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How to claim JSA

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

Contact your local Jobs and Benefits Office (JBO). If you ring, they will send you an application form and a date to come in for an interview. If you call into a JBO, you will be given the application form and a date for your interview.

If you've had JSA in the last 6 months and your circumstances haven't changed, you can reclaim quickly instead of using the full process.

How to complete the application form

Find all the personal information you need for your application. If you're making a joint claim, get this for each person.

How much money you have

You'll need the number and sort code of your bank, building society, credit union or Post Office account - if you don’t have an account you’ll need to open one.

If you’ve tried to open an account and had your application refused, you can ask for a ‘simple payment’ - this means you can collect your JSA payments from a PayPoint. You’ll need to explain why you can’t open a bank account.

Check how much money you have coming in each month from benefits or work. Write these figures down separately. Check the amount of any other income, for example rent from a lodger.

If you're applying for income-based JSA, you'll also need to know how much you have in savings. Check any bank or savings accounts - and anywhere else that you have money.

If you’ve been paid redundancy, you’ll need to give full details of the payment - for example if it’s ‘statutory’ or ‘contractual’ redundancy.

Your current and past work

You'll need your National Insurance number and also your partner's. If you don't have one you should apply. You can find your National Insurance number or apply for one on nidirect.

Make a list of the jobs you've had in the last 6 months - including employer contact details and the dates you worked there

If you've done work-related courses and training in the last 6 months - check the dates and who the training was with.

You resigned from your last job - 'leaving work voluntarily'

When you apply, you’ll have to explain the reasons why you resigned - for example if your job was causing you health problems.

If your personal adviser at the JBO doesn't think you had a good reason, they might give you a sanction at the start of your claim. This means you’ll have to wait a few weeks before you get your first payment.

You shouldn’t be sanctioned if you left your job because you:

  • took voluntary redundancy
  • weren't getting the minimum wage
  • weren’t safe because your job conditions didn't meet health and safety standards
  • were bullied or harassed - as long as your personal adviser agrees that leaving your job in these circumstances was reasonable
  • had a zero-hour contract
  • left the job during the 'trial period' - this is usually more than 5 weeks but less than 13 weeks after starting

If you need to show your personal adviser that you had a good reason for leaving your job, you should get evidence together such as:

  • messages between you and your employer or union about your resignation
  • photos of unsafe conditions at work
  • copies of payslips showing less than the minimum wage

You should explain your reasons for resigning when you apply for JSA. Explain what evidence you have and that you can give them the evidence at your first JSA claim interview.  

If you left because of childcare commitments

You should show that the working hours made it impossible for you to look after your children. Explain to your personal adviser:

  • when you need to look after your children
  • why you couldn't use after school clubs or relatives to help you
  • any requests you made to your employer to change your working hours
  • any changes your employer made to your working pattern

You'll need to get evidence together such as:

  • a letter from school or nursery
  • a copy of your contract
  • messages between you and your employer or union

Your working hours

You'll need to give the number of hours you work a week. If you do a different number each week, start by thinking if you do a regular pattern.

If there's no pattern to your work, count the hours you worked in the last 5 weeks and divide by 5 to get an average.

If you do a regular pattern, calculate how many hours you'd do each week if the work was spread evenly. For example if you work during 2 weeks but not the next, divide all the hours you work in the first 2 weeks by 3 (because your cycle is 3 weeks).

Your cycle can be a year, for example if you only work in school term time. Start with the hours you work in a week during working times. Multiply this by the number of weeks you work in a year, and divide this by 52.

If you need help working out your working hours, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

Who you live with

You'll need the names of anyone you live with - whether they're family members or not. You might need to give information about their job, benefits and income, but you can still apply if you don't know.

If you don't have some of the information

You can start your claim without all the information but you’ll have to provide it later. Try and get it as soon as you can or your JSA claim might be delayed. If you don’t understand some of the questions, the JBO staff will help you when you go for your interview.

If you can’t get the information at all, you can ask to leave it out of your application - for example if a document is at someone else’s home and you don’t feel safe asking for it.

You can tell them at your interview about the information you couldn’t get and why you couldn’t get it.

If you're having trouble finding information you can contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help.

Apply for JSA

Contact your local JBO to apply. Say if you need extra help - for example if English isn’t your first language, you might be able to arrange for an interpreter to help you with your application.

If you want to apply for help with housing costs, ask about this when you talk to your local JBO.

Backdating JSA if you couldn't apply earlier

You might be able to ask for your JSA claim to be valid from an earlier date - this is called 'backdating'. You could get JSA for up to 3 months before you applied.

When you can backdate

You can only backdate your claim if you have a good reason - for example a close relative died or you were given wrong advice by the JBO.

You'll usually need to have looked for a job and been available for work from the day you want your JSA to start. If this wasn't possible, you can still ask to backdate your claim but you'll need a good reason. This can be the same reason you give for wanting to backdate.

How to backdate your claim

When you apply you'll be asked when you want the claim to start. Give the date you'd have applied if you could, for example the date you were given wrong advice.

You'll need to give evidence to show why you didn't apply earlier. For example, if the JBO gave you wrong information you could provide emails or letters showing what they told you.

You'll also need to prove you've been job hunting and available for work. Keep anything that shows this, for example copies of job applications or emails showing you registered with a job website.

It can be difficult to prove that you're entitled to backdated payments - contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you need help.

What happens next

Your jobseeker interview will be within 5 days your JSA application.

You should plan for your interview by thinking about the job hunting and working arrangements that will be suitable for you. 

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