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Are you looking for work or on low income?

If you’re below state pension age

You might be eligible to claim:

  • Jobseeker's Allowance plus other benefits for any rent or children in the household, or
  • New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance (if you’ve been paying National Insurance Contributions for the last two years), or
  • Universal Credit

The benefits you can apply for will depend on which area of the country you live in because a new benefit called Universal Credit is being introduced gradually. Universal Credit is a single monthly payment for anyone on a low income or not working.

You are expected to claim as soon as you become entitled and could reasonably make a claim. If you delay making a claim for benefits, you are likely to be paid only from the date you claim.

In some cases, benefit payments are reduced if you have left a job voluntarily without a good reason or if loss of employment or pay occurred because of misconduct. However, you can apply for a hardship payment if this does happen.

Which benefits are you eligible to apply for?

Universal Credit has replaced other means tested benefits (apart from Council Tax reduction) for most single jobseekers across the United Kingdom. Universal Credit will be introduced last in Northern Ireland, starting in September 2017.

Check here if you qualify for Universal Credit.

There is also a searchable map showing where Universal Credit affects families, couples and single people, and where it still only affects single people.

Universal Credit is paid at the end of each month. Often, a payment is received 6 weeks after applying. You can request for part of your first Universal Credit payment to be paid sooner if you will experience financial hardship without it. Universal Credit will automatically adjust depending on the hours you work. It may include money towards your rent.

What can you claim if you don’t qualify for Universal Credit?

If you don’t qualify for Universal Credit, you may qualify for Contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance. Unlike Universal Credit, your eligibility is not affected by your partner’s income or your savings and capital. Ask your Job Centre about making a claim or phone 0800 055 6688.

In some areas and situations (particularly if you live in a Universal Credit Full Service Area but don’t qualify for Universal Credit due to household income or savings), you may have to make a claim using a different number 0345 600 4272. Claimants should then be issued with a claim form for Contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance. Claimants then need to telephone the Universal Credit helpline again to arrange for a proof of identify interview at Jobcentre Plus.

If you pay rent, and you haven’t claimed Universal Credit, you can also apply for Housing Benefit. There is also a means-tested benefit to help with Council Tax, usually called Council Tax Reduction or Council Tax Support. Check your council’s website to find application forms for these benefits.

If you have children then you may qualify for Child Tax Credit. There is more information about Child Tax Credit here.

What is available to low income households?

To get an estimate of your eligibility for benefits and tax credits and your total award, you can use a benefits calculator. There is a free benefits calculator on This calculator will not be able to assess your entitlement to non-means tested benefits so it may still be helpful for you to speak to a benefits adviser.

You may qualify for Tax Credits or Universal Credit to top up your household income.

You can use a Tax Credits Calculator to check if you could be eligible for Tax Credits.

If you live in a Universal Credit Full Service Area then you may be asked to apply to Universal Credit instead of Tax Credits. Universal Credit automatically adjusts based on your earnings each month. If you are self-employed then you will also need to submit proof of your earnings each month. You can read more information about Universal Credit here.

If you work less than 16 hours per week, in some cases earnings will be low enough to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance. You can use a benefits calculator or seek advice if you're not sure which benefit to apply for. 

Some households including a working person will also qualify for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction. You can usually apply for these benefits on your council’s website.

Need further advice?

If you would like further advice on this subject contact the lamplight team.

If you have an appointment booked with us, preparing will help you get the best from it.

How to book an appointment

To speak with someone about the Lamplight service and schedule a telephone appointment:

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

Lines are open 8:30am - 8:30pm, 7 days a week.

Before booking an appointment, have a look at our advice guides further up this page. You may find the answer to your query there without the need of an appointment.

How to prepare for an appointment

After you have booked an appointment we need you to complete the pre-appointment questionnaire. This will provide us with the information necessary to give you advice specific to your circumstances. Do not complete the questionnaire before booking an appointment.

At the time of your appointment make sure you are somewhere that you can receive a call and speak in confidence. We will text you a reminder of your appointment before your appointment. 

How to cancel an appointment

Please cancel your appointment if you can’t make it so someone else can have it. You can cancel by:

  • Replying “CANCEL” to the text message that you receive confirming the time of your appointment.
  • Emailing with your name and time of appointment.

To rebook follow the instructions within “how to access the service” detailed above.

Pre-appointment questionnaire

Complete after you have booked your appointment. 

0345 772 6100  

8:30am - 8:30pm, 7 days a  week