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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 cannot claim both benefits at the same time. If you receive income support you are not expected to look for work.
At the moment, you can claim income support until your youngest child is seven. It is expected that from early 2012 single parents will only be able to claim income support until their youngest child is aged five.
You may be able to remain on income support regardless of the age of your children if you claim it for reasons apart from 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 not entitled to claim income support and you are looking for work you may be able to claim jobseeker’s allowance. If you are disabled or unwell and not able to work you may be able to 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 about eight weeks before your income support is due to end to arrange an interview 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 £71.00 a week.
Contribution-based jobseeker’s allowance is paid for up to six months if you made enough national insurance contributions in your past employment. The amount you get is not affected by any other income 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. Child maintenance does not affect the amount of jobseeker’s allowance you can 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.
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.
To help your Jobcentre Plus adviser give you the correct information you should tell them that you are a single parent.
You can discuss what type of work is suitable with your Jobcentre Plus personal adviser. The longer you receive jobseeker’s allowance the more you may be expected to widen your job search and consider different types of work.
You can place some restrictions on the hours you work and the type of job that you will accept:
There are some situations in which Jobcentre Plus should accept that you are not available to take up work. During these periods you can continue to receive jobseeker’s allowance, even if you are not in a position to 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 do not agree with your reason they may stop your jobseeker’s allowance. This is called a sanction.
The government has said that if you cannot find or take up work because of a lack of affordable, appropriate childcare, or if you leave your job for this reason, you should not be punished. Jobcentre Plus will ask you to show that you have looked for childcare and to explain why you think it is not appropriate.
Details: Information on student support available for further education students in England.
Organisation: Jobcentre Plus
Details: Processes new claims and claim renewals for welfare benefits.
Phone: 0800 055 6688 Benefits Enquiries England, 0800 012 1888 Benefits (Wales), 0800 882 200 for disabled people, Textphone: 0800 243 355
You can make a claim for jobseeker’s allowance over the telephone or online – see Jobcentre Plus office details below.
After your claim has been processed a work-focused interview will be arranged for you at a local Jobcentre Plus office. At the interview an adviser will talk to you about what type of work you will look for and whether there is anything you can do to improve your chances of getting a job. This information will be put into your jobseeker’s agreement.
You will not usually receive any money for the first three days of your claim. These are called waiting days. Jobseeker’s allowance is paid at the end of every fortnight, usually into your bank or Post Office account. If you do not have an account you will be asked to open one.
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 should not be punished. See Challenging a sanction.
You can claim jobseekers allowance without having
to look for work if you have experienced domestic
violence in the last 6 months. You may be able to
claim jobseeker’s allowance and not be available for
work, or have to look for work:
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 can affect 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. Remember that there are special rules for single parents about how many hours a week you must work.
If you are a full-time student, you cannot claim jobseeker’s allowance while you study. 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 jobseeker’s allowance 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.
If you regularly care for someone who is disabled or
has a long-term health problem, you may be able to
claim income support instead of jobseeker’s
allowance. See the Gingerbread factsheet Claiming income support and other benefits or call the Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline free on 0808 802 0925.
If you receive jobseeker’s allowance you may also be able to claim the following benefits: You may also be able to claim some of these benefits even if you do not get job seekers 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. If you get jobseeker’s allowance you should also get council tax benefit to help with the rest of the bill. Apply at your local council or at the same time as claiming jobseeker’s allowance.
If you get housing benefit or council tax 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 payments; 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, glasses, fares to hospital, wigs and fabric supports. You can also get free help if you claim child tax credit and your income is under £15,276 a year.
If you get jobseeker’s allowance you may be eligible for a grant or loan from the government’s social fund for extra or emergency expenses. See the Gingerbread factsheet Financial help for unexpected or extra expenses.
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 £20.30 a week for your first child and £13.40 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. Check your telephone directory for your local bureau or find details on the website.
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
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 £71
Child benefit £20.30
Child tax credit £62.09
Jobseeker’s allowance £71
Child benefit £33.70
Child tax credit £113.68
You should also get help with your rent and council tax.
If you start working 16 hours a week or more, your jobseeker’s allowance stops. Instead you may be able to claim working tax credit and other in-work benefits. If you are on a low income you may continue to receive some housing benefit. For more information on financial help when you start work see the Gingerbread factsheet Moving from benefits to work.
Your health and caring responsibilities should be taken into account when deciding how far it is reasonable for you to travel to work. The maximum time you can be asked to travel to work is one and a half hours each way.
This includes the time required to drop off and collect your children from childcare.
You do not have to accept a job or follow an instruction given by a Jobcentre Plus adviser if there is no affordable, appropriate childcare available.
There is no set definition of what is affordable and appropriate but may involve a consideration of what proportion of your income would be spent on childcare and whether your child has additional needs. If Jobcentre Plus does not agree with your decision, your benefit may be stopped or reduced.
You can request up to seven days notice before a job interview if you cannot attend sooner because of your caring responsibilities.
For example, you may need time to arrange childcare. The seven days includes weekends.
You can request up to 28 days' notice before starting a job, if you cannot start sooner because of your caring responsibilities.
For example, you may need time to arrange childcare. You will be expected to be available to start a job if given 28 days notice.
Your jobseeker’s allowance should not be affected if you left a job because your childcare costs were too high or there was no appropriate childcare available.
Jobcentre Plus must agree that your childcare costs were too high. They should look at what proportion of your wages you were spending on childcare. The higher your wages, the more you are expected to spend. Jobcentre Plus should also consider whether the childcare available was suitable for your child’s needs.
Your jobseeker’s allowance payments may be stopped for example because:
If your jobseeker’s allowance is stopped for one of these reasons it
is called a sanction. You can apply for a hardship payment and challenge
If your jobseeker’s allowance is stopped for any other reason, call
the Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline for advice. You can challenge the
decision and may also be able to apply for a hardship payment.
Hardship payments are available to single parents caring for a child
or a young person under the age of 20 who is still considered a
If you are eligible, you can claim hardship payments throughout the period of time that your benefit is sanctioned.
To receive hardship payments, you need to tell Jobcentre Plus about
your circumstances and you must sign a hardship statement. You will also
have to complete a hardship declaration form each time you sign on, to
confirm that you are still in hardship as a result of your jobseeker’s
allowance being stopped.
Hardship payments are 60 per cent of your usual jobseeker’s allowance
payment. So, if you receive £67.50 a week jobseeker’s allowance, your
hardship payment is £40.50 a week.
If you, or a member of your family, are pregnant or seriously ill,
you should receive 80 per cent of your usual jobseeker’s allowance
payment. This is £54 a week. There is no fixed definition of seriously
ill so you may have to describe your illness and the effect it has on
you, to Jobcentre Plus.
You can challenge both the decision to stop your jobseeker’s
allowance and the length of time for which a sanction lasts. There are
two options for challenging the decision:
It is often worthwhile asking for the decision to be revised before
putting in an appeal. Asking for a revision means that the decision will
be looked at again to see if it can be changed. It can be quicker than
appealing and you still have the option of making an appeal if the
revision is unsuccessful.
A request for a revision should be made in writing within one month
of the date of the decision to stop your benefit. Include as much
relevant information as possible about your circumstances and the
incident that led to a sanction.
As part of the revision you can ask for a statement of reasons
explaining how the decision to apply a sanction was reached. This
information may help you to understand the decision or be useful if
you go on to appeal.
If the revision is not successful then you can appeal the decision to
apply a sanction. The time limit for making an appeal is usually one
month from the date of the revision decision.
The appeal should be made using form GL24, which can be found in the
leaflet 'If you think our decision is wrong' produced by Jobcentre Plus.
You can get a copy of the form from the website www.direct.gov.uk
or from your local Jobcentre. Make sure that you complete all the
relevant sections of the form, sign and return it so that it is received
within the time limit.
For more information about sanctions, hardship payments and
challenging a decision, contact the Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline
free on 0808 802 0925.
If you need practical help applying for a revision or appeal contact your local free advice centre or Citizens Advice Bureau.
Organisation: Child Benefit Helpline
Details: Information on child benefit and how to claim.
Phone: 0845 302 1444
Organisation: Child Maintenance Options
Details: Information about your options for arranging child maintenance and making an agreement best suited to your circumstances. Information booklets, a maintenance calculator and a private agreement form are on the website.
Phone: 0800 988 0988
Organisation: Community Legal Advice
Details: Telephone advice on benefits, housing, employment, debt, welfare benefits and family law for people who are eligible for public funding.
Phone: 0845 345 4345
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: Refugee Council
Details: Advice for refugees and asylum seekers.
Phone: 020 7346 6700
Organisation: Tax Credit Helpline
Details: For information about tax credits and to request claim forms to request claim forms.
Phone: 0845 300 3900
Organisation: Working Families
Details: Advice on benefits and employment law.
Phone: 0300 012 0312
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 publication. 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 June 2012.
Note: If you have recently come to Great Britain, have limited right to be here, or are from the European
Community, you may not have the right to claim the benefits set out in this factsheet. Get advice from your
local free advice centre 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 is registered in England and Wales as the National Council for One Parent Families, a company limited by guarantee, no. 402748, and a charity, no. 230750
© Gingerbread 2010