Jobcentre woes: how to get the most from your visits to the Jobcentre

05/15/2014

job centre plus signRedundancy can happen to anyone – that’s a lesson we’ve all learnt from the past five years and the far-reaching effects of the recession. Although unemployment figures are dropping, the huge increase we saw back in 2008 and 2009 has led to a change in how we view Jobcentres. Many of us have had experience in attending a Jobcentre, or at least know a relative who’s had to sign on. It’s not just the unqualified who are ‘on the dole’ these days – highly skilled workers must also rely on benefits. Even if you’ve been given redundancy pay, it’s still wise to claim Jobseekers Allowance as soon as possible – but are you entitled to it? Renovo examines the role of the Jobcentre and how you can get the most out of your weekly visits.

Jobseekers Allowance

There are two types of JSA: income-based and contribution-based. If you’ve made enough NI contributions during the last two years, you’ll be entitled to contribution-based JSA for 182 days from when your claim began. Your income and savings do not usually affect this type of JSA, unless you’re working part time or receive income from a pension. If you’ve been made redundant, you’ll probably be entitled to this form of JSA. It amounts to £57.90 a week for 16-24 year olds, and £73.10 if you’re 25 or over.

Income-based JSA is paid to those on a low income, who may not have made sufficient NI contributions to qualify for contribution-based JSA. It’s means tested, so you can expect to see a cut in your entitlement if you have more than £16,000 of savings, or if you work part time. The amount you are entitled to depends on numerous factors – check gov.uk for details.

When do I get paid?

After your initial application for JSA, it’ll be some time before you receive your first payment. First, your details must be processed, then you must attend a Jobcentre Plus to supply evidence of your identity, income, savings and/or NI contributions. Take your P45 or P60 along if you have one. You’ll then attend an initial JSA interview with a Jobcentre Plus advisor, where you’ll discuss the types of jobs you’re looking to get. Then, you’ll assemble your Jobseeker’s agreement. This can vary drastically between Jobcentres, or even between advisors. Some will only ask you to apply for three jobs per week, others will expect 15 or more. It is unlikely you’ll receive your first payment until several days after your first signing-on date, which is likely to take place 1-2 weeks after your initial interview. You’ll receive an initial lump sum of JSA based on your first claim date. Overall, it could be up to three weeks before you receive any benefits at all – so apply as soon as you can. After that, you’ll receive JSA every two weeks – usually a day or two after your fortnightly sign-on.

JSA interviews

In addition to attending the Jobcentre to sign on, you’ll usually be required to attend every other week in order to speak to your adviser. It’s your adviser’s duty to check that your job search is as efficient as possible. They’ll ask you about the jobs you’ve applied for and about any interview opportunities you may have coming up. They aren’t going to be experts in your field. Nor will they be sympathetic if you haven’t found any jobs to apply for. New sanctions have recently been introduced, meaning that your JSA could be stopped for up to three years as a penalty for not meeting the terms of your Jobseeker’s agreement.  This could include failing to attend meetings, interviews or refusing jobs and training offered to you. This means you may have to apply for minimum wage roles or jobs that you’re not qualified for. Whilst this can be frustrating, it is important to remember that the advisors aren’t there to coach you – just to help you locate opportunities.

Improving your Jobcentre visits

The more enthusiastically you approach the sessions with your advisor the more likely they are to want to help you. Ask your adviser if there are any upcoming training opportunities that you can take advantage of. If you appear keen, your adviser will certainly make an effort to place you on those training courses, making adhering to your Jobseeker's agreement that little bit easier. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, entering into dialogue shows you're engaged and is also a good chance to practice interview body language skills. Above all, remain optimistic about your employment chances and always notify your advisor of any changes in your situation.

The Jobcentre is no substitute for a good career coach. If the weekly visits to the Jobcentre and endless hours of trawling through Universal Jobmatch are getting you down, a career coach can provide you with the support and assistance you need to find a new job. Speak to Renovo today to find out how our award-winning career coaches can help you.

Renovo is one of the UK’s leading providers of outplacement and career transition support. We work with both organisations and individuals to support all their career transition requirements. If you would like to understand how Renovo can help you please call 0800 612 2011 or email info@renovo.uk.com

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