Benefits for a low income or when you cannot work

There is financial support available if you have cancer and are unable to work or have a low income.

Universal Credit (UC)

Universal Credit is a payment that helps you with living costs. You can claim it if you're on a low income, out of work or you can’t work.

The government has been introducing Universal Credit gradually since April 2013. It’s replacing these following benefits:

  • Income based Job Seekers Allowance (JSA)

  • Income related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

  • Income Support

  • Child Tax Credits

  • Working Tax Credits

  • Housing Benefit

You don't have to do anything if you're currently getting any of these benefits. But you should act if:

  • your circumstances change

  • the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) asks you to change to Universal Credit

Tax credits will stop if you or your partner applies for Universal Credit.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is a benefit for employed people who become sick and who can't work. Your employer pays it for up to 28 weeks.

Statutory Sick Pay is not means tested. To qualify, you must be employed and earning an average of at least £123 per week. You have to be ill for more than 3 days in a row, including weekends and bank holidays. Agency workers can also claim SSP.

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.

Statutory Sick pay may be topped up with Universal Credit.

New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

If you're ill or disabled, New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) benefit offers you:

  • financial support if you're unable to work
  • help so that you can work if you're able to

New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is for people under the State Pension age. You need to have a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work.

You qualify whether you're in or out of work or were self-employed. But certain conditions around work and National Insurance contributions might affect your claim for ESA:

  • worked within the last 2 to 3 years
  • have made or been credited with Class 1 or Class 2 National Insurance contributions

 You can apply for New Style ESA 3 months before your Statutory Sick Pay ends. New style ESA is not means tested.

New Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

New Style Jobseeker's Allowance ((JSA) is a non means-tested benefit that can support you while you're looking for work.

To qualify, you will need to have:

  • worked as an employee
  • made Class 1 National Insurance contributions in the last 2 to 3 years

To help with extra costs, such as children or young people and housing, you may also claim Universal Credit to top up your JSA.

Tax Credits

Tax credits are payouts by His Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) that give extra money to people who need it.

Tax credits are seen as benefits, although they differ from other benefits. HMRC bases them on how much you earn and your circumstances. But unlike other benefits, you must renew your tax credit claim every year.

Universal Credit (UC) is gradually replacing tax credits. Universal credit is now available across the UK. It is no longer possible for anyone to make a brand new claim for tax credits. Instead, you must claim UC or pension credit if appropriate. If you've been claiming tax credits, you can continue to renew them.

There are two tax credits:

Working Tax Credit (WTC)

  • WTC is for employed or self employed people on a low income
  • you can only apply for WTC if you're already getting Child Tax Credit. If you cannot apply for WTC, you can apply for Universal Credit. If you and your partner are State Pension age or over, you might qualify for Pension Credit

Child Tax Credit (CTC)

  • CTC is for children you're responsible for and is paid on top of child benefit
  • you can only apply for CTC if you're already getting Working Tax Credit. If you cannot apply for CTC, you can apply for Universal Credit. If you and your partner are State Pension age or over, you might qualify for Pension Credit

Council Tax Reduction

Council Tax Reduction is a benefit that can help you pay your council tax if you are on a low income or getting certain benefits. Since April 2013, Council Tax Reduction replaced Council Tax Benefit.

There is a different scheme in Northern Ireland.

Where to get advice

You can get help and advice on benefits from the following people:

  • a hospital or community social worker - they can give you advice on benefits and help you deal with debts
  • a welfare rights adviser at a hospital
  • Citizens Advice - their advisers can help with filling out benefit forms
  • The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) provide its service through Jobcentre Plus offices. They deal with benefits for people who are unemployed or who can’t work because of a health condition or a disability

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the Department for Communities deals with benefits and pensions. For Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and Income Support in Northern Ireland, you need to contact your Jobs and Benefits office.

Macmillan Cancer Support

Macmillan Cancer Support provides support and guidance on how to deal with the financial impact of cancer.

You can contact their team of trained Welfare Rights Advisors (Monday-Friday 8am-8pm) or Financial Guides (Monday-Friday 8am-6pm) on 0808 808 0000.

Related links