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What’s the difference between Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit?

What’s the difference between Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit?
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If you’re unemployed or on a low income, you might apply for various benefits. So, what’s the difference between Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit, and how do you know which one you can claim? Let’s take a look.

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Jobseeker’s Allowance

If you’re unemployed or you work less than 16 hours per week, you might be entitled to Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). The money can help support you while you look for work, or it can supplement your income. 

If you’re eligible for JSA, you could receive:

  • up to £59.20 per week if you’re aged between 18 and 24. 
  • up to £74.70 per week if you’re 25 or over. 

How do you know if you’re eligible? Well, here’s a rundown of the criteria.

To claim JSA, you must be:

  • aged 18 or over
  • under State Pension age
  • available to work full-time
  • not in any sort of full-time education

In other words, you can’t apply if you’re a student or if you’re already working full-time. You must also show that you’re actively looking for work – otherwise, your payments could stop. 

Additionally, you must have made Class 1 National Insurance contributions (NICs) within the last two to three years. So, for example, if you haven’t worked before, or you’ve only been working part-time for the last few months, you can’t apply. 

To be clear, you usually can’t claim JSA if you are:

  • self-employed
  • under 18
  • unable to work full-time (e.g. you’re disabled – you could claim other benefits instead) 

For example, if you’re only working 12 hours per week because you’re a student, you can’t claim JSA because you’re not actively looking for a full-time job.

What makes JSA different from Universal Credit, though? Let’s take a look.

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Universal Credit

If you’re on a low income or you don’t have a job right now, you could claim Universal Credit (UC). UC can help with your living costs if your income isn’t enough to support you, or if you’re seeking employment.

You can apply for UC if you:

  • are aged 18 or over
  • don’t have enough money to cover your day-to-day living costs
  • have less than £16,000 in savings between you and your partner
  • are under State Pension age

You might be able to apply if you’re aged 16 or 17 in certain circumstances. If you’re eligible, you can get:

  • £344 a month if you’re under 25 and single
  • £411.51 a month if you’re over 25 and single

If you’re part of a couple, or you have children, you will get different amounts.

So, why is UC different from JSA? Well, here are the key differences:

  • It doesn’t matter whether you’ve worked before or not – you can still claim UC. If you can’t get JSA because you’ve never worked, you could get UC instead. 
  • JSA stops entirely when you’re working full-time or you’re not looking for full-time work. However, if you’re claiming UC, the amount you get drops gradually as your hours increase, so it’s easier to manage your finances.
  • UC is paid monthly, whereas you’ll get JSA weekly because you need to show each week what you’ve been doing to find work. 
  • You can sometimes claim UC if you’re self-employed. JSA is more restrictive.

Claiming both benefits

So, now we’ve covered the differences between Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit, a key question remains: can you claim both?

In short, yes, you can. However, if you claim both, the amount of JSA you get will be deducted from your UC payment. Meaning, you won’t get as much in Universal Credit if you claim both benefits.    

Note, though, that if you’re claiming the ‘old style’ of Jobseeker’s Allowance, you can’t get Universal Credit at the same time. That’s because UC is replacing the older income-based JSA. 

If you’re unsure which benefits you should claim, speak to Citizens Advice before you apply. 

The difference between Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit

Essentially, you must have made some NI contributions before you can claim JSA, but this isn’t the case with UC. In other words, if you’re not eligible for JSA, you might still be entitled to UC, so don’t worry if JSA isn’t available to you.

What’s more, while JSA is designed to help you financially in the short term while you’re looking for work, UC can be more of a long-term benefit to help you live with a low income.

To claim UC or JSA, set up an account and complete your application online. Or, if you want to find out more about your benefits entitlement before you apply, contact the DWP or your local Jobcentre Plus.

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