance, Bereavement benefit, Carer's allowance and JSA(C) itself also count towards Class 1 contributions and are called "Credited Class 1 contributions".
Self-employed people do not pay Class 1 contributions, and thus may not claim JSA(C).
JSA(C) may be claimed for only 26 weeks before having to move onto JSA(IB), if eligible (see below).
Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
People who are not eligible for JSA(C) may claim Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, JSA(IB), which is means tested for each individual claimant and/or their dependents. People who are eligible for JSA(C) may also claim JSA(IB) for any additional payments due under that benefit (for family dependents, for example). JSA(IB) is payable only if the claimant has less than £16,000 in savings (correct as of July 2006). Payments are reduced if the claimant has savings between £6,000 and £16,000.
Both forms of benefit face 100% marginal deductions if the individual earns more than a small amount - the 'disregard' - this is £5 per week for single people, £10 per week for couples and £20 per week for certain other groups such as some lone parents and disabled people. The 'disregard' has remained at the same nominal amount since the 1980s and has never been uprated with inflation, unlike benefits themselves. The benefit is withdrawn from those working 16 or more hours a week (though this does not apply to voluntary work). Part time students can claim provided they do not have more than 16 hours a week in teacher contact time and the course is not officially designated as full time by the college (irrespective of the number of hours of contact time).
In certain cases, a claimant's Jobseeker's Allowance may be stopped. These are:
- Not being available for or actively seeking work, or not signing the Jobseeker's Agreement: if a claimant does not declare on the Jobseeker's Agreement that they are available for and actively seeking work, and sign the Agreement, the benefit will be suspended until the claimant completes and signs the agreement. Once the agreement has been signed, a Decision Maker will decide how much of the claim should be backdated, if any.
- Missing a Restart interview: the claim will be terminated unpaid, back benefit entitlement will be lost, and the claimant will need to make a new claim.
- Voluntarily leaving work, or refusing a notified vacancy: temporary reduction or stoppage of benefit payment, known as a sanction. The sanction may be up to 26 weeks, and the length will be decided by an adjudicator. A notified vacancy is a job vacancy which the claimant has found out about from Job Centre Plus, who keep records of all the jobs their clients request information about.
- Refusing to attend compulsory scheme, or failing to comply with Direction: sanction of two weeks for the first instance, and four weeks for second and subsequent instances.
When a claimant attends a new Jobseeker Interview, they form a Jobseeker's Agreement with their advisor and sign it. The terms of the agreement include:
- How many companies they will telephone each week
- How many companies they will visit in person each week
- Whether they will use any magazines/newspapers to find vacancies
- That they will not work for more than 16 hours a week. Educational courses are sometimes counted for this time limit. The reason for this limit is that the government believes that doing more than 16 hours affects the Jobseeker's ability to find employment.
If claimants below the female state pension age have been unemployed for over twelve months, they will be placed on the New Deal scheme. Some may also enter the New Deal process early if they fall in special categories. From 2009, a Flexible New Deal scheme started using the private sector to provide tailored employment and skills support, with return-to-work performance incentives for the providers.
In Northern Ireland the New Deal was replaced in 2008 by a similar scheme known as Steps to Work. This scheme is administered by the Department for Employment and Learning which operates Jobs & Benefits Offices jointly with the Social Security Agency. 
Over the state pension age
Male claimants who reach the State Pension age for females (which is currently just over 60 years) are still eligible to claim Jobseeker's Allowance, although they must remain actively looking for work. Female claimants can only claim until they reach their relevant State Pension age. In both cases, the State Pension age is due to rise to 66 by 2020.
A claimant (regardless of their gender) can instead apply for Pension Credit after they have reached the female state pension age. This replaces their Jobseeker's payments and avoids the requirement to sign on. NI credits will be paid on their behalf, regardless of whether they are claiming either benefit.
- ^ According to the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article on Dole, the word dole, meaning a charitable distribution of food and money, derives from Old English dal.
- ^ At the female state pension age it is normally better to claim Pension Credit
- ^ http://www.citizensinformation.ie/categories/social-welfare/social-welfare-payments/unemployed-people/jobseekers-allowance>
- ^ National Insurance Act 1911
- ^ Jobseeker’s Allowance, Department for Work and Pensions, June 2006, ISBN 978-1-84695-235-7, Leaflet QCJSAA5JP, http://collections.europarchive.org/tna/20080207123812/http://www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk/JCP/stellent/groups/jcp/documents/websitecontent/dev_011741.pdf, retrieved 2010-04-23
- ^ Volunteering while getting benefits, Department for Work and Pensions, February 2010, ISBN 9781847630544, DWP1023 v2.1, http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/dwp1023.pdf, retrieved 2010-05-04
- ^ http://www.delni.gov.uk/index/finding-employment-finding-staff/fe-fs-help-to-find-employment/stepstowork.htm
- Jobseeker's Allowance - a survival guide from Urban75 e-zine
- Guardian Special Report - State Benefits
Former PlannedUniversal Credit (2013)
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