Benefits you can claim
An introduction to the benefits system
The benefits system can be very complicated and confusing. This section of the site will explain some of the main benefits that you , or the person you care for, might be able to claim. It will also tell you where you can get more information and help with claiming.
Some benefits you get because of your national insurance contribution record (often called contribution-based or contributory benefits), some just because of your personal circumstances (for example because you need help getting around), and some depend on the amount of income and savings you and any partner may have (i.e. these are called means-tested). Each benefit will have its own qualifying rules.
We have tried to give you some information about the main benefits that might be available to you.
However, the information in this section is only intended as a general guide to the main benefits and tax credits you and the person you look after might be able to claim. There are others. We recommend that you contact a local advice agency for a full benefits check and help with claiming. Benefit rules often change, as could your circumstances; you should, therefore, check out your benefit situation every so often. See our 'Help with benefits' page for more information on where to get help.
Each benefit will have its own set of rules. Most benefits also have a residence test, and you may need to be living in Great Britain for a certain period of time before you can claim. Your immigration status (and that of your partner and/or children) may also affect your right to claim and there are special rules for European nationals. Whether you have a partner or not and the amount of any income and savings can affect some benefits. The rules may be different for each benefit so it is important to check the rules when you apply and also what changes of circumstances you need to report once you are claiming.
If you would prefer to speak to an independent adviser about your circumstances (and those of the person you are looking after), check your local council's website for details of 'welfare rights' or ‘welfare benefits’ advice agencies in your area. Also check our 'Help with benefits' page for details of national organisations that provide telephone and/or face-to-face advice. Most advice agencies offer free, confidential advice – you should not have to pay.
There will be major changes to the benefits and tax credits system over the next few years, in particular the introduction of a new benefit, universal credit (UC). This will replace income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, housing benefit, working tax credit and child tax credit. UC was introduced to a small number of areas for very simple claims from April 2013. It has gradually expanded to all parts of the UK for people who meet very strict criteria (mostly single jobseekers). The full UC digital service is being piloted in a small number areas, this will roll out across the UK between April 2016 and 2018. In digital (full service) areas, you will no longer be able to claim any of the old benefits that UC is replacing. From April 2018, existing benefit claimants will start to be moved across to UC.