Jobseeker's allowance (JSA)
This content applies to England only.
Housing laws vary between England and Scotland. Get advice relating to Scotland
If you are unemployed and seeking work, you may be entitled to jobseeker's allowance. You should also check if there are other benefits you can claim.
What is jobseeker's allowance?
Jobseeker's allowance is paid to unemployed people who are available for and actively seeking employment. You may be eligible if you are looking for work and are under the state pension age.
There are two different kinds of jobseeker’s allowance (JSA):
- contribution-based jobseeker's allowance
- income-based jobseeker's allowance.
When you apply, your local Jobcentre Plus office will work out which type you should get.
Claim JSA by phone, online or in person
To claim JSA, call 0800 0 55 66 88 or textphone 0800 0 23 48 88 (this is a service for hearing impaired people, and doesn't accept texts). You can also use the online claim form on the Gov.uk website.
Make sure you have:
- your national insurance number
- your P45 and wage slips (if you've worked in the past)
- any papers about a redundancy payment and/or pay in lieu of notice
- documentation confirming your immigration status if you have lived abroad.
You will also be asked to sign a jobseeker's agreement, stating that you are actively looking for a job, and will then need to 'sign on' every two weeks.
More information about JSA is also available from your local Jobcentre Plus. You can also get help and advice in claiming JSA from your local Shelter advice centre, or at your local Citizens Advice or welfare rights advice centre. Use our directory to find help in your local area.
What happens after a claim for JSA is made?
A decision should be made on your claim within 14 days. If you have not had confirmation of the decision within this time, you can:
- contact your local Jobcentre office to check that the claim is being dealt with and ask why there has been a delay.
- ask for an advance payment of JSA. If you get one, the amount will be deducted from any future payments you get.
- apply for a help from your local council.
To find out more about the help that may be available, see our page: Cash in a crisis.
You may want to make a complaint if you think you have been treated unfairly.
If the Jobcentre Plus has made a decision that you are not happy with, you may be able to challenge it. You can ask for the decision to be looked at again and/or you can appeal. It is important to act quickly as you normally need to do this within one month of the date of the decision. If you wait, you may lose out. For help challenging the decision, use our directory to find an adviser in your local area.
Who can't claim?
There are circumstances where you probably won't be able to claim JSA, such as:
- if you are working for more than an average of 16 hours a week, or
- if you are a full-time student. However, if you are responsible for bringing up a child you may be able to claim during the summer holidays.
What is contribution-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA)?
You can claim contribution-based JSA for up to six months if you have worked in the past and paid a certain number of national insurance contributions. Contact your local Jobcentre to find out if you are eligible to claim.
If you are still unemployed when your entitlement to contribution-based JSA ends, you may be able to claim income-based jobseeker's allowance.
Income-based jobseeker's allowance
Income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA) can be paid if you don't have enough national insurance contributions to get contribution-based JSA or your entitlement has ended. You probably won't be entitled to income-based JSA if:
- you have savings over £16,000, or
- your partner works an average of more than 24 hours a week, or
- you are over 60 (for women) or 65 (for men) - you may be entitled to pension credit instead.
Savings between £6,000 and £16,000 will normally reduce the amount of JSA you receive.
If you live with a partner, your combined income will be assessed.
Jobseeker’s allowance if you are 16 or 17 years old
If you are 16 or 17 years old you will generally not be eligible for JSA. However, there are some situations of severe hardship when you can still make a claim. You may be able to claim JSA if you are 16 or 17 and in any of the following situations:
- you are forced to live away from your parents
- you and your partner are responsible for bringing up a child
- no-one else is able to provide support for you
- you are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless
- you are disabled.
If you have been in care, social services are responsible for supporting you financially until your 18th birthday.
Jobseeker’s allowance for the under 25s
Single people under the age of 25 who are not responsible for any children are entitled to less JSA than people over 25.
Other restrictions apply, depending on whether you are claiming contribution-based JSA or income-based JSA:
Entitlement to other benefits
If you are claiming income-based JSA you may also be entitled to:
- free school meals
- free prescriptions
- social fund payments
- sight tests and help with glasses or contact lenses
- help with travel costs to visit an NHS hospital, doctor, or dentist.
Benefits if you are not seeking work
- a lone parent or a carer, or
- sick or disabled.