Many benefits are available, including help for people in hospital, on a low income, disabled, over pension age, or parents and carers.
Here's a guide to what's available, depending on your circumstances.
Specific benefits and allowances
The government has been introducing Universal Credit gradually since April 2013. It’s replacing these benefits:
- income based Job Seekers Allowance
- income related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Child Tax Credits
- Working Tax Credits
- Housing Benefit
Universal Credit aims to respond to people's changing circumstances. The idea is that people on low incomes get ongoing support as they move in and out of work, instead of having their benefits stop and start.
You may be able to claim Universal Credit if you are eligible and live in an area where it’s started. The government’s target is to move all claims over to universal credit by February 2018, but it may take longer than this.
You don’t need to do anything if you’re already claiming benefits. The Department for Work and Pensions will tell you when UC will affect you. The main differences are:
- people who are working but on a low income, and people who are out of work, can receive UC
- most people will have to apply online and manage their claim through an online account
- some people on low incomes will keep getting UC when they first start a new job or increase part time working hours
- you'll have UC paid monthly into your bank account
- support with housing costs will go directly to you as part of your monthly payment, and not to your landlord
We’ll keep updating our information on existing benefits until they’ve been completely phased out.
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a benefit for people who need help with personal care, getting around, or both because they’re ill or disabled.
DLA is not based on your National Insurance contributions. Any savings, earnings, benefits or other income that you have don't affect it.
You can now only make a new claim for DLA if you’re claiming for a child under 16. This is because the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is replacing the DLA. Anyone over 16 must apply for PIP.
If you’re already getting DLA, at some point you’ll need to claim for PIP instead. The Department for Work and Pensions will write to tell you when your DLA will end. They will invite you to apply for PIP instead.
The two parts of DLA for children under 16
There are two parts (components) to DLA – the care component and the mobility component. You can claim for either or both. Your child must usually have needed help for at least 3 months and expect to need it for 6 months or more.
The care component
You can get this if your child needs help with personal care. There are 3 rates of the care component. Each rate has different conditions that your child must meet.
- Low rate is £22 a week. Your child needs help for only some of the day or night.
- Middle rate is £55.65 a week. Your child needs frequent help during the day, or constant supervision in the day or night, or help while having dialysis.
- High rate is £83.10 a week. Your child needs help or supervision both day and night, or is terminally ill.
You might also be able to claim for carers allowance if you spend 35 hours or more a week caring for a child who gets the middle or highest care rate of DLA.
The mobility component
You can get this if your child has difficulty walking or can't walk.
There are 2 rates of the mobility component.
- Low rate is £22 a week. Your child can walk but needs help or supervision when outdoors.
- High rate is £58 a week. Your child can't walk, or can only walk a short distance without severe discomfort, or is blind.
The Disability Living Allowance helpline can help with existing DLA claims or new claims for children under 16. Call 0800 121 4600 (textphone 0800 121 4523) between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday.
Personal Independence Payment (PIP) started replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in 2013.
PIP is tax free. You can be paid it whether you’re working or not. There are two parts (components) to it:
The Daily Living component
This pays £55.65 a week at standard rate and £83.10 at enhanced rate. You can claim this if you have any difficulty with preparing food, eating, washing, dressing, communicating, managing medicines and making decisions about money.
The Mobility component
This pays £22 a week at standard rate and £58 at enhanced rate. You can claim this if you have difficulty going out or moving around.
You automatically qualify for enhanced rates if doctors do not expect you to live more than 6 months. Otherwise the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) works out your rate after an independent healthcare professional has assessed your needs. It pays the money into your bank account every 4 weeks.
To claim, phone the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) claims line on 0800 917 2222 (textphone 0800 917 7777). They will send you a form to fill in. You may need to have a medical assessment to check how your condition affects you.
You can claim Attendance Allowance (AA) if you are 65 or over, and need help with personal care because you are ill or disabled.
You must have needed help for at least 6 months – unless you are terminally ill, then you can get the higher rate of AA straight away.
This benefit is not based on National Insurance contributions and it isn’t means tested.
There are two rates of AA for help with personal care:
- a lower rate of £55.65 a week if you need help during either the day or night
- a higher rate of £83.10 a week if you need help during both the day and night, or you are terminally ill
You may need to have a medical assessment to check how your condition affects you. Getting AA might increase the amount of other benefits and financial support you're entitled to. You might get extra Housing Benefit or Pension Credit if you have a severe disability.
Carers might be able to get Carer's Allowance if the person they care for gets AA.
You can get a claim pack from the Attendance Allowance helpline on 0800 731 0122 (text phone 0800 731 0317). Or you can download a claims form (form AA1A) from the GOV.UK website and send it in the post.
There are two tax credits – Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.
Working Tax Credit (WTC)
Working Tax Credit (WTC) is a payment for people who work and are on a low income. You could get working tax credit if:
- you’re aged from 16 to 24 and have a child or a qualifying disability
- you’re 25 or over, with or without children
Whether you qualify depends on your circumstances and working hours:
- age 25-39 – you need to be working at least 30 hours a week
- age 60 or over – working at least 16 hours a week
- disabled – working at least 16 hours a week
- single person with one or more children – working at least 16 hours a week
- couple with one or more children – working at least 24 hours a week between you (with one of you working at least 16 hours)
WTC is paid on top of your net pay. There is no set income limit as it depends on your circumstances.
As a guide, the limit is around £18,000 for a couple without children or around £13,000 for a single person. There are extra allowances to help with childcare or if one of you is disabled.
If you are sick short term, you can still count as someone who works. So you can get working tax credit while you're on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). SSP lasts for a maximum of 28 weeks, so if you're off sick for longer than that, you can't get any more working tax credit.
Child Tax Credit (CTC)
Child Tax Credit (CTC) is a payment for parents or carers of children or young people who are still in education. It’s available whether you’re on benefits or not. It doesn’t affect your Child Benefit.
You can claim CTC for children up to 16, or for children up to 20 if they’re in certain types of education or training. You might not qualify for CTC if your household income is too high.
You are paid CTC as a benefit, not a tax allowance. It goes to the parent who has most responsibility for child care. Usually, this is the mother. You have to renew your claim every year.
How to claim WTC or CTC
To claim either tax credit, you need your P60 from the end of the last tax year. Or if you’re self-employed, you need your accounts or tax returns from that year. A P60 is a statement of taxable earnings. Your employer usually sends it to you automatically at the end of the tax year.
The last tax year is the one that ends in the previous March. So if you were claiming in February 2016, you'd need to supply your P60 for the tax year April 2014 to March 2015. The tax office needs these papers to work out your earnings for your claim.
Tell the Tax Credit Office if things change
The system should be able to deal with any changes to your financial circumstances as they happen. But it’s important for you to tell the Tax Credit Office about any changes. You can do this by phone.
You can claim for tax credits by phoning the Tax Credit Helpline on 0345 300 3900 (textphone 0345 300 3909). Lines are open from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm on Saturday, and 9am to 5pm on Sunday.
Carer's Allowance is a benefit for carers aged 16 and over who look after a relative or friend for at least 35 hours a week.
The current rate is £62.70 a week. But your rate may be lower if you already get other benefits. It is also taxable.
To get CA, you need to be caring for someone who claims one of these:
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – Daily Living component
- Disability Living Allowance at the middle or higher care rate
- Attendance Allowance
- Armed Forces Independence Payment
You must earn less than £116 a week after deductions for tax and national insurance.
Unfortunately, you don’t qualify if you’re studying for more than 21 hours a week.
You can backdate your claim for up to 3 months, as long as the person you’re caring for was getting one of the above benefits during that time.
If you’ve stopped working for the time being, you’ll automatically get a Class 1 National Insurance credit for each week you qualify for CA. The credits are free. They help to make sure you qualify for other benefits in the future, such as your state pension. This is called the Carer's Credit.
Other things to remember about Carer's Allowance
If the person you are caring for dies, you can go on claiming Carer's Allowance for 8 weeks after the date of their death.
Carer's Allowance overlaps with some other benefits and the state retirement pension. So if you get the same amount or more from these, you might not qualify. But it’s still worth claiming, because you may then qualify for Pension Credit or the carer's premium on other benefits.
Remember that getting Carer's Allowance can affect the benefits of the person you’re caring for. Check this before you make a claim.
Applying for Carer's Allowance can be complicated, so it's worth getting help from a Benefits Adviser or Citizens Advice.
How to claim CA
You can claim Carer's Allowance online or by post using form DS700.
You can claim Income Support (IS) if you’re between 16 and pension age and are:
- on a low income
- working less than 16 hours a week
- not signed on as unemployed
If you have a partner, they must work less than 24 hours a week.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) uses your income to decide whether you qualify for IS. This is called means testing.
Any savings or capital you have over £6,000 will affect your claim and if you have over £16,000 you won't get anything. Capital means things you own, like savings or property, but the DWP doesn't count the home you own and live in. It will also take any other financial demands on you into account, such as paying child maintenance.
The final amount you get is based on factors such as your age, health, housing costs, working hours, the number of people in your household and whether you are a single parent or a carer.
You get a personal allowance for living expenses. There are additional payments for being a carer or having a disability. Claiming IS can mean you are eligible for other benefits such as Disability Living Allowance, free school meals, free prescriptions and Housing Benefit.
To claim Income Support, visit or phone your local Jobcentre Plus office or phone 0800 055 6688 (textphone 0800 023 4888) between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday. You can also claim IS online.
Pension Credit (PC) is really income support for people over pension age.
Remember that any savings you have will count towards your income. You can work out how much you might get with the online pension credit calculator.
Pension credit comes in two parts – Guarantee Credit and Savings Credit.
Guarantee Credit is based on your income. You can claim if you are over pension age. If you have more than £6,000 in savings, you’ll receive less than the full amount.
There’s no limit to how many hours you can work, but the DWP will count most of what you earn when they work out your entitlement. You're eligible if your weekly income is less than £159.35 for a single person or £243.25 for a couple. Guarantee Credit tops it up to this amount.
If you have special circumstances, such as being a carer or having severe disabilities, you can get a higher rate of Guarantee Credit.
Savings Credit is for people over 65 who have an income or savings above basic state pension level.
You could get up to £13.20 per week for a single person or £14.90 for a couple, depending on your weekly income.
The maximum income limit includes all earnings and pensions you receive. If you're not sure whether you qualify, do put in a claim.
You might get more if you are disabled or a carer, or if you have certain housing costs such as mortgage interest payments.
To claim pension credit, you can ring the Pension Credit claim line on 0800 99 1234 or textphone 0800 169 0133. Lines are open 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. Someone will complete the form with you over the phone and then send it to you to check and sign. Or you can download a PC claim form from the government website GOV.UK.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is for employed people who become sick and can’t work.
Qualifying for SSP
Statutory Sick Pay is not means tested. To qualify, you must be employed and earning enough to pay National Insurance contributions.
- You have to be unable to work for any 4 or more days in a row, including weekends and bank holidays.
- You will only be paid SSP for days that you are contracted to work (for example, you will not be paid for weekends if you work Monday to Friday).
- You must have average weekly earnings of at least £113 a week to qualify (worked out on the 8 weeks before your sickness began).
You don't qualify if:
- you’re off sick for 3 days or less
- your employer has a sick pay scheme that would pay you the same as or more than the standard weekly rate of SSP (£89.35 a week for up to 28 weeks)
Tell your employer as soon as you become sick. You need a medical certificate from your doctor if you’re off sick for more than a week. You’ll be paid SSP the same way as wages for up to 28 weeks of sick leave. But you may get sick pay for longer than that, depending on your own employer's sickness scheme.
If you are still ill after 28 weeks, your employer should give you an SSP1 form to claim Employment Support Allowance.
Claim from your employer. If you aren't sure that what they are telling you is right, you can call the HMRC employees enquiry line for advice on 0300 200 3500 (textphone 0300 200 3519). Lines are open from 8.30am to 5pm, Monday to Thursday, and 8.30am to 4.30pm on Friday.
You may also be entitled to Income Support depending on your financial circumstances. You should get advice on which would be better for you – ask your Jobcentre Plus office.
If you’re ill or disabled, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) offers you:
- financial support if you’re unable to work
- help so that you can work if you’re able to
You can apply for ESA if you’re employed, self-employed, unemployed or a student on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP). It's based on your record of National Insurance contributions or your income, or both.
How it works
There are two phases to the allowance.
Phase 1 – the assessment phase
For the first 13 weeks of your claim, you can get up to:
- £73.10 a week if you're 25 or over
- £57.90 a week if you’re under 25
During this assessment phase you’ll have a Work Capability Assessment. You complete a questionnaire about how your illness or disability affects you day to day. Your doctor may also have to provide a medical report.
A health professional then reviews your questionnaire and doctor’s report. They may send you for a medical assessment if they feel they need more information.
They won’t expect you to prepare for work if you have an illness or disability that severely affects your ability to work. But you might still need to have the medical assessment.
You might not need an assessment if you are having treatment for cancer, or you are terminally ill.
Phase 2 – the group phase
You'll go into one of two groups if you qualify for ESA – the Work Related Activity Group or the Support Group.
The Work Related Activity Group is for people assessed as able to work with the right support. You go to monthly meetings with an adviser, who will organise the support you need to get back into work.
The Support Group is for people with an illness or disability that severely affects their ability to work.
So after 13 weeks, you will get:
- up to £73.10 a week if you’re in the Work Related Activity Group (you may get more if you applied before 3rd April 2017)
- up to £109.65 a week if you’re in the Support Group
To claim ESA call 0800 055 6688 (textphone 0800 023 4888). Lines are open from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. They will ask you questions about your circumstances and tell you what happens next. Or you can download a claim form online and send it to your local Jobseeker Plus office.
You qualify for Housing Benefit (HB) if you:
- pay rent
- are on a low income or claiming benefits
- have savings below £16,000
Even if you’re in full time or part time work, you can still qualify if your income is low enough.
If you’re under 35, you can only get HB for a bedsit or a single room in a shared house or flat.
The amount of HB you get depends on:
- whether you rent privately or from the council
- whether you have unoccupied rooms and live in council or other social housing (such as a housing association house or flat)
- you and your partner's income
- the size of your family
- any savings above £6,000
- the amount of rent you have to pay
You must claim for where you actually live. This can include a house, flat, houseboat or caravan. It can also include a hotel or guesthouse if you are homeless and can find nowhere else to live.
You may get help whether you rent from the council, a housing association or a private landlord. You might get some or all of your rent paid.
Other things you need to know
You can’t claim HB if you have savings of more than £16,000, unless you receive Pension Guarantee Credit.
Housing benefit doesn’t cover fuel costs or some service charges. It doesn't cover mortgage interest payments, but these may be covered by Income Support instead.
You can get claims backdated in some circumstances. You can also claim in advance (up to 13 weeks or 17 weeks if you are over 60) if you’re moving. But you won't get the money before you move.
If you're on benefits, you can claim from your Jobcentre Plus office or call 0800 055 6688 (textphone 0800 023 4888). Lines are open from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.
If you claim Pension Credit, you claim from the Pensions Service on 0800 99 1234 (textphone 0800 169 0133). Lines are open from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 1pm on Saturday.
If you're not on benefits, you claim from your local council.
You might qualify for help with paying your council tax if you're on a low income or benefits. This is called a Council Tax Reduction (CTR).
Depending on your circumstances, you might not have to pay any council tax. The reduction you get depends on:
- where you live
- your personal circumstances – your income and number of children
- your household income – savings, pensions, or partner's income
- whether children or other adults live with you
You won’t usually get an actual payment if your local authority awards you CTR. Instead, they will cut the amount of council tax you have to pay.
Beareavement Support Payment
To collect bereavement support payment you must either be married or the civil partner of the person who has died. If you have been living together but aren’t married or civil partners, you can't claim.
You may be able to claim for Bereavement Support Payment if you were under State Pension Age when your partner died, and your partner had either:
- paid National Insurance for at least 25 weeks
- died because of an accident at work or a disease caused by work
You get a one off payment followed by monthly payments for up to 18 months. The amount you get depends on certain circumstances.
You get a one off payment of £3,500 and £350 a month if you have children under the age of 20 in full time education.
If you don’t have children under the age of 20 in full time education, you get a one off payment of £2,500 and £100 a month.
You need to be able to claim BSP within 3 months of your partner dying to be able to get the full amount.
BSP won’t affect the other benefits you get for a year after your first payment. But after this time it could. So talk to your benefits office when you start getting BSP.
You can claim bereavement benefits from your local JobCentre Plus office or by calling the Bereavement Service helpline on 0800 731 0469 (textphone 0800 731 0464). Lines are open 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.
You might get help with funeral costs if a partner, close relative, close friend or a child dies. This is called a Funeral Payment. You have to be on a low income and get certain benefits or tax credits.
You will have to pay back the Funeral Payment out of the estate of the person who has died, if they had any money or other financial assets (such as a house). The estate means any money, property and other things owned by the person who has died. A house or personal things that the person left to a widow, widower or surviving civil partner does not count as part of the estate.
For hospital inpatients
Any Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Allowance payments you might get will carry on if you’re in hospital for less than 4 weeks.
For longer hospital stays, the benefits will stop – but they’ll start again when you go home.
When these benefits stop, it may affect other benefits you get. If you get Income Support severe disability premium, or if the person that looks after you receives Carer's Allowance, these will change when your DLA or AA stop.
When the government works out your benefits, it links your hospital stays together if they’re less than 4 weeks apart. For example, if you’ve been in hospital for 4 weeks (so your benefits have stopped), the benefits will start again when you go home. But if you then go back into hospital within another 4 weeks, your benefits will stop straight away.
Housing Benefit and the housing costs included in Income Support or Pension Credit all stop after you have spent a year in hospital.
For same sex couples
The benefits rules treat same sex couples in the same way as opposite sex couples. So you must claim jointly for welfare benefits, Housing Benefit and Tax Credits.
You might find that you’re worse off, because your partner's income is taken into account. If you haven't told the benefits authorities that you’re in a same sex couple, they may take back any money they think they have overpaid you.
Help with prescription costs
Each UK country has separate guidance about health charges.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do not have prescription charges.
Cancer patients in England don’t have to pay prescription charges for any medicines. This applies to people who are having treatment for:
- the effects of cancer
- the effects of current or past cancer treatment