Benefits and tax credits when you’ve lost your job

Losing your job can put a real strain on your finances. Find out what benefits are available to help you cope with the loss of income and how to claim them.

Lost your job? What help can you get?

The main benefit you can claim while you’re out of work is Jobseeker’s Allowance, or Universal Credit if you live in an area where it has already started.

Jobseeker’s Allowance is gradually being phased out and replaced by Universal Credit.

If you claim Jobseeker’s Allowance you may also be eligible for other support, such as tax credits or help with rent or mortgage costs. Jobseeker’s Allowance is usually paid every two weeks. Tax credits are usually paid every four weeks.

If you claim Universal Credit you’ll get a single monthly payment. This will include a basic payment plus other elements. These elements are payments for things such as housing costs, childcare or caring. You must claim Universal Credit online.

Your local Jobcentre Plus can tell you whether you should claim Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit.

You can also search for Jobcentres where you can claim Universal Credit on GOV.UK.

Claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit

You can start your claim for either benefit online. It should take up to 40 minutes.

You’ll need to give:

  • your postcode
  • your National Insurance number
  • details about your rent or mortgage
  • your past employer
  • your education
  • details of any income and savings
  • details of people living with you
  • details of the bank, building society or credit union account you want your benefit paid into (you must give this if you are claiming Universal Credit)
  • details of any other benefits you are getting
Find out how to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit on GOV.UK

Next steps

After you’ve applied, you’ll have to follow these steps:

  1. Go to an interview at the Jobcentre or Jobs and Benefits Office. An adviser will talk you through the process and look at ways to improve your chances of finding work.
  2. Sign a ‘Claimant Commitment’. This will set out steps you must take to get a job (such as spending a set number of hours looking for a job). This will depend on things like your health, responsibilities at home and how much help you need to find work or increase your income.
  3. Go back every two weeks to confirm your benefits claim (called ‘signing on’). You’ll also need to prove that you’re meeting the conditions of your Claimant Commitment. After 13 weeks, you’ll have a review with your adviser.

Your benefit payments could be stopped for a while if you don’t agree to do something you agreed to do in your Claimant Commitment and you don’t give a good reason. This is called a sanction.

Tax credits

Did you know?

Millions of families and adults in the UK get tax credits to help make ends meet.

You could get tax credits if you have children, or if your partner is still working and your total household income is below a certain amount.

If you already get tax credits, you must tell the Tax Credits Helpline (0345 300 3900) about your job loss. The amount you get could rise or fall as a result.

Find out more about claiming tax credits

Benefits to help with housing costs

Depending on your income and savings, Housing Benefit or Local Housing Allowance could pay some or all of your rent.

If you’re a homeowner, you may qualify for help towards your mortgage interest payments.

You may also be able to get help with Council Tax:

Benefits to help with other costs

There are other specialist benefits available, so whatever your circumstances, make sure you’re getting the right entitlements.

Use the Turn2Us benefit calculator to find out what benefits you could get.

Welfare and educational grants

If you’re on a low income, there may be some support available through welfare and educational grants from charities.

If your circumstances change

Remember to tell Jobcentre Plus or Jobs and Benefits Office if you go back to work or if your circumstances change.

The same goes for HM Revenue & Customs – you could be fined £300 if you don’t tell the Tax Credits Office (0345 300 3900) that your circumstances have changed.

You may still be entitled to some help when you go back to work and your income is low.

For example, if you were getting Jobseeker’s Allowance you might carry on getting Housing Benefit or Working Tax Credit.

If you are getting Universal Credit, your payments may gradually reduce until your income rises to the point where you’re no longer eligible to get it.

Case study

“The thought of going to the Jobcentre really worried me. All I could think of was that scene from The Full Monty. But the staff weren’t scary at all. They talked me through everything, and made sure I got what I was entitled to. I even got help with my rent.”Pritish

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