Jobseeker’s Allowance – can you claim this summer?
Are you a full time university student? Fruitlessly searching for a summer job? Do you have a dependent child, or have you taken time out of a course due to illness or caring responsibilities? If you have said yes to these questions, read our introduction to claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance.
There has been a lot of talk recently about students and summer jobs – or lack of them – following a survey by The Student Room showing that work over the long break can be hard to come by for many. Most people think you can’t get Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) to help you out over the summer while you’re a full time university student. The theory goes that your student finance funding paid at the start of term three (usually in April) should last you until your course resumes in September. This is true for the majority, but there are some exceptions. Are you:
- a lone parent? or
- one of a ‘student couple’ (your partner also being a full-time student) and you have responsibility for a child or young person? or
- waiting to go back to a course, having taken time out because of illness or caring responsibilities (for a child or elderly/disabled close relative, for example) that have now ceased?
If you answered yes to any of the above, you may be eligible to claim JSA, but you must also meet other conditions. We suggest you seek further advice (see below for how to claim and how to get advice).
Act now, as it can be hard to backdate your claim.
Benefits entitlement can change over time. If your circumstances change in future (for example, when your course finishes completely and you start looking for work), do check your entitlement again.
To get JSA, you have to be 18 or over and under state pension age and show that you meet certain conditions about looking for work. You have to actively seek work, be available for work (you must be generally willing and able to take up employment immediately) and have a current Jobseeker’s Agreement or Claimant Commitment with your Jobcentre Plus office. You will have to sign on at your Jobcentre Plus office at least every two weeks so that they can check whether you meet these conditions and see if you need any extra help to find work. They can also call you in at any time and if they think that you are not keeping to your Jobseeker’s Agreement or Claimant Commitment, your benefit may be cut or stopped.
How much could you get if you qualify?
There are two types of JSA:
Contributory JSA (paid for up to six months)
To qualify, you must have paid enough National Insurance contributions in the previous two tax years (which you may not have done as a student). The amount you will get per week (from 7 April 2014) depends on your age. If you’re under 25, it’s £57.35; if you’re 25 or over, it’s £72.40. Your ‘capital’ (savings and other wealth) or any other income does not affect your contributory JSA entitlement.
Income-based JSA (soon to be replaced by Universal Credit)
This does not rely on your National Insurance contributions record but is ‘means-tested’ (worked out based upon your overall financial situation). The maximum amounts available are the same as for contributory JSA, but you may not get the full amount because other income and capital may be taken into account in the calculation. Student income from grants, loans (maintenance element, not tuition fee element) and bursaries may be taken into account in the means test. Even if you don’t actually receive a student loan for maintenance, our understanding is that Jobcentre Plus must assume that you do and include it in the calculation of your income.
In most cases, you will not get any money for the first three days of your claim – these are called ‘waiting days’ (this might rise to seven waiting days in the near future).
How to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance and how to get advice
You can find information about how to claim on the GOV.UK website.
Above is only a brief outline and should not be taken as a comprehensive guide. Your local Jobcentre Plus may be able to advise you based on your specific circumstances, but you might also wish to get independent advice from your university’s student Financial Advice team or an experienced JSA adviser – for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, visit the CAB website.
What else do I need to know about Jobseeker’s Allowance?
This is a ‘Tax Guide for Students’, so we mustn’t let you leave without a word about tax!
Both contributory and income-based JSA are taxable income. This means you need to include them when you work out your tax for the year.
Confusingly however, the two types are treated differently for tax credits purposes. Contributory JSA is counted as income for tax credit purposes (and in due course will be treated as income in full for universal credit). Income-based JSA is not counted as income for tax credits (and in future will become part of Universal Credit).
We also recommend reading our section on tax credits, in case you qualify for further help.