The UK’s welfare system has always been seen as one of the best in the world but in recent years has undergone some pretty major changes. There has been a dramatic rise in the use of foodbanks and other community welfare services, with many existing benefit claimants facing sanctions and loss of income whilst some of the newly unemployed find themselves ineligible for any benefits whatsoever.
If you find yourself unemployed in the UK, there are places you can turn to while you’re looking for work. If you have lost your benefits, been sanctioned or are unable to claim, there are always ways to ensure that your finances don’t go into the red and the road to employment isn’t too rocky.
1. Budget and Plan Ahead
Assess any income you might have coming in and work out your existing finances. Do you have any expected payments coming in? Does anyone owe you money? If you have a little cash saved away for a rainy day, make sure you only use it for essentials like rent, bills and food. Plan ahead, and don’t underestimate how long you might be out of work. It can be hard to find a job, and it may not be as quick and easy as you expect. If you effectively and realistically plan ahead and budget your existing finances, you hopefully won’t have to rely on any benefits to get you through the period of unemployment.
2. Check What You're Entitled To
If you’re struggling to make ends meet, check and double check which benefits you may be entitled to. If you don’t have any savings or income at all, you should be eligible for some kind of help. If you are over 18, not in education and actively seeking work, you should be able to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance if you are unemployed. There are other benefits you may be able to claim if you are unable to pay your rent in the wake of unemployment, such as Housing Benefit. If you are an existing claimant and your benefits have been stopped or sanctioned, your Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction may be terminated, so it’s important to remain in contact with your local council and keep on top of your status. You can always contact Citizens Advice for benefit support.
3. Apply for a Hardship Payment
If your benefits have been ceased or temporarily stopped and you are facing financial disaster, you may be able to apply for a Hardship Payment, a reworking of the previous Crisis Loan model. This payment is designed for serious financial emergencies, such as when someone is unable to afford rent or food, or is looking at losing their property.
4. Appeal Decisions
Don’t take no for an answer until you are completely sure that you are ineligible or unable to claim. You can gain advice and support on how to argue and appeal benefits decisions at Citizens Advice who are experienced in dealing with benefit-related disputes.
5. Check Local Welfare Schemes and Services in Your Area
If you’ve exhausted all of your options, it might be time to seek out the local and independent welfare schemes that may exist in your area, such as food and clothes banks. These days, there are plenty of crowd-funded initiatives and community welfare projects that have increased in number as a response to the cuts to the UK benefits system. Turn2us offers some great advice, support and information about local schemes, community projects, and grants and benefits that could help you get back into the green if you’re unemployed. Find your nearest food bank here.
It can be really challenging finding a job. It’s important to remember that there are options for those struggling to make ends meet without help from the welfare system. There are community projects there to help you get back on the road to employment, so make the most of them!