Even though you may be too sick or disabled to have a realistic chance of finding work, you may be forced to claim JSA because you haven’t scored enough points at your work capability assessment for ESA.
If you are challenging the decision that you are fit for work you may have to claim JSA until a decision is made about your mandatory reconsideration request.
Of course, if you are unsuccessful and the decision isn’t changed, you can then appeal, at which time you can re-claim ESA until your appeal is heard.
If your appeal has been refused, however, you may have to claim JSA on a longer-term basis.
How to claim JSA
To make a claim for Jobseekers Allowance, you will need to phone the claim line number: 0800 055 66 88.
You will be invited in to your local jobcentre for an initial meeting with an adviser, who will go through all the details about your circumstances and finances, as well as your skills, abilities and health conditions.
At this meeting, they will also explain what you need to do to meet the entitlement conditions for JSA.
A decision will then be made about whether you are entitled to contribution based JSA or income related JSA (or both), depending on your National Insurance contributions and your circumstances.
You may feel you’re in a “catch 22” situation – you’re too sick to work but not sick enough to satisfy the criteria for ESA.
The law may be black and white, with the criteria so tightly defined and enforced, but the staff in the jobcentre (or even the work programme provider) should be trained to be flexible and creative about the types of activity they expect you to carry out to satisfy the strict rules on “actively seeking” employment.
If you have a health condition that affects your ability to look for, or engage in, paid employment, it is essential that any restrictions are noted and accepted by the jobcentre when agreeing to your “claimant commitment” (previously called jobseekers agreement).
The claimant commitment, which is currently being rolled out across the country is more detailed and clear about the expectations that will be placed on you to satisfy ongoing entitlement to Jobseekers Allowance. However, any health conditions that might affect your ability should be taken into account.
In practice, the skills, ability and attitude of the jobcentre staff will vary considerably and you need to be aware that anything you agree to do will be checked and confirmed.
If you aren’t happy with the manner or demands that your adviser (or work coach as they are now called) places on you, there are complaints procedures that you can follow.
Keeping to your jobseeker's agreement or claimant commitment
If you agree to carry out activity and you fail to do so, not only do you risk losing your benefit for the week or two in question, but you risk being sanctioned for a period of 4 weeks (for the first “offence”) or more.
See our Sanctions page for more details.
The kinds of activity that might be written into your claimant commitment include: regularly looking on employment websites or in newspapers, registering with employment agencies, going on skills training (such as computer courses, CV writing or interviewing techniques), applying for every suitable job, engaging in voluntary placements and so on.
Opportunities for training or voluntary work are likely to vary widely, depending on local resources and training providers.
Despite the problems associated with Universal Jobmatch – the government-funded and widely promoted job search site – you are very likely to be expected to sign up for an account so that all of your job seeking activity can be easily checked by your adviser.
If you have any problems with your adviser, the content of your claimant commitment or in meeting any of the “actively seeking work” requirements, you can complain to the jobcentre manager and ask that you are allocated a specialist disability employment adviser.