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State benefits for 16 and 17 year olds are very limited, even if they are living away from home.

Jobseeke's allowance (JSA)

However, you may be able to claim the Jobseeker's Allowance if you are any of the following:

  • a "vulnerable" young person who has just come out of care or prison, or if you have children of your own;
  • waiting for a suitable training place;
  • registered with the Careers or Connexions Service for training and employment;
  • temporarily laid off work.

In certain special circumstances, you may also qualify for the Jobseeker's Allowance if you are living away from home for "a good reason" (for example, you have no living parents or were in danger at home).

Your local Jobcentre, Careers Office or Connexions Office will be able to tell you whether or not you qualify for the Jobseeker's Allowance.

Income Support

In certain circumstances, you may be able to claim Income Support. For example, if you are:

  • a single parent
  • a carer (looking after someone else)
  • expecting a baby within 11 weeks
  • disabled or seriously ill

In these circumstances you may not be expected to take a job or training place. Contact your local Jobcentre office if you think you may qualify.

What can I claim if I'm unemployed and 18 or over?

In this situation, you may be entitled to Income Support (see above) or the Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA). This is paid if you are:

  • Capable of working and
  • Available for work and
  • Actively seeking work

If you have been paying National Insurance (NI) contributions, you may be able to get JSA based on the contributions you have paid. If you are on a low income, you may get JSA based on your income level, even though you have not paid any NI contributions. If you contact your local Jobcentre or Careers Office they will give you a claim pack, tell you what you need to do to claim the Jobseeker's Allowance, and arrange a Jobseeker's Inteview for you. You must attend this interview as part of your application.

The new deal for young people

The New Deal for young people is a compulsory programme for 18–24 year olds who have been unemployed and claiming Jobseeker's Allowance for six months or more. It provides advice and guidance, work experience, education, training, and entry into paid work. It is meant to help you get into a lasting job or learn the skills which employers want.

The first step is to meet your personal adviser who will draw up an action plan with you and help you to:

  • find a job that should last more than 3 months;
  • improve your job-finding prospects through confidence-building courses, careers guidance or specialist advice;
  • decide on one of the four New Deal Options. These cover an offer of a job, a return to full-time education or training, or a work placement which contributes to the improvement of the environment or the local community.

Your benefits can be withdrawn if you refuse to take part in the programme.

For help and further information about the New Deal see 'Further information'.

Claiming while working

As a general rule, it's against the law to draw unemployment benefits while working.

However if you're working 16 hours a week or less, or you're in the Territorial Army or you're a lifeboatman, you can claim and they will deduct your earnings from your benefit.

This page was updated on 15 July, 2008


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