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Working age benefits

Most unemployed people will be on Jobseekers Allowance (JSA). It’s not an automatic right, though. If you quit your previous job or were fired, you might not qualify straight away.

If you have been unwell or have a disability, you might be put on to Employment and Support Allowance, although you’ll be regularly re-assessed to check you aren’t capable of some kind of work and, if so, you’ll be moved to JSA. You might also have access to a range of other benefits, depending on your circumstances.

In addition to these benefits, which are run by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), there are also benefits you may be able to get from your local council. If you’re out of work or in low-paid work, contact your local authority about applying for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support.

If you’re aged 18-65, check what benefits you’re entitled to here or call Turn2us on 0808 802 2000.

Welfare Reform
For jobseekers, alongside other changes to benefits, Welfare Reform will also mean new rules on people who could be earning their money. There are changes to the benefits themselves and the amount of pressure on people to find work, whether you’re fit, unwell, disabled or struggling in other ways.

How will the benefits change?
The big change will be the slow introduction of Universal Credit. It is designed to bring many different benefits under one heading and is hoped to make anyone who finds any kind of work better off, which the current system does not.

What pressure will working age claimants be under?
If you’re already on Jobseekers Allowance, you will be expected to apply for as many jobs as possible and to join whichever of the various programmes Job Centre Plus line you up for. Failing to do so can result in sanctions, such as withdrawal of your benefit. You will also lose your benefit for turning down a job. This is not a threat – it’s happening to many people already.

You may be put onto the Work Programme, which has not proved very successful for jobseekers to date. Make the most of it, however, and get as much other help as you can. Check out our advice for jobseekers.

The Government have also launched their online Universal Jobmatch service and jobseekers will be increasingly expected to use it, so their efforts can be managed. The service helps you promote yourself to employers and hear about job opportunities that come up. There is also the Government Gateway, which jobseekers are being asked to sign up to and could be a challenge for people who are not very IT savvy.

When does this happen?
The only change that hasn’t already started is the introduction of Universal Credit. See further information here.

What should I do now?

  • Check what benefits you should be on (Benefits Checker)
  • Get online, as over time most benefits will be accessed online and you’ll be more likely to find work if you know your way around a computer and the internet. Universal Jobmatch will need you to be online too
  • Be clear about your Job Centre Plus adviser’s expectations and what might happen if you don’t follow their guidance

Check out:
Please note there are variations across the UK. Please check the links apply to your country.

Jobseekers Allowance
Government’s JSA overview
Citizens Advice on JSA

Disability and Illness
Quids in! Overview
Government’s ESA overview
Citizens Advice on Sick/ Disabled

Housing Benefit
Shelter (England only)

Council Tax Support
Shelter (England only)

Benefits Checker
Turn2us (18+)