How to cope with financial difficulties

Unemployment can be one of life's toughest challenges, but there are many practical steps you can take to help you best cope.

An array of information is available through the BBC News website and various groups offer help for people who are out of work.

Here is a guide to some of that advice and information.

Negotiating redundancy

If you are being made redundant, a good starting point for advice and information is the government advice service direct.gov.

Alternatively, Acas has a detailed booklet with advice and information aimed at employers and union representatives.

Job centre The Jobcentre Plus website has a database of vacancies you can search from home

If you have worked continuously for the same employer for two years or more, you are likely to be entitled to statutory redundancy pay.

The first £30,000 of redundancy pay is tax-free but the rest, including unpaid wages and bonuses, may be taxed.

Direct.gov has an online calculator to help you work how much you are entitled to.

Business Link has one aimed at employers to calculate the minimum you have to pay.

It also does a comprehensive guide to what you need to think about, and the rules you need to follow, if you are contemplating laying workers off.

For employees, there are specific rules if your employer goes bust. What has happened to the company and who is running it now, will determine who you may be able to claim to and how you do it.

If the company is insolvent, for example, you may be able to claim your statutory redundancy pay from the the National Insurance Fund.

You have to meet certain conditions, however, such as having worked for the firm continuously for two years.

Those in Northern Ireland can get free advice on employment rights from the Labour Relations Agency.

And if you are given notice of redundancy, you are entitled to some paid time off to look for a new job - provided that, by the time your period of notice ends, you have been with the employer for two years.

Looking for a job

About 2.5 million people in the UK are out of work, according to official figures. But Jobcentre Plus says there are still job vacancies in the UK at any time.

Get help

Graduates at a job fair

People looking for a job can start by searching a database of jobs held by Jobcentre Plus.

In addition there is a separate database of jobs in Northern Ireland.

Direct.gov has advice on how to apply for jobs, including filling in an application form or writing a CV - which an adviser at your local Jobcentre Plus office can also help with.

In addition, there are websites for specific parts of the UK.

Skills Development Scotland has advice on finding a job, dealing with redundancy and links to Scotland-specific jobs sites.

Next Steps, in England has advice including where to look for funding for courses to learn new skills.

Careers Wales has bi-lingual advice on all these things, too, plus help for jobseekers under 19.

People who find themselves unemployed for more than six months may be eligible for further help from the government. But this depends on your circumstances and where in the UK you live.

Finally, the charity Credit Action has produced an excellent guide to facing up to redundancy. It advises you not to panic and to take time to assess what kind of work you would like to do.

It also suggests using contacts to get work. But it warns against rushing out immediately after you are made redundant - this can be counter-productive if you are in an emotional state.

Organisations such as The Samaritans can offer help and advice if the emotional impact of being made redundant gets too much.

Claiming benefits

If you are out of work, you may be entitled to a series of benefits, including Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) and Child Tax Credit.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) may be available if you are sick or have a disability.

Direct.gov can guide you to which benefits you could be entitled to and how to make a claim.

Organisations such Citizens Advice can also help you as to possible entitlements after you have lost your job.

You'll find separate advice sections on their website for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

You can also speak to one of their advisors, for free and in confidence, in person at one of their centres.

Budgeting and facing debts

Financial hardship is an obvious potential problem if you lose your job, so it is worth facing up to this.

There is plenty of free help available, so take advantage of it.

Experts urge people to be honest about money problems. For starters, you may want to take the BBC's Debt Test and Financial Healthcheck.

Keep up to date with priority debts, including housing, heating and council tax.

A good place to start is the Citizens Advice website, and its sections on money management. Choose the specific section for your part of the UK.

Advice groups include the Consumer Credit Counselling Service or the National Debtline.

Setting a budget and having a good overview of your income and outgoings can also help you to juggle your finances in tricky times.

A group of national charities have put together a site with lots of financial advice, including how to plan your finances with a budget calculator.

Alternatively BBC Raw has a video guide to surviving redundancy, including an easy-to-use budget planner.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Links to external sites are for information only and do not constitute endorsement. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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