If you are unemployed and 18+

You may be able to claim Universal Credit (UC) or Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). If you are single it is likely that you will have to claim UC rather than JSA. If you have a partner you may be able to claim JSA for them (or UC later in the year). If one of you is under 18, extra rules apply so get advice.

For couples where one or both of you is under 18, a lower rate may apply, depending on your circumstances.

UC is paid monthly. JSA is normally paid every two weeks. Both are paid in arrears.

A Universal Credit claim must be started online – go to www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit. To start a JSA claim go to www.gov.uk/jobseekers-allowance or if you can’t do this, ring the Jobcentre Plus new claims helpline. For either benefit you will have to attend an interview at the Jobcentre. Be on time – showing up late can affect your claim.

The work coach at the Jobcentre will ask you about why you are unemployed. If you left a job or got sacked because of misconduct you may lose benefit (but still make a claim as soon as you can, otherwise you may lose even more!) This is called a sanction. If you don’t think it was fair to sanction you, get advice and ask for a mandatory reconsideration. Appeal if you are still not satisfied. An appeal has a good chance of overturning the decision.

To claim UC or JSA you must normally be looking for a job (or training placement). You have to ‘sign on’, and show what you are doing to find work – usually through ‘Universal Jobmatch’ – see here.

You can put ‘reasonable restrictions’ on your availability – e.g. what areas you can travel to for work, the pay you’ll accept, the hours of the day you can work. These must be ‘reasonable’ (i.e. leave you with a good chance of getting a job) or you could lose benefit. You can restrict your availability to your usual job/pay for up to 13 weeks. You should also be able to make restrictions because you care for someone, or you have a disability that restricts the type of work that you can do.

There may be financial help to get into work if you’ve been out of work for some time – ask your jobcentre work coach.