All you need to know about Job Seekers Allowance part 3

CoinsClick for confidential 1-2-1 email advice on money and benefits.

Does volunteering count as work?

Volunteering does not count as paid work. If you are currently volunteering, or would like to volunteer to gain new skills, discuss this with your personal adviser at Jobcentre Plus. It may be possible that you can work part-time and volunteer around your working hours. However, you will have to be prepared to put paid work first and perhaps leave a voluntary position if it makes you unavailable for paid work.

I resigned from/lost my last job. Will this affect my claim?
This depends on the circumstances of how you left your last job.
Your claim will not be affected if you can show that you left/lost your job with ‘just cause’, which means that there was a good reason for leaving/losing your job. For example, if you were made redundant, you resigned because you couldn’t find appropriate childcare for your children, or because your employer demanded a change of hours that would have prevented you from caring for your children.If you are unable to show that you left your last job with ‘just cause’, or you were fired due to misconduct, then Jobcentre Plus might decide that you are not eligible for JSA.

What happens if I don’t meet the criteria for claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance?

 If Jobcentre Plus decide that you haven’t been meeting the criteria for claiming JSA, for example, if you can’t prove you’re looking for work, or you left your job without a valid reason, then it is likely that you will be sanctioned.

What are ‘sanctions’?
In order to claim JSA, you will need to fulfil certain criteria: mainly that you are available for and actively seeking work, and you attend your Jobsearch Reviews. If the criteria are not met, then Jobcentre Plus can make the decision that you should be ‘sanctioned’. This means that you will lose 40% of your usual benefit.

What do I do if Jobcentre Plus sanction me or stop my JSA?
If you are sanctioned, then you are able to apply for a hardship payment which is 60% of what you normally get. You do not need to fill in any forms for this, but you do need to talk to your personal adviser about whether you are entitled to a hardship payment.

What happens if I miss a Jobsearch Review?
Regular Jobsearch Reviews will be arranged between you and your adviser. If you are unable to attend a review, you must let your adviser know in advance and rearrange. If you miss a review, you must let your adviser know as soon as possible and explain why you were unable to attend - you will need to show that you had a good reason.

Will I be expected to look for work far from home?
You will be expected to look for jobs within 1-hour distance from your home (which means 2 hours travelling maximum per day). This also includes time to drop off your children into nursery, childcare or school. So, if you are offered a job which would take you longer than 1 hour to get there, you would have ‘just cause’ to turn it down.

What if I’m offered a job but I can’t find suitable or affordable childcare?
If you are unable to find childcare that is affordable or suitable for your children then you can turn down a job offer. However, it is really important to explain this to your personal advisor – you will need to show them that you have looked for childcare, and they will need to know your reasons for deciding that the childcare is unsuitable. If the reason is accepted, then you will be able to carry on claiming JSA.

If I start a job, but my childcare situation changes and becomes unsuitable, what do I do then?
If you are unable to continue working due to your childcare becoming inappropriate, you will need to talk to your personal adviser and explain why. If you can show that your childcare is unsuitable, you will not be sanctioned for leaving your job. Also, if your child has been suspended/expelled from school and you do not have the childcare to deal with this situation, make sure you speak to your adviser as it might be agreed that you are unable to take up work at this time.

I only want to work in term-time. Do I still have to work throughout the school holidays?
When you have your initial discussion with your personal adviser, explain that you are able to work while your children are in school, but because you do not have access to short-term childcare you would prefer not to work during the school holidays. If you are able to show that you have tried to find childcare, but for the holidays it is unsuitable, then the Jobcentre Plus should accept that you are unavailable to work during these times.