DWP estimates released in February 2020 revealed that around £16 billion in welfare benefits go unclaimed every year in the UK.
2020 was a tough year for individuals and families all over the country so it is more important than ever that everyone is able to access the financial support that they are entitled to.
This guide outlines a few of the most popular and accessible benefits available today.
Universal Credit is a relatively new form of benefit for people in and out of work which replaces many older benefits.
Universal Credit eligibility
Universal Credit replaces what the DWP refers to as ‘legacy benefits’. These include:
- Housing Benefit,
- Child Tax Credit,
- Income Support,
- Working Tax Credit,
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, and
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance.
You may be entitled to Universal Credit if:
- you are out of work or on a low income,
- you are 18 or over (or 16 & 17 in some cases),
- you are under state pension age,
- you have less than £16,000 in savings, and
- you live in the UK.
How much is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is made up of a basic allowance that incorporates a number of different elements including housing costs, childcare, sickness and disability.
The amount will change depending on what income you already have coming in from things like:
- a pension,
- any other benefits.
The best way to find out how much universal credit you could get is to use the gov.uk benefits calculators.
What other help is available?
There are a number of additional entitlements available to those receiving Universal Credit, including:
- free NHS prescriptions, eye tests and dental treatment,
- free school meals,
- Cold Weather Payments,
- Sure Start maternity grants,
- free early education for two-year olds,
- help with travel costs to attend job interviews or start work, and
- support with clothing costs for interviews and to start work.
Job Seekers Allowance (JSA)
Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) is a benefit for those who are able to work, but are currently not working at all, or are working part time (up to 16 hours per week).
There are three types of JSA:
- ‘new style’ JSA
- contribution-based JSA, and
- income-based JSA
Contribution-based and income-based JSA is being widely phased out, meaning that you can only really apply for these if you:
- are entitled to the severe disability premium, or
- got the severe disability premium within the last month, and are still eligible for it
You can make a claim for new style JSA if you are:
- actively looking for work, or working less than16 hours per week,
- over 18 but below State Pension age,
- living in England, Scotland or Wales,
- not in full time education, and
- have the right to work in the UK
You will need to have worked as an employee and paid Class 1 National Insurance contributions in the last 2 to 3 years.
You can get ‘new style’ JSA for up to 182 days after which point you will need to talk to your work coach about your options.
For those that are unemployed but not actively looking for work there are other options in the form of Income Support or Employment and Support Allowance (more information below).
How much is JSA?
The amount of JSA that you can claim depends on the type of JSA that you get.
The exact amount of JSA that you can claim depends on your individual circumstances but the maximum awards are:
- aged 16-24 – £58.90 per week
- aged 25+ – £74.35 per week
Payments are made every 2 weeks into your bank account.
What other help is available?
Those on income-based JSA will be entitled to free NHS prescriptions, eye tests and dental treatments.
You will also be eligible to receive the Cold Weather Payment which gives you £25 for every 7 days period of very cold weather between 1 November and 31 March.
You can either apply for JSA online or at your local Job Centre Plus.
JSA recipients on a low income may qualify for a boiler grant which covers all of the cost of a new boiler, should you need one.
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
There are two types:
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- contributory / New Style Employment and Support Allowance
Income-related Employment and Support Allowance has now been replaced by Universal Credit so, if you are looking to apply for ESA, you will need to look at the eligibility criteria for the ‘new style’ (or contributory) allowance.
New style Employment and Support Allowance
You can get New Style ESA if you:
- have been an employee or self-employed and paid national insurance contributions in the last 2 to 3 years,
- have limited capability for work, and
- have a ‘fit note’ from your doctor (although you can start making your claim before you have one).
You will not be able to get New Style ESA if you are getting Statutory Sick Pay from your employer but you can apply for it up to 3 months before your SSP ends and ESA will be paid after SSP ends.
You can work and receive ESA if your work is what is known as ‘permitted work’. Find out more about permitted work here.
How much is ESA?
The amount of ESA you can get depends on a range of factors.
The first 13 weeks of your claim are known as the ‘assessment stage’ during which assessment rates are applied.
Assessment rates work out to:
- up to £58.90 a week if you are under 25
- up to £74.35 a week if you are 25 or over
During this time, you will undergo a Work Capability Assessment which is designed to assess how your disability or illness affects your ability to work.
If you are found to be entitled to ESA you will be placed in one of two groups.
People who are found to be able to get back into work in the future are placed into the work-related activity group while those expected to remain long-term sick are put into the support group.
You will get:
- up to £74.35 a week in the work-related activity group, or
- up to £113.55 a week in the support group.
If you are on income-related ESA and placed into the support group, then you will also be entitled to the enhanced disability premium.
You may also qualify for the severe disability premium.
What other help is available?
As with JSA, if you are on ESA you will be entitled to free NHS eye tests, prescriptions and dental care as well as the Cold Weather Payment.
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a payment that you can get on top of Employment and Support Allowance, or other benefits, and is designed to help you to manage everyday life if you have a long-term illness, disability or mental health condition.
Your income, savings and employment status do not affect whether you can get PIP or not.
There are two parts (called components) to PIP:
- the daily living component, and
- the mobility component.
You may qualify for one or both and they are available at standard and enhanced rates depending on the severity of your condition.
PIP replaces Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for people aged from 16 to pension age.
You may be eligible for PIP if you have daily living and/or mobility needs that:
- have lasted for at least the last 3 months, and
- are expected to continue for the next 9 months or more.
Daily living needs
Daily living needs are assessed as needing help to perform some or all of the following:
- cooking and preparing food,
- eating and drinking,
- taking medication,
- going to the toilet,
- dressing and undressing,
- reading and understanding,
- socialising, and
- dealing with money
Mobility needs refers to needing help getting around outside of your home on your own.
This could mean having trouble planning and following a journey, or moving around independently because of a physical problem.
How much is PIP?
The amount of PIP that you will be entitled to depends on how many points you score for each components.
For daily living there are two rates:
- standard, which is £59.70 per week, and
- enhanced, which is £89.15 per week.
You will get the standard rate for daily living if you score between 8 and 11 points in your PIP assessment and you will get the enhanced rate if you score 12 points or more.
For mobility there are also two rates:
- standard, which is £23.60 per week, and
- enhanced, which is £62.25 per week.
You will get the standard rate for mobility if you score between 8 and 11 points in your PIP assessment and the enhanced rate if you score 12 points or more.
What other help is available?
PIP entitles you to a Christmas Bonus of £10 each year, which is paid automatically and does not affect your other benefits.
Individuals receiving PIP also qualify for a Disabled Person’s Railcard which gives you up to a third off all rail journeys in the UK, and, for those receiving the enhanced rate of mobility, the lease of an adapted car, scooter or wheelchair through the Motability scheme.
Housing Benefit offers those on a low income financial support towards the cost of their monthly rent payments.
Housing Benefit eligibility
Housing Benefit is available to people who rent their property from the council or a housing association, or who pay rent to a private landlord.
People with a private tenancy receive what is known as Local Housing Allowance which is calculated differently to housing benefit but performs the same function.
How much is Housing Benefit?
The amount you will receive in Housing Benefit depends on your circumstances. Some people will be able to get all of their rent paid while others will receive some help towards the full amount.
The amount you will be entitled to will depend on:
- where you live,
- who you live with,
- your income, and
- if you have any savings.
For the most part, you won’t know how much Housing Benefit you are entitled to until after you have applied.
Local housing allowance
If you are a private tenant your maximum Housing Benefit allowance will depend on the Local Housing Allowance rate which depends on:
- where you live
- the type of property you live in (for example, a house or flat), and
- how many bedrooms you need – check how many bedrooms you are allowed to claim for here.
If your rent is more than your local housing allowance rate then you may have to pay a portion of your rent yourself. Check the local housing allowance rate in your area.
Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI)
Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) used to be paid as a benefit which you didn’t have to pay back but this has now changed to a loan that must be repaid when you die, sell your home, or transfer ownership of the property.
To be eligible for SMI you must be either out of work or of State Pension age and in receipt of:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Universal Credit, or
- Pension Credit.
How much is SMI?
The government will pay the interest on your mortgage up to a value of £200,000 (or £100,000 if you are on Pension Credit).
The loan is calculated based on the standard interest rate, meaning it may not cover all of the actual interest rate on your mortgage, and it might go up or down over time.
Payments will usually be paid direct to the mortgage lender.
More information on UK benefits
To quickly identify all benefits that may apply to you, consider using this tool from Citizens Advice.
Links for further reading, including everything discussed here, are below:
- DWP unclaimed benefits figures – https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/income-related-benefits-estimates-of-take-up-financial-year-2017-to-2018
- Benefits Calculators – https://www.gov.uk/benefits-calculators
- Universal Credit – https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit
- Cold Weather Payment – https://www.gov.uk/cold-weather-payment
- Job Seekers Allowance – https://www.gov.uk/jobseekers-allowance
- Income Support – https://www.gov.uk/income-support
- Boiler Grants – https://www.boilergrants.info/
- Employment And Support Allowance – https://www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance
- Statutory Sick Pay – https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay
- Disability Premiums – https://www.gov.uk/disability-premiums/what-youll-get
- ESA Permitted Work Guide – https://www.turn2us.org.uk/Benefit-guides/Employment-and-Support-Allowance-Permitted-Work/What-is-permitted-work-Employment-and-Support-All
- Personal Independence Payment – https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/sick-or-disabled-people-and-carers/pip/
- Disabled Person’s Railcard – https://www.disabledpersons-railcard.co.uk/
- Motability – https://www.motability.co.uk/
- Housing Benefit – https://www.gov.uk/housing-benefit
- Housing Benefit Bedroom Checker – https://lha-direct.voa.gov.uk/bedroomcalculator.aspx
- Local Housing Allowance Rates – https://lha-direct.voa.gov.uk/search.aspx
- Support For Mortgage Interest – https://www.gov.uk/support-for-mortgage-interest