Using Your Local Jobcentre Plus
Visiting the job centre can be sometimes be frustrating - and the process of claiming benefits can be tedious to say the least - but don't despair.Let us help you find out how to survive signing on with our guide to Jobcentre Plus.
"People who are over the age of 18 and unemployed can apply for JSA."
What services will I be offered at Jobcentre Plus?
Jobcentre Plus offers a range of help and advice via its website, including access to the UK's largest jobs database and phone-based job match service, Jobseeker Direct. It also has an online job kit. The jobs database is available through personal kiosks in job centres; find a job that interests you, print off the details and use the free phones to contact employers straightaway.
Who can sign on for Jobseeker's allowance (JSA)?
People who are over the age of 18 and unemployed can apply for JSA. If you are 16 or 17 years old, you may be eligible, too, as long as you fit into one of the following categories:
- You are forced to live away from your parents
- You are responsible for a child
- You will suffer severe hardship if you don't get JSA
If you're between the age of 16 and 24, you'll be obliged to sign up for New Deal and start actively looking for jobs after six months of claiming JSA. If you don't participate in the process, you could lose your benefits.
How do I sign on?
The process starts with a phone call (between 8 am and 6 pm, Monday to Friday), rather than walking into your local jobcentre. The call can take up to 40 minutes. Have details of your savings, rent and national insurance number ready. It's also possible to claim online using the Claim online – Jobseeker's Allowance service.
You'll then be asked to attend a new jobseeker interview. This is often the most daunting part of the process, but attending is crucial for claiming benefits and might even lead to you finding a job. It's also important to try and establish a good relationship with your advisor as you'll probably see the same person regularly. "Think about how you come across to your advisor," advises 19-year-old Fizza Sachedina, who was on income support while at college. "Be aware of your persona and your temper."
What's the role of an advisor?
Your advisor will explain how Jobseeker's Allowance works and draw up a Jobseeker's Agreement, which confirms the kind of work you're looking for and your availability. If you don't understand anything, either ask them for clarification or look it up yourself online later. "Take everything down in writing," says Fizza. "Get it on headed paper, with the date and time and who you're talking to, so you can refer back to it if you need to."
What if I can't even afford to job hunt?
Your advisor can give you a small discretionary amount of financial help to get you kick-started with clothes and travel expenses for interviews. There's also a scheme available to help make the transition from claiming benefits to starting paid employment easier if you're a lone parent.
How can I make sure I get the job I want?
Your advisor should have an understanding of your background, qualifications and skills and help you look for appropriate jobs. You'll have to be proactive about applying for jobs you want, though. "Don't wait for your advisor to contact you," says Fizza.
No one can force you to take a job, but refusing an offer is not encouraged and might affect your benefits. "In most cases, a job seeker would be expected to consider any employment which is appropriate to their skills and experience," says a spokesman for the DWP. "However, some employers may not be suitable for the customer, so there are occasions in which a customer could legitimately refuse employment without any effect on their benefit."
Other tips include:
- Be realistic about the type of work you are looking for – even if you don't like the job you get, you're still picking up transferable skills that you can use in the future
- Prove you actively job seeking; make copies of emails, covering letters and application forms
- If your circumstances change - for example, if you inherit money, get a job or decide to go to college - make sure you inform your advisor.