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To claim either jobseeker’s allowance or income support you must not be working, or be working less than 16 hours a week.
Whether you claim jobseeker’s allowance or income
support depends on the age of your youngest child.
You can claim income support as a single parent if
your youngest child is under the age of five. You
can’t claim both benefits at the same time. If you
receive income support you aren’t expected to look
You can claim income support regardless of the age
of your children if you claim it for a reason other than
being a single parent, for example because you are
a full-time carer or a foster parent. For more information see the Gingerbread factsheet Claiming income support and other benefits.
If you are disabled or unwell and can’t work you can
claim employment and support allowance. See the Gingerbread factsheet Benefits and tax credits for ill health or disability.
If you move from income support to jobseeker’s allowance, Jobcentre Plus should contact you before your income support is due to end to arrange a meeting with an adviser. The adviser should explain how to make a claim for jobseekers allowance, or another suitable benefit.
There are two types of jobseeker’s allowance, contribution-based and income-based. Both pay a basic rate of £72.40 a week.
Contribution-based jobseeker’s allowance is paid for up to six months if you have paid enough in national insurance. The amount you get isn't affected by other income (apart from pension payments) or savings you have.
Income-based jobseeker’s allowance is means tested.
You can receive it even if you have not paid
national insurance contributions in the past. The
amount you get is affected by any income or capital
(such as savings) you have worth over £6,000, and
you will not be eligible if you have savings or capital
over £16,000. Child maintenance doesn’t affect the
amount of jobseeker’s allowance you receive.
Jobseeker’s allowance is usually only paid to those who are over the age of 18. If you are under 18 call the Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline for advice.
To receive jobseeker’s allowance, you must show that:
You also have to:
If you do not meet these conditions you will not be able to claim jobseeker’s allowance or it may be stopped. This is called a sanction. See the
Gingerbread factsheet Sanctions.
There are special rules for single parents who claim jobseeker’s allowance, which mean that in some circumstances you will be treated differently to others claiming the benefit. The most commonly used special rules are listed here.
For more information see the Gingerbread
factsheet Jobseeker’s allowance – special rulesfor single parents.
To help your Jobcentre Plus adviser give you the
correct information you should tell them that you are
a single parent.
You can place some restrictions on the hours you work and the type of job that you will accept:
There are some situations when Jobcentre Plus should accept that you can't take up work. During these periods you can continue to receive jobseeker’s allowance, even if you can't look for work. These situations include:
Talk to your Jobcentre Plus adviser and explain your situation. Under usual circumstances, you are expected to look for paid work. If you refuse to apply for, or take a job and Jobcentre Plus don't agree with your reason they may stop your jobseeker’s allowance. This is called a sanction.
If you can’t find or take up work because of a lack of affordable, appropriate childcare, or if you leave your job for this reason, your benefit should not be affected.
Jobcentre Plus will ask you to show that you have looked for childcare and to explain why you think it is not appropriate. You can get details of childcare in your area from your local Family Information Service.
If you lost your job because of misconduct, or left your job voluntarily, Jobcentre Plus can decide that you should not be paid jobseeker’s allowance for a period of time. This is called a sanction.
Jobcentre Plus should look into what happened and they must show that you left your job voluntarily. You should still be able to claim jobseeker’s allowance if you can show that you had a good reason to leave your job. If you left a job because you could not get appropriate, affordable childcare, you shouldn’t be sanctioned. See the Gingerbread factsheet
Details: Information on a wide range of subjects including benefits.
Organisation: Jobcentre Plus
Details: Processes welfare benefit claims
Phone: 0345 604 3719
A person acting in an official capacity could be a health care professional, police officer, social worker or person working for a charity or other body, such as a refuge worker. For more information on these rules, call the Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline.
You can claim jobseeker’s allowance if you work under 16 hours a week and your income is low enough. You must tell Jobcentre Plus about any money you earn, as this affects the amount of benefit you get.
If a job becomes available for 16 hours a week or more, you must be prepared to give up your part-time job or take on more hours.
If you are a full-time student, you can't claim jobseeker’s allowance whilst studying. You may be able to claim jobseeker’s allowance during the summer holidays, if you are available for work.
If you are a part-time student, you can claim if:
If you are on a course approved by Jobcentre Plus you should be treated as available for work and continue to receive jobseeker’s allowance.
The following are the weekly amounts payable to a single parent for a family’s day-to-day living expenses.
These amounts assume the single parent is over 18, lives in rented accommodation, does not work and has no other income. It also assumes that no-one in the family has a disability or long-term health problem, or is caring for somebody who does.
Jobseeker’s allowance = £72.40 a week
Child benefit = £20.50 a week
Child tax credit = £63.28 a week
Total = £156.18 a week (plus help with rent and possibly council tax)
Jobseeker’s allowance = £72.40 a week
Child benefit = £34.05 a week
Child tax credit = £116.06 a week
Total = £222.15 a week (plus help with rent and possibly council tax)
If you receive jobseeker’s allowance you might also claim the following benefits. You can claim some of these benefits even if you don't get jobseeker's allowance.
Claim if you get income-based jobseeker’s allowance, or child tax credit but not working tax credit and have a household income below £16,190 a year. Some income, such as child maintenance, is not counted.
It is up to your local council what, if any, help they give with the cost of school uniforms. Contact your local council.
If your child is aged 16-19 and in fulltime education they may qualify for a bursary. See the Gingerbread factsheet Money for further education.
If you have a mortgage an amount can be added to your jobseeker’s allowance to help pay the interest. This can include help towards ground rent, some service charges and the interest on loans for essential home improvements. You usually have to wait 13 weeks before these payments can start but the rules are complicated. Contact the Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline for advice.
You can apply for housing benefit to help with the cost of your rent at the same time as applying for jobseeker’s allowance or you can make a claim directly to your local council. Housing benefit is available if you live in private rented, local authority or housing association accommodation.
If you are the only adult in your home that has to pay council tax, you qualify for a 25 per cent discount on the bill. You may qualify for help with the rest of the bill through your local council tax reduction scheme. Apply at your local council.
If you get housing benefit but need extra financial help to pay the bill, you can ask your local council for a top-up payment. This is called a discretionary housing payment. You do not have an automatic right to these; it is up to your local council to decide. If you can, get advice before you apply.
If you are pregnant, have recently given birth or adopted a baby, you may be able to get maternity, paternity or adoption benefits. See the Gingerbread factsheet Money during maternity and adoption.
If you are arranging a funeral you may qualify for a payment to help with the cost. The money may have to be paid back from the deceased’s estate if possible.
If you get income-based jobseeker’s allowance and have a child under five, or you get the disability or severe disability element of child tax credit, you should automatically receive a cold weather payment. These are paid in periods of very cold weather as defined by the government.
You may be entitled to vouchers for food or vitamins if you are pregnant or have a child under the age of 4 and:
If you get income based jobseeker’s allowance, you can get free prescriptions, dental treatment, sight tests, fares to hospital, wigs and fabric supports. You can also get vouchers towards the cost of glasses or contact lenses. You can also get free help if you claim child tax credit and your income is under £15,276 a year.
Claim if you have a child under 16, or under 20 if they are in full time non-advanced education (e.g. sixth form or further education college) or on approved training. It pays £20.50 a week for your first child and £13.55 a week for every other child.
If you get jobseeker’s allowance you should receive the maximum amount of child tax credit, the actual amount depends on how many children you are responsible for. If you have separated from a partner tell HMRC about your change in circumstances straight away.
Organisation: Citizen’s Advice
Details: Information and advice on a wide range of issues including benefits and tax credits.
Phone: England: 08444 111 444; Wales: 08444 77 20 20
Organisation: Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline
Details: Free information on a range of issues including maintenance, benefits, tax credits, debt, employment, education, legal rights and holidays. Open Mondays to Fridays, 9.00am – 5.00pm, with extended opening on Wednesdays to 8.00pm.
Phone: Freephone 0808 802 0925
Organisation: Child Benefit Helpline
Details: Provides information and advice in connection with child benefit claims.
Phone: 0300 200 3100 - Child Benefit Helpline; 0300 200 3103 - Child Benefit Minicom
Organisation: Child Maintenance Options
Details: Information about making arrangements for child maintenance.
Phone: 0800 988 0988
Organisation: Civil Legal Advice
Details: Telephone advice on benefits, housing, employment, debt, welfare benefits and family law for people eligible for public funding.
Phone: 0345 345 4345
Organisation: Family and Childcare Trust
Details: Web search facility to find your local Family Information Service, which provides details of local childcare facilities.
Organisation: Healthy Start
Details: Information on healthy start vouchers.
Phone: 0845 607 6823
Organisation: Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC)
Details: Information on organisations/solicitors that give immigration advice.
Phone: 0845 000 0046
Organisation: One Parent Families Scotland Lone Parent Helpline
Details: Run by our partner organisation, the Lone Parent Helpline provides confidential advice and information for single parents in Scotland.
Phone: 0808 801 0323
Organisation: Tax Credit Helpline
Details: Offers information and advice concerning applications/ renewals for child tax credit and working tax credit.
Phone: 0845 300 3900; Textphone: 0345 300 3909
Organisation: Working Families
Details: Advice on benefits and employment law.
Phone: 0300 012 0312
For detailed step-by-step advice sign up for our email reminders in our guide to leaving work.
This factsheet gives details of the financial support you can get if you are a single parent and you are not
working, or are working less than 16 hours a week. It explains how the age of your children affects whether
you can claim income support or jobseeker’s allowance, and what other benefits you may be entitled to,
such as tax credits and help with housing costs.
There is a list of other Gingerbread factsheets that you may find helpful at the end of this factsheet. Further
advice on all of the topics covered is available from the Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline. Calls are free
from landlines and most mobiles. The information in this factsheet is correct as of April 2014.
Note: If you have recently come to the United Kingdom, have limited right to be here, or are from the European Union, you may not have the right to claim the benefits set out in this factsheet. Get advice before making a claim.
Gingerbread has no control over the contents of these organisations' websites or products
and services offered, these links and/or contact details are provided for your information only.
Gingerbread accepts no responsibility for any loss or damage that may arise from your use of these websites
and/or products and services offered by third parties.
Helpline: 0808 802 0925
Gingerbread, the charity for single parent families, is registered in England and Wales as a company limited by guarantee, no. 402748, and a registered charity, no. 230750
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