Are you looking for work or on low income?

COVID-19 and your finances

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak and the government's response, some information on this page may have changed. 

Please check our COVID-19 and your finances page for the most up to date information.

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

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.


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 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.

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.

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.

The Better Off Calculator  is one example of a benefit calculator.

If you have difficulty understanding the results or using the calculator you can speak to an adviser at the Lamplight Support Service.

Once you know which benefits you might qualify for, seek advice if unsure, or look for the claim forms online.

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.

Examples of benefits for jobseekers and low income households

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

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

Housing Benefit – New claims are only accepted for certain households. 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 – If you’ve reached State Pension age you might qualify for this means-tested benefit.

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

Need advice?

If you’d like advice on this subject, contact the Lamplight team.

If you have an appointment booked with us, preparing will help you get the most out of it.

Before contacting the service, we encourage you to view the advice guides located above, as these may answer your query without the need to wait for an appointment.

If you do need to speak with someone about the Lamplight Support Service call:

  • RCN members can call RCN Direct on 0345 772 6100;
  • Individuals not in RCN membership can call 0345 772 6200.

Once you've booked an appointment, please remember to complete our pre-appointment questionnaire.

Pre-appointment questionnaire

Once you've booked an appointment, you'll need to complete the pre-appointment questionnaire.

Contact the RCN 

You can contact the RCN on 0345 772 6100. (Lines are open 9am - 5pm on weekdays, and 9am - 4pm on weekends.)

LiveChat is available until 8.30 weekdays, or you can e-mail anytime.