Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) is a form of unemployment benefit paid by the Government of the United Kingdom to people who are unemployed and actively 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.
JSA is administered 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. Claimants must be between 18 years of age and the State Pension age.
There are two forms of Jobseeker's Allowance, contribution-based and income-based. Universal Credit was due to replace Jobseeker's Allowance and other benefits for 500,000 new claimants from October 2013, and eventually will replace income-based Jobseeker's Allowance entirely.
To be eligible for JSA, claimants must state that they are actively seeking work by filling in a Jobseeker's Agreement form and attending a New Jobseeker interview (NJI). They must also go to a Job Centre every two weeks to "sign on", that is, to certify that they are still actively seeking work. Claims for Jobseeker's Allowance are maintained by the Jobseeker's Allowance Payment System (JSAPS).
The first unemployment benefits were paid in 1911 under the National Insurance Act 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.
As a direct consequence of the return from war of injured servicemen, the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944 was brought into force to enable these to secure employment. 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.
The Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act was brought into force in 1992.
During 1995 legislation was passed through the House of Commons entitled the JobSeekers Act. The 1995 Act introduced the term job-seeking to describe a new benefit. The Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations of 1996 (S1 1996/207) were produced within a period of six months from the act coming into force, with the change of Income Support provision to Jobseekers allowance occurring on October the 7th 1996. Previously during September the 11th 1996 the Social Security (Credits and Contributions) (Jobseeker's Allowance Consequential and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations were created, brought before parliament five days later and subsequently made policy coming into force also on 7 October.
The change was introduced to streamline the systematic administration of benefits by improving claimant compliance and to partially remove the distinction between means-tested claimants and those claiming against contribution records.
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The introduction of a period of mandatory work activity amounting to a maximum of four weeks of thirty hours each week in employment, was made in April 2011 by Iain Duncan Smith. This activity was expected to be made available to approximately 10,000 individuals specifically those having participated in signing-on for at least thirteen weeks, although the employment be available to any person in receipt of Jobseeker-benefit irrespective of the length of their term.
At some time an initiative to assist others was felt amongst the Social Security Advisory Committee so The Employment Skills and Regulations Scheme. The governmental bodies having had a look at the ideas felt they weren't altogether correct and only accepted the need for two-thirds of the total of changes suggested. During 2011 the Jobseeker's Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise) Regulations were brought into force requiring the long-term unemployed to participate, as one factor of the scheme, in an activity of work unpaid for a maximum of six-months.
The average number of claimants between the years 2003 and 2008 was 814,000, and average number of new claims was approximately 2,463,000. Nearly 40% of income-based claimants during 2003, were also claiming Housing Benefit. The DWP for England and Wales showed one third of the total number of claimants for JSA were persons having been convicted of a crime resulting in their act(s) having been recorded by the police authorities. In the Guardian newspaper in March 2001, the success of the New Deal scheme was reported, the report stated that 270,000 people were found full-time employment and the cost of achieving this end was half of the estimated amount. According to a report in 2008 by the Social Market Foundation there were approximately 100,000 long-term unemployed persons claiming JSA, at any given time.
Since the beginning of 2010 to April 2011 the number of claimants having found their benefits in non-payment was greatly increased relatively, amounting to 75,000 persons. The Department for Work and Pensions denied targeting vulnerable people.
When claimants attend their first Jobseeker Interview, they are required to sign a contract with their advisor. The contract can be changed at one-to-one interviews. Its terms include that claimants state:
- How many companies they will telephone each week
- The maximum commuting time they will accept
- How many things they will do to get work a week
- How many times they will search the DirectGov website's job section each week
- How many companies they will personally visit each week
- Whether they will use any magazines/newspapers to find jobs
- That they will not work paid or unpaid for more than 16 hours a week.
Whether claimants are paid therefore depends on whether they uphold the contract they have agreed to – from a political theory known as Welfare Contractualism, first expressed in the 1998 paper New Ambitions for our Country: A New Contract for Welfare
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In certain cases, a claimant's Jobseeker's Allowance may be stopped. A person choosing to remain out of employment should a vacancy be available is obliged to give a "good reason" for the choice, or else their monies are to be withheld, also:
- 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.
- Failing to attend a Jobcentre appointment: the claimant may be sanctioned for 4 or 13 weeks.
- Voluntarily leaving work, or refusing a notified vacancy: The claimant may be sanctioned for up to 13 weeks, 26 weeks or 3 years in the case of repeated transgressions.
- Refusing to attend compulsory scheme, or failing to comply with Direction: A sanction of 4 weeks for the first instance, and 13 weeks for second and subsequent instances.
The suitability of person for a particular type of employment; the person's individual skill group or particular intelligences are outside of the contractual focus, acceptance of the contractual obligation of having the goal of securing employment irrespective of suitability, is the criterion for receipt of financial support.
However, there are numerous examples of sanctions being imposed for spurious reasons, and proven allegations of sanction targets.
Contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA(C)) entitlement is based on Class 1 National Insurance contributions in the two complete tax years preceding the benefit year of claim. This allowance is paid regardless of assets; however, whilst this statement applies to "savings, capital or a partner's earnings", there are other caveats which exclude payment. For instance, any personal or occupational pension over £50 a week result in deductions. Thus many older citizens seeking work are excluded, despite qualifying through NI contributions payments, because they have pension income.
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 in any benefit year. When entitlement to JSA(C) is exhausted, JSA(IB) may then become payable if eligible (see below).
If there is no entitlement to JSA(IB), a person can re-qualify for JSA(C) in a subsequent benefit year based on contributions paid in the relevant contribution years, providing that there has been a break in of at least twelve weeks. S/he must wait until the beginning of a new benefit year before s/he can claim again.
The payment of money to individuals on low-incomes, who would otherwise be in a condition of some kind of deprivation is a kind of social assistance.
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 May 2013). 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).
During 2001 claims were of two stages, the first being an initial jobseekers agreement and allowance lasting for a period 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. During October 2009 the New Deal programmes were replaced by the Flexible New Deal programmes, these available to claimants still unemployed after a period of twelve months.
The Work Programme
Work programmes ; Flexible New deal, New Deal for Young People, New Deal 25+, New Deal for Disabled people, New Deal for Lone parents, Pathways to Work, Progress2Work and Employment Zones, were replaced by The Work programme during June 2011. On 6 March 2012 the UK Government announced benefits changes for prisoners at the end of their sentence and those claiming JSA. They would be sent on the work programme along with JSA claimants who had been claiming past 26 weeks. On the work programme they must sign a form to agree to a 30 hours a week of unpaid work or face sanctions of 6 months. Unlike New Deal there is no choice of training or help setting up a business neither can the job seeker choose what type of unpaid work they do. In nearly all cases the unpaid placement involves shop work. From 2012, work placement advisors would receive £5,600 should they find work for a person leaving prison who keeps the job for two years. According to the Government, from June 2011 only 1 in 5 participants in the Work Programme remained off benefits for over six months.
Men who reach the women's State Pension age (currently just over 63 years; men's is 65) can still claim Jobseeker's Allowance, but must remain actively seeking work. Women can only claim until they reach the State Pension age. The State Pension age will rise to 66 for both men and women by 2020.
A man can apply for Pension Credit on reaching the women's state pension age. This replaces Jobseeker's Allowance payments and he need no longer "sign on" at the JobCentre. National Insurance credits are paid by the Government on his behalf, even if he claims another benefit.
A woman must move from JSA to Pension Credit at the State Pension age.
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