Income Support (IS) & Job Seekers Allowance (JSA)

What Are Income Support And Income-Based JSA?

Income Support & Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance are the main means tested benefits that act as a safety net for people under 60 who do not have enough money to live on. They are calculated in exactly the same way, but the difference between them is that:

  • Income Support is only payable to people who are not required to “sign on” as available for work while Income-based JSA is claimed by those people that are.

The benefits work by topping up your other income or becoming your entire income. There is also another kind of JSA - Contribution-based JSA - which is not mean tested and is paid at a fixed rate according to your age and only lasts for 6 months. If you have a partner or dependent children you may well need to claim a top-up through Income-based JSA.

As well as the means test described in this chapter you may have to pass other tests depending on your reason for claiming these benefits e.g. the labour market conditions for JSA or the “Personal Capability Assessment” if you are claiming Income Support through being unfit for work.

Basic conditions for claiming

To claim either Income Support or Income-based JSA, you must:

  • be aged 16 or over (but many young people aged 16 and 17 cannot claim Income-based JSA).
  • not be working 16 or more hours per week (with some exceptions - see below). If your partner is working the limit is 24 hours.
  • have less than £8,000 in capital or £16,000 if you are in a residential care or nursing home.

Either partner in a couple can claim - it usually makes no difference, unless one partner is long-term sick, a student or is working part time between 16 and 24 hours.

Who can claim Income Support?

You do not have to “sign on” as available for work and claim Income-based JSA - and so can claim Income Support - if you:


  • met the conditions for exemption between the ages of 50 and 59 for people who had not worked for 10 years, in the 8 weeks preceding the introduction of JSA on 7/10/1996. Abolished for new IS claims.

Incapacity and disability

  • are sick or disabled and "incapable of work". You face the tests outlined in Section Four, OR
  • are appealing against an “incapacity” decision - although you may be better off “signing on” for JSA, OR
  • are registered blind, OR
  • are mentally or physically disabled and can only earn 75% or less or work for 75% of the hours of a person without that disability in the same job, OR
  • are working while living in a residential care or a nursing home, OR


  • Are between ages of 55 and 60 as at 9th April 2001 and:
  • Your spouse has died in the period from 9th April 2001 to 9th April 2006.
  • Are claiming as a single person.


  • are pregnant and either you are:
  • within eleven weeks of the baby being due OR · before that date, but are “incapable of work” because of difficulties with the pregnancy, OR


  • are looking after a child under 16 and you are either:
  • a lone parent (or lone foster parent), OR · one of a couple, whose partner is temporarily abroad, OR
  • looking after that child temporarily while their usual carer is away or ill.


  • are looking after a partner or child under 19 who is temporarily ill, OR
  • are receiving Carers Allowance (CA) or looking after someone who receives or has claimed DLA Care or Attendance Allowance - and for 8 weeks after caring stops,


  • are studying and entitled to IS, OR.
  • are under 24 and on a Youth Training Scheme.

 Other reasons

  • have to attend Court as a JP, juror, witness or party to the proceedings, OR
  • have been remanded in custody, until any sentence is passed, OR
  • are a refugee who has been in Britain for a year or less and is attending a course learning English for 15 hours a week or more - IS can be paid for nine months, OR
  • are a “person from abroad” and entitled to “urgent case” payments, OR
  • are involved in a trade dispute or within the first 15 days of returning to work.

Who is exempt from the 16-hour rule?

Normally, you cannot claim Income Support or Income-based JSA if you are working for more than 16 hours a week (or your partner is working over 24 hours). Instead you may be able to claim Working Tax Credit if you fulfil the conditions.

However, you can claim IS or JSA, even if you are working over 16 hours a week if you are:

  • disabled and as a result can only earn 75% or less, or work for 75% or less of the time, of someone without that disability working in the same job, OR
  • a Childminder working from home, OR
  • on a government training scheme, OR
  • a volunteer with a charitable or voluntary organisation, OR
  • involved in a trade dispute after seven days, OR
  • living in a residential care or nursing home, OR
  • working as a p/t fire-fighter, lifeboat crew, the TAs etc, OR
  • a local authority Councillor, OR
  • a foster parent receiving an allowance.

How Much Income Support or JSA?

Check Capital - Capital does not include the home where you live, cars, furniture or other personal possessions. it does include any savings, investments or other property you own. Certain types of capital can be ignored either for a limited period or indefinitely. There are special rules for valuing certain kinds of capital, seek advice.

  • If capital is below £3,000 (or £10,000 if in residential/nursing care) then it is ignored.
  • If capital is above £8,000 (or £16,000 if in residential/nursing care) then no claim can be made.
  • If capital is between £3,000 and £8,000 (or between £10,000 and £16,000 if in residential/nursing care), then you can still claim, but tariff income will apply to capital over £3,000 or £10,000 (see below).

The Applicable Amount - The “Applicable Amount” is not the actual amount of Income Support or JSA that you will get, but is the level to which Income Support or Income-based JSA will top-up any other income that you have. In law it is defined as “the minimum amount that you and your family need to live on”. It is made up of three parts:

  • basic Personal Allowances for adult(s) of the household.
  • extra Premiums for certain groups of people.
  • certain Housing Costs - e.g. Mortgage Interest. To tot it up, use the left-hand column in the Calculation Sheet.

Personal allowances - These are amounts for – yourself and any partner. The amounts are shown in 2 A) of the Calculation Sheet. F A partner is anyone of the opposite sex living with you “as husband & wife” - you will then get one couple personal allowance rather than two single personal allowances (see page 97 for more details).

Premiums - Premiums are not benefits in their own rights, but extra amounts added on to the Applicable Amount for certain groups. By contributing to a higher Applicable Amount, getting more Premiums leads to more benefit. While Personal Allowances are fixed by the number of people in your family and Housing Costs (if any) are fixed by the level of your mortgage, many people may not get all the premiums they could. There are two groups of premiums.

  • For Disability and Bereavement - you only qualify for one Premium; if you qualify for more than one (e.g. a widow/er with health problems) you get whichever is the highest.
  • In the second group - Carer’s, Enhanced Disability, Severe Disability - you can include as many of the Premiums as you qualify for. The current rates are shown in the calculation sheet on page 102 and the qualifying conditions for each premium are shown in the table on the pages

NB: This section refers to Income Support/Ib JSA as benefits for adults only. At the time of writing (March 05), all new claimants will have to claim Income Support/Ib JSA and Child Tax Credit. Long-term claimants may still have payments for children included in their Income Support but will be transferred to Child Tax Credit during 2005.

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Last Updated: 29.07.2008 at 17:36

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