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Money advice: How to maximise your income

Helping you take control of your finances and keep on top of your debt.

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Many of us are worried about the increase in household and energy bills. To help you keep your finances on track, we've put together information on claiming benefits and other ways to maximise your income.

Worried about money? Our guide can help you to:

Make sure you're getting all the benefits you're entitled to

Benefits are paid to you by the government and people miss out on over four billion pounds of benefits and tax credits each year. They're not only for people that are unemployed. You can also get help if you are:

  • on a low income, or
  • disabled, or care for a person with a disability, or
  • a parent or guardian.

Depending on your circumstances you may be able to claim benefits to help with housing and council tax bills.

Use our free online benefits calculator

If you're struggling with money it's important to make sure you're getting all the income you're entitled to. The extra money you could claim from benefits can make a big difference to your situation.

The government is in the process of moving people from “legacy benefits” (this means Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance and others) to Universal Credit (UC). People who make a new application for benefits are likely to receive UC, but this is an ongoing process, with plans to move everyone over by 2024. Our benefits calculator works out what you're entitled to based on the current guidelines. You may be prompted to apply for Universal Credit when you complete the test, but you don't have to.

Try our benefits calculator

How to claim benefits

If you've already used our benefits calculator and think you are entitled to a benefit, read our guide to making a claim.

What to do if you've been overpaid benefits

. You should contact the office dealing with your benefit as soon as possible if:

  • you think you've been overpaid a benefit, or
  • your circumstances have changed since you started receiving a benefit.

You'll need to pay back any overpayments.

Find out how to deal with benefits overpayments  and what to do if you're struggling to repay what you owe.

Don't sweep it under the carpet. Waiting only makes debt problems worse.

Take two minutes to answer a few simple questions, so we can understand the best way to help you.

Find the right help

Council tax, rates, rent and mortgages

Council tax (England, Wales and Scotland) and rates (Northern Ireland) are priority bills. There can be serious consequences to if you fail to keep up your payments.

It’s important to check you’re paying the right amount, find out if you’re entitled to any reductions, and get help if you’re struggling to pay.

Paying your council tax

Find out more about how your council tax is calculated, how to pay and whether you qualify for a discount on your council tax. Paying your council tax bills

Dealing with council tax, rates and rent arrears

If you miss a payment it's important to get in touch with the council, lettings agency or landlord and ask them to agree to an affordable payment plan to help you clear your arrears. Find out what to do if:

Get support paying your mortgage interest

If you’re currently on a benefit and struggling to pay your mortgage, the government can help you meet your mortgage interest payments. This is called Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI).

Find out more about Government Support for Mortgage Interest

Priority bills

Some bills are classed as priorities because the impact of not paying them are greater. You should pay bills and arrears like your council tax, rates, rent or mortgage first.

Learn more about which debts to pay first

Budgeting help and saving money

A budget is a list of all the money you receive and all the things you spend money over a certain period, usually a month.

Making a budget is the first step towards taking control of your finances and getting your situation back on track. Budgeting helps you see where your money is going, so it’s easier to make sure you’ve covered everything you need to pay for.

How to make a budget

More guides to saving money and increasing income

More support with the rising cost of living

Millions or people are now struggling to cover essential household costs because of the current cost of living crisis.

Find out more ways to reduce the impact of the crisis on your finances

Other benefits, schemes and support

You could be able to access further benefits and schemes.

Trust funds are charitable trusts who supply funds to provide support for things such as:

  • Energy bills
  • Pensioners and low-income households
  • Educational and vocational support
  • Vets bills and pet care

Find out more what trust funds are available

If you need help with your fuels costs, the National Energy Action (NEA) can help. They offer free support to people in England and Wales to help with their energy bills and keeping warm and safe in their home.

If you find it difficult to pay your energy bills, whether you pay monthly or have a pre-payment meter, visit the Fuelbank Foundation.

You can get advice from Simple Energy Advice on energy savings, including:

  • Insulating your loft and cavity walls
  • Draught-proofing windows and doors
  • Upgrading your boiler
  • Installing double glazing
  • Using alternative sources of energy, such as solar power

See if you can get a home energy grant to help pay for your energy bills and insulation.

The energy efficiency calculator can quickly give you recommendations on ways to cut the cost of your energy bills.

Find out about government assistance to help with your energy bills, including:

  • Money back on your council tax
  • Warm Home Discount Scheme
  • Winter Fuel Payment
  • Cold Weather Payment
  • The government energy loan

You might find it cheaper to ask your supplier to fit a water meter if:

  • you don’t use much water, or
  • have more bedrooms than people in your house.

More information on water meters

Water suppliers offer schemes that may be able to cap your charges for ongoing water use. They may also allow you to pay for your water bills directly from your benefits and receive a discount. Check if you’re eligible and find out more about getting help with your water bills.

If you can't afford to pay your water bill or are behind with your payments, we have information on what benefits you can get, and how to contact your supplier to if you’re finding payments a struggle.

If you’re receiving certain government benefits you may be able to get a discount on your landline phone, and your home internet if you have that.

Affordable phone and internet social tariffs are offered by some suppliers, including BT and Virgin Media. This is available to for customers on a low income that meet their criteria.

Get more information on social tariffs for phone and broadband.

Make sure you're being paid under the right tax code

If you’ve just started work or recently changed jobs you could be on the wrong tax code.

You can find your tax code on your latest payslip, P45 or P60.

If you think your tax code is incorrect, you can update your employment details using the check your Income Tax online service.

If you think you’ve paid too much tax you can apply for a refund.

You won’t have a tax code if you’re self-employed, unemployed or only receiving the state pension.

Debt and mental health support

Money worries and poor mental health are often linked. If you’re struggling to cope, you’re not alone. Around half of our clients have told us they have depression, stress, anxiety, or they’re living with another mental health condition.

We have a range of support and resources if you’re struggling with debt and mental health.

Debt and mental health evidence form

The Debt and mental health evidence form (DMHEF) can help your creditors to understand any mental health issues you may be experiencing.

A health or social care professional needs to complete the form. If you agree to tell them, your creditors will then receive information from your health or social care professional.

Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space (MHCBS)

Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space is a debt respite scheme for people receiving mental health crisis treatment.

MHCBS is only available to residents of England and Wales with at least one qualifying debt to a creditor and if they're receiving mental health crisis treatment.

Need debt advice?

If you're struggling because you've lost control of your financial situation and your debts are growing, get free online debt advice tailored to your individual circumstances.

Not sure where to start?

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Katie, Tyne and Wear

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