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Jobseeker's Allowance (or 'JSA' as the civil servants down with the kids know it) is a benefit for the unemployed, in the United Kingdom.

It was introduced on October 7, 1996 to replace the old unemployment benefit system.

To be eligible for JSA you have to be available for work and actively seeking work. No longer can you sit around doing fuck all and receive the same amount as someone applying for every vacancy going. Well, in theory anyway.

There are two types of JSA, Contribution Based and Income Based.

Contribution Based JSA is available for those who have paid enough National Insurance over the last two tax years, and is around £45/56 a week depending on your age, and whether you're reading this in the future. You can claim this for 6 months even if your spouse is working full time.

Income Based JSA is a means tested benefit, which means that whether you have a working partner, savings or children will determine how much money you are entitled to per week. Generally people leaving school will have to claim this as they have paid no National Insurance. If you are lucky enough to be entitled to this, and can get your housing benefit sorted, there is little incentive to work providing you can deal drugs on the side.

To show that you are available/looking for work, you have to visit your local JobCentre every fortnight to sign on. The advisor that you see will register that you attended on the computer system, which will enable it to sort out your money at midnight. Depending on how busy it is, the advisor will usually ask what you have been doing to look for work. Standard forms are issued which make it easy to show your efforts.

Despite being a benefit for the unemployed, you are allowed to work a part-time job of up to 16 hours a week. You declare your hours and earnings to the advisor, who logs it onto the system and forwards details to the benefits agency, who actually do the assessing to determine the amount you receive. You get to keep your hard earned paycheck, but everything over the first £5 you earn will be deducted from your benefit. Worry ye not, for when you get a full-time job you can claim half of that money deducted as a lump sum.

As long as you keep your head down and look like you are seeking work, it's all good.

Any jobs an advisor pushes you for that you refuse or do not apply for will lead to action being taken against you. Namely, loss of benefit. However, even if you manage to balls it up, you can still apply for Hardship payments. Write 'I have no money for food' on the form and you will get a slightly reduced amount of benefit for the punishment period.

The actual money from JSA is given to you in 3 different ways, either by a cheque ('Giro'), into your bank account, or if you are of no fixed abode and have no bank account you can pick up a cheque from the actual JobCentre two days after you attend. These cheques can be cashed at your designated Post Office.

Every so often (13 weeks, 26 weeks etc) you will be asked to draw up a new jobseeking contract, just incase you decide to suddenly change your target jobs, or go on a training course.

After 6 months of daytime TV for 18-24 year olds, and a couple of years for oldies, you will be put onto New Deal. This means you get your own advisor who will find you suitable job vacancies, get to know you personally and also see you once a week instead of every fortnight. This is the moment when you should be getting the 'SHIT! I have to get a job!' thoughts..

While on New Deal your advisor can put you onto courses and schemes, ie in my area there is a building with newspapers, internet connections and free postage/faxing/phoning facilities. You may be more likely to batch-submit your CV if you don't have to stump up £££'s for stamps and shit.

If you are NOT available for work (for example injury or disability) you will have to claim Income Support instead.

Source: me. Guess where I work? However, I may make the fucking coffee for all you know, so I strongly advise you ask your local JobCentre staff about any queries!

Please make sure to let the advisor reel off the 'Good morning, Fulchester JobCentre, Billy speaking, how can I help?' speech before asking them "Is that JobSeekers?". It's funny.

Try: jobcentreplus.gov.uk

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