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Increasing your income

If you have experienced a change in circumstances or your household income is feeling squeezed, this page will help you find sources of income and understand the support available to help you manage household bills and save money.

It’s easy to think you might be earning too much to claim benefits or wouldn't be entitled to them. Alternatively, 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 what you could get using an online benefits calculator such as  the Turn2us benefits calculator or the Policy in Practice benefits calculator.

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

If you've done the online benefits check but find you're still struggling financially, the RCN Welfare Service can provide advice and support. See booking an appointment for more details.

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 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.

There are a number of energy companies who offer grants and schemes to help customers who are in debt. Alternatively, you could check if you're eligible for a grant from the British Gas Energy Trust.

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

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.

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. (See RCNXtra pages)

For example, it's estimated that around 400,000 homes are in the wrong Council Tax band so it's worth checking in case you could be entitled to a cheaper rate.

You could save money by switching to a water meter as opposed to a standard rate, or if you live alone, you may be able to claim a cheaper rate.

If you are working part-time, have children, or are on a low salary then it might be worth exploring if you can claim Universal Credit.

See our page on benefits for more information and to do a benefits check.

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

The RCN Careers Service can offer advice on CV writing, applications, and interview coaching.

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

See our page on Charitable Funding and other sources of help.

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.

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. 

See HS223 Rent a Room Scheme on the website for more information.

Are you getting certain income-related benefits and need help to pay for essentials like clothing, furniture or a rent deposit? You might be able to apply for a Budgeting Loan or Budgeting Advance if you’re getting Universal Credit. You’ll need to have been claiming Universal Credit for at least six months before you can apply.

You can also see our page on Charitable Funding and other sources of help and Facing short term cash flow issues.

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 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

You can also see our page on Charitable Funding and other sources of help and Facing short term cash flow issues.

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)

Contact the RCN Welfare Service if you feel unable to manage your finances. See booking an appointment with the RCN Welfare Service for more information.

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 is help available to manage your finances if you’re struggling.

See booking an appointment for more information about contacting the RCN for a referral to the RCN Welfare Service. RCN members can also access free counselling.