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9 Welfare benefits

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1. Introduction

2. If you have a low income

If you have a low income, you can claim several benefits that can give you a basic amount to live on. To get them, you will need to pass a ‘means test’, so you will have to give details of all your income and savings.  If you live with a partner, civil partner or your husband or wife, their income and savings are also taken into account when deciding if you can get these benefits.

Income Support

This is available to people on a low income who do not have to look for work before they can receive benefit, such as:

  • carers;
  • lone parents with children under 16; and
  • people who are sick or disabled.

To claim, you must be under 60 years old and working for less than 16 hours a week.  If you have a partner who lives with you, you can get income support only if they work less than 24 hours a week. 

If you claim Income Support and you are the parent of a child who lives with you, but the other parent lives elsewhere, you will be treated as having applied to the Child Support Agency. You will have to give information about the child’s other parent, unless this would put you or your children at risk. If you do not give this information, your Income Support may be reduced.

Jobseeker’s Allowance

This can be paid to people who fall outside the groups listed above and who must look for work to qualify for benefit. See ‘If you are unemployed’.

Working Tax Credit

This is to help top up low earnings. If you have a child or are disabled, you may qualify if you work for 16 hours or more a week. Otherwise, you must usually work for at least 30 hours and be 25 or over to receive it.

The Social Fund

This is a system of loans and grants to help cover unexpected costs or payments for certain events, such as funeral or maternity expenses. Most Social Fund payments are for people who are already on one of the means-tested benefits.

Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit

These are paid by your local authority (council) and can help pay your rent or council tax if you have a low income, whether or not you are working.

Mortgage interest costs

You may be paid some or all of your mortgage interest costs if you have a mortgage on your home and you qualify for Income Support, Pension Credit or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance. The mortgage interest costs will normally be paid direct to the bank or building society you have your mortgage with.  You may not receive these when you first claim benefit, because there is a waiting period in most cases, and it could be several months before you receive the full amount you are entitled to.

There are other types of help you may be able to receive if you are on a low income and you have children to support. See ‘If you have children to look after’.

3. If you are having a baby or adopting a child

4. If you have children to look after

5. If you are unemployed

6. If you are ill and can't work

7. If you have a disability

8. If you are just starting work

9. If you have retired or are about to retire

10. If your husband, wife or civil partner dies

11. Where do I claim?

12. What must I do when I claim?

13. What if I disagree with a decision about my claim?

14. What if I've been badly treated?

15. The Human Rights Act

16. Further help

17. About this leaflet

This leaflet is published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with Rachel Hadwen, a specialist in welfare rights.

Leaflet Version: April 2019

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