In the UK, there are millions of pounds’ worth of benefits that go unclaimed each year, this is partially due to a lack of awareness of what is available. To help ensure you are receiving what you are entitled to, here is a guide of the most common benefits available. The benefits system is evolving and changing but don’t let this deter you from claiming the support you are eligible for.
Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA)
JSA is available for those who are not currently employed full time but are capable and actively searching for work. There are three types of Job Seeker’s Allowance available: ‘New style’, Income-based and Contribution-based.
Contribution-based and Income-based JSA are only available to people who currently get the severe disability premium (SDP) or have got the SDP in the last month and are still eligible for it.
To receive ‘New style’ or Contribution-based JSA, you will need to have worked as an employee and paid Class 1 National Insurance contributions in the last 2 – 3 years. If you were self-employed and paid Class 2 National Insurance contributions you will not be eligible.
Your employment in the last 2-3 years will not affect your eligibility for the Income-based JSA. However, you must have less than £16,000 in savings to claim.
In addition to the above factors, you will need to:
- Be aged 18+ but under State Pension age
- Not be in full-time education
- Be available to work
- Not be working full-time at the moment (working an average of less than 16 hours per week)
- Live in England, Scotland or Wales
- Have the right to work within the UK
Job Seeker’s Allowance can be claimed online or by contacting Jobcentre Plus. You will be required to attend an interview at your local Jobcentre Plus office in order to receive JSA.
In order to continue receiving payments you will need to show that you are looking for work, ‘new style’ JSA can be claimed for up to 182 days.
Payments are made every 2 weeks and the amount you receive depends on factors such as your age, income and savings. Claiming JSA counts as income when applying for other benefits which could impact your eligibility and entitlements.
|Up to 24||£57.90|
|Couple (both ages 18+)||£114.85|
Universal Credit (UC)
This is a single monthly benefit that offers financial support to working age people who are on a low-income or are out of work and have less than £16,000 in savings. Universal Credit helps to cover basic living expenses and housing costs and has been slowly replacing Housing Benefit, Income Support, Income-based JSA, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. Existing benefit claimants will be switched to UC between July 2019 and March 2022.
Under special circumstances you can apply for UC if you are training or studying full-time or if you are aged 16 – 17. You cannot claim UC if you receive the severe disability premium (or have received this within the last month).
The amount you receive will depend on your income and circumstances. It will take at least five weeks for you to receive your first payment. Below is the standard allowance depending on your age and whether you are claiming as a single or couple:
|Universal Credit Standard Monthly Allowance|
|Single aged under 25||£251.77|
|In a couple and both of you are under 25||£395.20|
|In a couple and either of you are 25 or over||£498.89|
There are extras that may be added to this standard amount, including:
- If you have children
- If you need help with childcare costs
- If you need help with housing costs
- If you have a limited capability for work
- If you are a carer
For example, if you have children you can receive an additional £277.08 a month for your first child (if born before 6 April 2017) and £231.67 (if born after) and £231.67 for your second child and any other eligible children. If you have a disability or health condition you may receive an additional £336.20 a month or if you care for a severely disabled person for at least 35 hours per week you could receive £160.20 extra a month. You could also qualify for additional housing cost support (which goes towards covering rent and service charges) and depending on your age and circumstances, you may be eligible for other financial support too.
You can receive Universal Credit if you are working but the amount you receive will depend on your earnings. As your income increases, your UC payments will decrease until you are earning enough to no longer claim UC.
Housing Benefit helps people with low income pay their rent, it can be claimed if you are responsible for paying the rent for a property and this includes if you rent a room in a hostel, are a boarder or share a flat or house. You cannot claim it if you rent from the Crown or are aged 16-17 and have been in care.
If you are receiving the severe disability premium (SDP), or have recently stopped getting SDP, are of State Pension age, live in temporary accommodation or live in sheltered or supported housing with special facilities you can make a Housing Benefit claim. If none of these apply to you, you will need to apply for Universal Credit instead.
The amount of Housing Benefit you will receive depends on your personal circumstances and your income level. It will also depend on whether you rent privately or from the council and can be impacted by the number of people living in the house, whether you have one or more spare bedrooms and what is considered reasonable rent for your local area.
The amount is then paid directly to your rent account if you are a council tenant or into your bank if you are renting privately. If your Housing Benefit does not cover your rent you may be eligible for a Discretionary Housing Payment which is extra help from the council.
This means-tested benefit provides additional support to those who are on a low income (Working Tax Credits) or those who are responsible for children (Child Tax Credits). You can claim one or both of these Tax Credits depending on your circumstances. It is worth pointing out that Tax Credits are being replaced by Universal Credit for most people so unless you get the severe disability premium you cannot make a new claim for Tax Credits.
Tax credits are paid weekly or monthly throughout the tax year and will be paid directly into your bank account, the amount you receive is dependent on your income.
Working Tax Credit (WTC)
You need to work a certain number of hours per week to qualify for WTC:
- If you are between 25 – 59 you need to be working a minimum of 30 hours per week
- If you are 60+, disabled or single with 1 or more children you need to be working a minimum of 16 hours per week
- If you are a couple with 1 or more children, you need to be working a minimum of 24 hours between you to be eligible (with one of you working at least 16 hours)
|Working Tax Credit 2018/2019 Rates|
|Basic||£1,960 a year|
|Couples & Lone Parents||£2,010 a year|
|30 Hours of Work a week||£810 a year|
|Disability||£3,090 a year|
|Severe Disability||£1,330 a year|
|You pay for approved childcare||£122.50 (1 child) or £210 (2 or more children) weekly|
Child Tax Credit (CTC)
Child Tax Credit assists with the costs of raising a child for people who are on a low income. How much you receive depends on the number of children you have and whether you are making a new claim or already claiming CTC.
|Child Tax Credit 2019/2020 Tax Year|
|The Family Element||£545 a year|
|The Child Element||£2,780 a year|
|For each disabled child||£3,355 a year (on top of the child element)|
|For each severely disabled child||£1,360 a year (on top of the child element and the disabled child element)|
Making a New Claim
If you are making a new claim, how much you receive depends on the birth date of your child or children. If they were born before 6 April 2017 you may be able to get the child element for each child as well as the family element. If one or more were born on or after 6 April you could get the child element for up to 2 months and you will only get the family element if at least one of your children was born before 6 April 2017.
If You Have an Existing Claim
If your claim was started prior to 6 April 2017 you will get the family element as well as, for each child born before April 6th 2017, the child element. However, if your claim began on or before this date, you will be able to receive the child element for two children and you will receive the family element if one of your children was born before April 6th 2017. If all of your children were born prior to this date you are eligible to receive the family element as well as the child element for each of your children.
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
This benefit is available for people who have limited capability to work due to a disability or illness and are not receiving Statuary Sick Pay. There are three types of ESA; ‘New style’, contribution-based and income-based:
- New style ESA requires that you’ve been an employee or self-employed and paid National Insurance contributions in the last 2 – 3 years.
- Contribution-based ESA can be applied for if you get the severe disability premium (or have within the last month) and have a disability or illness that has an impact on your ability to work. You will also need to have been an employee or self-employed and paid National Insurance contribution is the last 2-3 years.
- Income-based ESA can be applied for if you get the severe disability premium (or have within the last month) and have an illness or disability that affects your ability to work. Your National Insurance contributions do not affect your eligibility for this type of ESA.
To receive ESA, you must be of working age and after 13 weeks you will be placed into one of two groups; work-related activity group or a support group. The amount of ESA you get depends on your circumstances, the type of ESA you are eligible for and your assessment process.
|ESA Financial Support|
|Assessment Rate if you’re aged under 25||£57.90 a week for 13 weeks|
|Assessment Rate if you’re 25+||£73.10 a week for 13 weeks|
|Work-related group||£73.10 a week|
|Support group||£111.65 a week|
The work-related activity group means regularly attending interviews with an advisor who can assist with job goals, skill improvement and more.
The support group does not involve interviews; however, you are able to talk to an advisor if you would like. The support group is usually for people who have a disability or an illness that has a severe impact on what the person is able to do.
You are not eligible for ESA if you are over State Pension age, getting Statutory Sick Pay or Statutory Maternity Pay or are getting Jobseekers Allowance. You can apply for this benefit if you are employed, self-employed, unemployed or a student.
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
Personal Independence Payment is replacing the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and provides assistance with the extra costs if you have a disability or long-term ill-health. DLA remains available for people who are under 16 or were born on or before 8 April 1948 and already have a DLA claim, aside from this you should claim PIP instead.
The amount you can receive ranges from £23.20 – £148.85 a week depending on how your condition affects you. A health professional will carry out an assessment in order to determine the level of help you receive and this will be regularly reviewed to ensure you are receiving the right support.
To be eligible for PIP you need to be 16 or older but not yet State Pension age and you must have a health condition or disability where you have experienced difficulties with getting around or daily living (such as preparing or eating food, washing, bathing, dressing etc.) for 3 months and expect this to continue for at least 9 months.
PIP is paid every 4 weeks and is tax free. It is separated into 2 parts; Daily Living and Mobility. You may get one or both of these depending on how your condition affects you. The daily living part offers a weekly rate of either £58.70 or £87.65 and the mobility part offers a weekly rate of either £23.20 or £61.20.
You may also be eligible for other help such as Carer’s Allowance or help with housing costs, if you work you may be able to get the disability element of the Working Tax Credit we discussed above.
Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI)
This is assistance offered to homeowners to help towards interest payments on your mortgage or loans you’ve taken to repair or improve your home. You will need to be receiving Universal Credit, Income Support, income-based JSA, income-related ESA or Pension Credit to be eligible. This is a loan that needs to be repaid with interest when you sell your home. This support cannot help you pay the amount you borrowed (only the interest component), anything towards insurance policies or missed mortgage payments.
SMI can help you pay the interest on up to £200,000 of your mortgage or loan (or £100,000 if you are getting Pension Credit or another qualifying benefit you started getting before January 2009). 2.61% is the interest rate that is currently used when calculating the amount of SMI you’ll receive.
SMI is usually paid directly to your lender and you’ll need to pay the money back with interest, the current interest rate is 1.5% but this can change.
Council Tax Reduction
Council Tax Reduction can be applied for through your local council and means your bill will be discounted if you are eligible. This is generally available to people who are on a low income or claim benefits and you could see a bill reduction of up to 100%.
You are able to apply for Council Tax Reduction whether you are working or unemployed, living in your own home or renting. The reduction you receive depends on where you live, your circumstances, your household income and who else lives with you (your children or other adults).
Other Common Benefits
We have covered the most common benefits in this guide but this is not an extensive list of the available benefits within the UK, other common benefits include:
- Attendance Allowance – for people who are 65+ who are physically or mentally disabled and require supervision or assistance with their personal care needs or to ensure their safety.
- Carer’s Allowance – for people who provide 35+ hours of care a week to someone who has a disability or illness.
- Pension Credit – for people who have reached Pension Credit age who are on low income.
- Child Benefit – for people who have one or more children aged 16 or under (or 20 and under if in approved education or training).
There are a large range of benefits available, the government website provides all of the up to date information you need regarding conditions, eligibility and how to apply for each benefit. Don’t miss out on the benefits you deserve and remember there are more available, we have only listed the most significant benefits in this guide.