Rules and how to apply for benefits
The benefits system is complex and many changes have come in over the past few years - with more still to come. Getting benefits can depend on:
- if you are working full time, part time or not at all
- if you have a disability or a health condition
- your age
- who lives with you
- if you are caring for somebody
Some benefits are based on whether you have paid enough National Insurance - these are called 'contribution-based' benefits. Others are paid because you are entitled to a basic level of income whether or not you have paid enough contributions, these means-tested benefits are also referred to as 'income-based' benefits.
Some benefits do not depend on either of these things, but are paid because you have additional needs such as a disability.
Capital and savings
For benefits that are means-tested or 'income based', if you have capital of over £16,000 you are not entitled to any help. Pension Credit is different - you can have over this amount and still qualify. Capital can include:
- stocks and shares
- property other than your main home
Living in the UK
For many benefits you need to be resident in the UK and have been here for a certain period before claiming. You may not be able to claim if you are subject to certain immigration controls. In these situations seek further advice before making a claim.
Some benefits are given because of your care needs. This means that you need help with looking after yourself or you need supervision because you are a danger to yourself or others. If you have a terminal illness you are automatically treated as having care needs.
The state pension age is under review and may change in the future.
Calculate your state pension age
More information and advice
Some government helplines are listed under the individual benefit information; there are also phone contacts for the main disability benefits.
Your local Citizens Advice can provide advice and help. Details of other organisations who can help can be found in our service provider directory.
Applying for benefits
The government provides advice on pensions and benefits.
You can also apply for benefits with them online or over the telephone.
Benefits calculators allow you (or someone on your behalf) to enter information about yourself online and find which benefits are available to you.