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What benefits you can claim and other ways to increase your income

Do a benefits check

It’s easy to think you might be earning too much to claim benefits. Or if you’re already getting benefits, you might not realise you could be entitled to extra support.   

But around £10 billion in benefits goes unclaimed every year, so it’s always worth taking another look.

Check out our Benefits section for what you could get if you’re:

  • facing redundancy or you’ve lost your job for any other reason

  • self-employed or in work on a low income

  • need help with housing costs

  • having a baby or bringing up children

  • sick and unable to work or have a disability or a long-term health condition

  • a carer

  • an older person.

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If you live in Northern Ireland, find out more about what benefits and financial support you might be entitled to on the  nidirect website

 

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Help with gas and electricity costs

It’s worth calling your current supplier to ask for a better deal. For example, find out if you can opt for paperless billings or move to a cheaper tariff. These simple steps might lead to big savings.

If you’re currently on a variable rate tariff, consider switching to a fixed rate tariff – even one from your existing energy supplier.

A fixed rate tariff is good because:

  • you know how much you can expect to pay over the time period the tariff lasts (e.g, two years) so it will help you with household budgeting. Getting a fixed tariff doesn’t mean your energy bills will stay the same, regardless of how much energy you use. You’ll pay the same rate per unit. But if you use more units, your bill will be higher.

  • it will protect you if prices rise again during the term of your fixed deal.

  • in the unlikely event that prices go down you can usually leave the tariff for a small exit fee (sometimes even for free) and switch to a cheaper deal.

If you're on a standard variable tariff, you can also use comparison sites to see if you can get a cheaper deal elsewhere. Switching energy providers might seem like a hassle but it's simple to change supplier and could save you money.

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Energy-Efficiency Grants

If you want to make some changes to your home to cut your power bills, you can go green and reduce the amount of energy you use. You might be able to get help towards the costs.

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Help with phone and broadband costs

Phone and broadband are essential if you’re job seeking or even just want to find the best deals to help save you money, as online offers are often cheaper, and you can use comparison sites to check tariffs and prices. 

To help you stay digitally connected, some providers offer low-cost  plans if you’re getting certain income-related benefits, including: 

  • Universal Credit 

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • Pension Credit  

  • Employment and Support Allowance

Find out who offers low-cost tariffs and how providers can help you get on the best plan for your needs in our guide Help if you’re struggling with mobile, TV or broadband bills

There are several cheap SIM only contracts with mobile data, which could be better value than a broadband package and they usually offer faster connections.

Help with other bills and payments

It’s always a good idea to review all your bills and payments to see if you can save money by switching providers or moving onto cheaper plans.

What can you claim if you’re working and on a low income?

Check your payslip

If you’re employed, make sure you check your payslip to see you’re on the right tax code and being paid at or above the National Minimum Wage.

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Check if you’re being paid correctly and find out what to do if you’re being paid less than you should be in our guide on National Minimum wage

Taking on other work

If you’re able to take on the extra hours, you could earn money from a second job.

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Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card

When you’ve been claiming certain income-related benefits – including Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit – for three months, you’re entitled to a Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card.

You can get half-price rail tickets and discounts on selected bus services for six months (18-24-year olds) or nine months (over 25s).

You can apply for a Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card at your local Jobcentre Plus. Find out more about contacting JobCentre Plus on the GOV.UK website

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Flexible Support Fund

You might be able to use the Flexible Support Fund to help with the cost of travelling to interviews and training or with extra costs you might have in the first months of starting a new job. 

You can also apply to pay for upfront costs if you need to secure a childcare place.

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Apply for a charitable grant

Many charities, professional, faith and other local organisations offer grants. You usually don’t have to pay the money back.

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Check insurance cover

If you’ve lost your job or can’t work because of ill health or an accident you might have insurance cover you’ve forgotten about that might offer income protection.

If you’ve got a mortgage, check if you took out any policies to cover payments. Also, some bank accounts offer add-on packages of insurance.

Your workplace may offer support if you have an accident or long-term illness. Check your staff handbook to find out.

Rent out a spare room

If you have a spare bedroom in your home, you might want to consider renting it out under the Rent a Room scheme, which lets you earn up to £7,500 a year in rental income without paying tax on it. 

You don’t have to be a homeowner to take advantage of the scheme. If you’re renting you can also let out a room to a lodger, if your tenancy agreement allows you to do so.

If you’re on Universal Credit you can earn up to the £7,500 limit without it affecting your payment. 

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Help to pay for essential things

Budgeting advances and budgeting loans

Are you getting certain income-related benefits and need help to pay for essentials like clothing, furniture or a rent deposit? Then you might be able to apply for a Budgeting Loan or Budgeting Advance if you’re getting Universal Credit. 

But you’ll need to have been claiming Universal Credit for at least six months before you can apply.

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Support to help you get through a crisis

If you’re facing an emergency such as broken washing machine or you need urgent help with energy bills and are vulnerable, there might be local help available. This is known as local welfare assistance.

If you apply, a decision as to whether to provide help and how much will be based on your individual situation.

  • If you live in England, contact your council to see if they have a welfare assistance scheme. Find your local council on the GOV.UK website

  • If you live in Scotland, find out more about the Scottish Welfare Fund on the  Scottish Government website

  • If you live in Wales, find out more about the Discretionary Assistance Fund on the  Welsh Government website

  • If you live in Northern Ireland, find out more about changes to the Social Fund on the nidirect website

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Financial help during the coronavirus pandemic

Test and Trace Support Payment

f you’re told to self-isolate by the NHS Test and Trace system, can’t work from home and are claiming any of the benefits listed below, you’ll be entitled to a payment of £500:

  • Universal Credit

  • Working Tax Credit

  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • Income Support

  • Pension Credit

  • Housing Benefit.

This payment will be made by your local authority.

You’ll have to show proof of your employment (or self-employment) to qualify, and checks will be carried out to check you’re unable to work from home.

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Refugees and asylum seekers

Refugees might be entitled to an integration loan to pay for housing, household items, education and work training.

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Asylum seekers might be able to claim asylum support for housing, education and access to the National Health Service (NHS).

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The Refugee Council offers free advice and information for refugees and asylum seekers in the UK.

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Prioritise your physical and mental wellbeing

Living on a low income, particularly if it’s caused by an income shock such as job loss, bereavement or relationship breakdown, can be very stressful and affect your ability to deal with problems when so much is else is going on in your life.

Experiencing physical or mental health problems might also mean you struggle to manage your money. 

It’s important to remember there’s a lot of help available to manage your finances if you’re struggling.

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Contact your creditors

Letting the people or company you owe money to know sooner rather than later that you’re having difficulties will enable them to put support in place for you. 

If you’re struggling with money or worried about falling into debt, your options might include: 

  • reviewing bill payment plans, including any debt you might be repaying  in instalments 

  • payment breaks, or reductions in how much you pay 

  • having longer to repay what you owe  

  • moving to a different tariff 

  • lowering your spending cap 

  • access to hardship funds (in exceptional cases) 

Where to get free help and advice

If your problem is complex, Advicelocal can help you find free and impartial advice in your area on:

  • Benefits

  • Council Tax

  • Housing

  • Employment

  • Disability and social care

  • Asylum and immigration

If you’ve missed payments on bills or loans, now is the time to get free debt advice.

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Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

Continue to website
Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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