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Availability for work
Job-seekers allowance

The case of Secretary of State for Social Security v David CA Times 30-Jan-2001 demonstrated a rather harsh element in current benefits law.

The applicant had been in receipt of job-seeker's allowance. When he made his claim for job-seeker's allowance, he, no doubt out of a desire to please, signed to say he would be available for work without restriction as to either hours or days. He would be ready to take work on any day of the week, to work at any time.

At some later point, he was arrested and held in the police station for 42 hours before being released. No record is made of whether he was charged. The determining officer decided that, by virtue of the regulations, he had become disentitled to Job Seeker's Allowance, not just for the time or days when he was in the police station, but for the entire week. This was despite any assumption of innocence.

The court was clearly very concerned at this, and made an explicit suggestion that parliament should look to some reform. They pointed out that the same result would have been reached had the claimant been, perhaps, unavailable having been stuck on a train for eight hours. Any interference in the availability of the claimant would have the result of disentitling him to an entire week's benefits. The rules gave the officers no significant discretion. Whilst they might, with a bit of optimism, apply some common sense, the court clearly felt that the officers should be given some discretion. Others may feel that the rules should simply be made more sensible.

Until any change, claimants are to be advised where possible not to declare such a wide ranging availability for work. Even here, however, the rules provide only a small scope for common sense.

Jobseekers Act 1995 6

Jobseekers Allowance Regulations 1996 13(3)

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18 October 2013 415 18 October 2013