Your web browser is outdated and may be insecure

The RCN recommends using an updated browser such as Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome

Are you looking for work or on low income?

If you're looking for work, or on a low income you may be able to claim benefits, depending on your circumstances.

Many benefits will be paid only from the date you apply, so it’s best to apply as soon as you know which ones to claim.

Claiming benefits

The benefits you can claim will depend on:

  • your household circumstances
  • income level for you and any partner you live with
  • whether you paid regular National Insurance contributions through work in the past two tax years, which will allow you to claim non means-tested benefits such as New Style Job Seekers Allowance (NS-JSA)

Most benefits will be paid only from the date you apply, so it’s best to apply as soon as you know which ones to claim.

Which benefits can you claim?

You can use a benefit calculator to help work out which benefits you’re likely to qualify for and how much will be paid. Examples of benefit calculators are:

The Better Off Calculator

Entitled to benefits calculator

Policy in Practice benefits calculator

If you have difficulty understanding the results or using the calculator you can speak to an adviser at the RCN Welfare Service. Please note that calculators should only be used as a guide to entitlements.

Once you know which benefits you might qualify for you can start your claims. There is information about how to claim for different benefits on the benefit section of the website. Click the benefit you wish to apply for and follow the guidance.

If you already claim Housing Benefit or Tax Credits these claims will stop if you start a claim for Universal Credit. Check if you’ll be better off overall from claiming Universal Credit, and if you’re not sure, speak to an adviser.


If you resigned from your job or your contract was terminated, you should still make a claim for benefits, even if you’re concerned about the possibility of getting a ‘sanction’. You may not get a sanction and if you delay a benefit claim you could be losing out on your benefit entitlement. If you’ve been sanctioned, or think you might get sanctioned, speak to an adviser. An adviser can talk through your options and may refer you for more support.

Examples of benefits for jobseekers and low income households

Below are some examples of benefits for jobseekers and low income households.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a payment to help with your living costs. It’s paid monthly - or twice a month for some people in Scotland.

You may be able to get it if you’re on a low income or out of work. If you live with a partner, the claim will be made jointly with your partner, and their income as well as yours will be included when your claim is looked at.

If you apply for Universal Credit, the claim will first look at your ‘maximum amount’ which is made up of elements for household members, any rent you’re liable to pay, and any registered childcare. Then Universal Credit will ask the HMRC how much you were paid during the month after you apply, and each month that your claim remains active. Your pay amount will affect how much Universal Credit you’re entitled to each month. 

New Style Jobseeker's Allowance

New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance – This is a good option if you’re looking for work and your household income or savings are going to be too high to qualify for Universal Credit. It’s not affected by household income or savings and is only for claimants who have paid National Insurance regularly in the past two complete tax years.

It doesn’t include amounts for rent, for children or for childcare.

Council Tax Reduction

Council Tax Reduction - also called Council Tax Support, for low income households. Check your council website.

Housing Benefit

Housing Benefit – New claims are only accepted in limited circumstances. If you’ve reached State Pension Age, you pay rent, and you have a low income, contact your council to ask for a Housing Benefit application form.

Pension Credit

Pension Credit – If you’ve reached State Pension age you might qualify for this means-tested benefit.

Other options

There are more options if you have ill health or a disability.

Need further advice?

Before contacting the service, we encourage you to see the advice guides and tools located on the Financial Wellbeing pages as these may answer your query without the need to wait for an appointment.

If you do need to speak with someone, please see our advice on booking an appointment with the RCN Welfare Service.