Using Jobcentre Plus

Going to a job centre is probably not on your bucket list, but sometimes it has to be done. It’s not all bad though cause we’re here to help. So don’t worry. Just take a deep breath and join us as we explain what a job centre is, how to find one and how to survive signing on. Welcome to The Mix's guide to Jobcentre Plus.

Two young friends are looking for a job centre. This is a wide-angle image.

What is a job centre?

We’re gonna start by answering ‘What is a job centre’ so we’re all on the same page. 

Essentially, a job centre, known as Jobcentre Plus in the UK, is a government-run employment agency and social security service. Their aim is to help you find a job if you’re out of work and provide benefits payments if you’re on a low income or have no income. Pretty great system, right?

What services will I be offered at Jobcentre Plus?

You can get a range of help and advice via the Gov.uk website. This includes access to the UK’s largest jobs database and an online job kit. The jobs database is available through personal kiosks in job centres. Once you get there, all you have to do is find a job that interests you, print off the details and use the free phones to contact employers straightaway.

Jobseekers Direct

You may have heard of a service called Jobseekers Direct. This was a telephone number which became an online service. You could use both to get updates about jobs in your local area. Unfortunately, Jobseekers Direct ended a number of years ago. Fortunately (hope you didn’t get too sad) it has since been replaced by the government’s ‘Find A Job’ tool, which you can check out here.

Who can sign on for Jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) or Universal Credit?

Anyone over the age of 18, unemployed and living in the UK can apply for JSA. If you’re wondering what benefits 16 years olds can claim, don’t panic. At 16 or 17 years old, you can still be eligible, as long as you fit into one of the following categories:

  • You’re forced to live away from your parents
  • A child relies on you
  • You will suffer severe hardship if you don’t get JSA

We should mention that Jobseeker’s allowance is being replaced by Universal Credit. So if you live in a Universal Credit area, you may have to claim Universal Credit instead. This basically provides similar support to Jobseeker’s allowance. But, as an added bonus, it can also continue to support you during work experience or if you’re earning under a certain amount. You can find out more about Universal Credit in this article and Jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) in this article.

How to find a Job centre

Jobcentres exist in most towns and cities. So a quick Google search should help you to figure out how to find a Job centre near you. Alternatively, you can use this postcode search on the gov.uk website.

How do I sign on at a Job centre?

The process will start with either a new claim for JSA or a claim for Universal Credit, depending on your circumstances and the area you are living in. If you don’t know which one you should be claiming, try contacting the Jobcentre Plus beforehand to find out. It’s also possible to start a claim for new-style Jobseekers Allowance by phone or online here. And you can start a claim for Universal Credit online here.

You’ll then be asked to attend an interview either in person or on the phone with a ‘work coach’. We’re not gonna lie, this is usually the most daunting part of the process. But attending is crucial for claiming benefits and might even lead to you finding a job. It’s also important to try and establish a good relationship with your work coach as you’ll probably speak to the same person regularly. “Think about how you come across to your work coach,” advises 19-year-old Fizza Sachedina, who was on income support while at college. “Be aware of your persona and your temper while communicating with them.

After you have claimed and completed the interview, you’ll have to sign on every one to two weeks to show you have been looking for a job.

What’s the role of a Jobcentre work coach?

Your coach will explain how Jobseeker’s allowance or Universal Credit works and draw up something called a ‘Claimant Commitment’. This just confirms the kind of work you’re looking for, your availability and what you’ll be required to do to continue receiving financial support. “Take everything down in writing,” says Fizza. “Get it on paper, with the date and time and who you’re talking to. That way you can refer back to it if you need to.”

What if I can’t even afford to job hunt?

Your work coach can give you a small discretionary amount of financial help. This’ll help get you kick started with clothes and travel expenses for interviews. There’s also help available to make the transition from claiming benefits to starting paid employment easier.

How can I make sure I get the job I want?

Again, your work coach is your best buddy. They should have an understanding of your background, qualifications and skills and help you look for appropriate jobs. But it’s a two-way street. You’ve gotta keep researching as well. “Don’t wait for your advisor to contact you,” says Fizza.

At the end of the day, no one can force you to take a job. However, refusing an offer is not encouraged and is likely to affect your benefits. “In most cases, a jobseeker would be expected to consider any employment that fits their skills and experience,” says a spokesperson for the DWP. 

More tips for using a Jobcentre Plus

  • Be realistic about the type of work you are looking for – even if you don’t like the job you get, you’re still picking up transferable skills that you can use in the future.
  • Prove you are actively job seeking; make copies of emails, covering letters and application forms.
  • If your circumstances change – for example if you inherit money, get a job or decide to go to college – make sure you inform your advisor.
  • Not sure how to write a cover letter? Check out this article.
  • Need help with a job application form? See this article.
  • Take a look at the rest of our support articles around getting a job here.

Next Steps

  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

Tags:

JSA

By Kara Gammell, Emma Rubach and David Samson

Updated on 07-Jun-2022