An overview of other benefits that you might be able to claim
There are a number of social security benefits to cover all sorts of situations. Some can be paid whilst you are in work; others if you are unemployed or unable to work. This page gives an overview of jobseeker’s allowance, income support and pension credit – the main benefits you might be able to claim as an unpaid carer. We also include an overview of a new benefit, universal credit, which will gradually replace income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, child tax credit, working tax credit, income-related employment and support allowance and housing benefit.
Jobseeker’s allowance is a benefit paid by Jobcentre Plus, part of the Department for Work and Pensions, to people who ‘sign on’ as unemployed and are looking for full-time work. People who are working less than 16 hours a week can also claim. You must be under state pension age to claim. You will have to sign a jobseeker's agreement, giving details of the type of work you are looking for and what you are going to do to find work. If you do not keep to the agreement, your benefit may be reduced or stopped altogether. There are special rules for carers.
There are two types of jobseeker’s allowance (JSA). You can claim one or both, depending on your household circumstances. Both types of JSA are taxable. For each full week on JSA, you should get a national insurance credit.
- Contribution-based JSA is payable for up to six months. Whether you will qualify will depend on your National Insurance contribution record for the relevant years. Contributions you paid whilst self-employed do not count. Any earnings and/or occupational or personal pension you get may affect the amount you are paid, but not any other income or savings you and your partner may have. After six months, you may be able to claim income-based JSA instead. The HMRC website has information on how to check your National Insurance contribution record
- Income-based JSA does not have a time limit. The amount you get is based on your household income and savings. If you (and your partner) have savings over £16,000 you usually cannot get income-based JSA. You also cannot get this type of JSA if your partner works 24 hours or more a week. Help with mortgage costs may be included
Income-based JSA is to be replaced by universal credit.
Universal credit started in April 2013 and is being gradually rolled out across the UK. In some areas you may need to claim universal credit instead of income-based JSA.
Check the GOV.UK website for more information about jobseeker’s allowance, including how to claim.
Income support is a benefit paid by Jobcentre Plus, part of the Department for Work and Pensions, to people who do not qualify for jobseeker’s allowance or employment and support allowance. This may be because you are a carer or a lone parent with a child under five. You may also be able to claim income support to top up any statutory sick pay you or your partner are getting. You must be under the qualifying age for pension credit to claim. The amount you get is based on your household income and savings. If you (and your partner) have savings over £16,000, you usually cannot get income support. You also cannot get income support if your partner works 24 hours or more a week. Help with mortgage costs may be included.
Income support is to be replaced by universal credit gradually between 2013 and 2018. In some areas you will need to claim universal credit instead of income support.
Check the GOV.UK website for more information about income support, including how to claim.
Pension credit is a benefit for older people paid by the Pension Service, part of the Department for Work and Pensions. It is tax-free and you do not need to have paid national insurance contributions to get it. This benefit was originally paid to people aged 60 or over. However, the qualifying age is now rising in line with changes to the age a woman can claim her state pension. Check the GOV.UK website's state pension calculator to find your qualifying age.
The amount you get is based on your household income and savings. There is no upper limit on the amount of savings you can have, but any savings you and your partner have over £10,000 may reduce the amount that you get. You can claim even if you, or your partner, are working.
Pension credit is made up of two parts:
- guarantee credit, which tops up your income to a set level;
- savings credit (if you are aged 65 or over) – an additional amount if you have savings or your weekly income is more than the basic state pension.
You could get one or both parts, depending on your household circumstances. Help with mortgage costs may be included in the guarantee credit.
Check the GOV.UK website for more information about pension credit, including how to claim.
If you are on means-tested benefits like income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance or pension credit you may also qualify for free school meals, help with certain NHS costs (e.g. prescriptions, dental treatment, eye tests and vouchers for glasses, and fares to hospital) and help from the social fund. Getting these benefits may also help you qualify for local concessions, e.g. free/reduced admission to venues and events and help with travel costs. It might be worth claiming these benefits even if you are only entitled to a small amount.
We always recommend that you contact a local advice agency for a full benefits check and help with claiming. You can find out more about getting help on our help with benefits page.
Universal credit (UC) is a new benefit, dealt with by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), for people on a low income who are under the qualifying age for pension credit. It can be paid to people in work (including people who are self-employed), as well as people who are out of work because they are unemployed, ill or disabled, or have caring responsibilities.
UC will eventually replace income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, housing benefit, working tax credit and credit tax credit. New claims for UC started on 29 April 2013 in certain areas of the North West. The benefit was extended to more areas of the UK from October 2013. By April 2016 single jobseeker’s who meet strict rules can claim UC in all parts of the UK. In a small number of areas, a full digital service is being tested and in those areas, everyone can claim UC and it is not possible to claim any of the benefits UC is replacing.
If you are currently getting any of the benefits that UC will replace, you will move to UC sometime between 2018 and 2021. You may move earlier if you have a significant change of circumstances. If you live in an area where UC is already in place and you meet the qualifying conditions then you may have to claim it if you have a change of circumstances or you make a new claim for one of the benefits UC is replacing. The amount of UC you get is based on your family circumstances, as well as your household income and savings. If you (and your partner) have savings over £16,000, you usually cannot get UC. The benefit cap will apply to UC.
Check the GOV.UK website for more information about UC.
There is a limit on the total amount of benefits that some people may be able to get. This is called the 'benefits cap'. It applies to people aged 16 to 64. The total amount of benefits you get may be limited to £500 a week for couples and lone parents and £350 a week for single people. For a list of benefits that count towards the cap see GOV.UK website. You are more likely to be affected by this ‘benefit cap’ if you have a large family or live in high-cost privately rented accommodation.
The cap will be applied by reducing your housing benefit or universal credit. You should be contacted by the DWP if you are affected.
The benefit cap will not apply if you, or your partner, has reached the qualifying age for pension credit, or certain disability benefits are in payment. You also won’t be affected if anyone in your household qualified for working tax credit. There are other exemptions.