The Benefits system in the UK has a bad reputation for being overly complex and hard to work out. It was designed to offer a safety net to anyone in society who had fallen on hard times but also to supplement income and help with tax breaks for everyday people who need a little extra boost. We often assume that Benefits are only available to those who are unemployed but actually there is a whole wide range of different Benefits that are on offer to those in the UK – and some of them could apply to you.
Who is entitled to Benefits?
It’s pretty difficult to answer this question as the rules on Benefits change often and entitlements are decided on a range of very personal factors. However, as a general rule there are Benefits available that are designed to help:
If you have children who are still dependent, a particularly large family or disabled children then you could be entitled to help from the state. There are also Benefits available for families who spend a lot on childcare. You could be entitled to:
Child Benefit – available to parents of dependant children until they are 16 at a rate of £20.70 for the eldest child and £13.70 a week for other children.
Child Tax Credit – paid via the tax office to low income families – amounts vary between £10 and £105 a week.
Guardian’s Allowance – available to those receiving Child Benefit where one or more of the parents have died.
Statutory Maternity Pay – up to 39 weeks pay at around £112 a week available to staff with six months or more employment. The equivalent for anyone self-employed is the Maternity Allowance.
Widowed Parent Allowance – around £112.55 a week for a widowed parent bringing up a child or a widowed woman expecting her late husband’s baby.
There are two benefits available to those who are in work, but on a low income or paying for childcare, or looking for work.
Working Tax Credit – a benefit of £90+ a week available to those on low incomes over the age of 16 and working minimum hours who meet the criteria.
Contribution Based Jobseekers Allowance – designed to support anyone looking for work. Aged 24 and under £57.90 a week, aged 25 or over £73.10 a week – paid for six months only.
Low-income families and individuals
The criteria for what constitutes low income can change but will take into account the income of the entire household. Where there are savings of £16,000 or more this will generally exclude the possibility of receiving a Benefit. These benefits are designed to help with day-to-day costs.
Income Support – a benefit that supports those who are not expected to look for a job, such as carers, or parents on their own with a child under five years old. Rates vary from £57.90 a week for single people under 24, to £73.10 for those over 25 and £114.85 for couples.
Income-based Jobseekers Allowance – paid to low income households for as long as the claimant is trying to find a job. Rates vary from £57.90 a week for single people under 24, to £73.10 for those over 25 and £114.85 for couples. Savings will reduce the amount of the payments.
Housing Benefit – is either a rent reduction for social housing or a cash payment for those in private housing (e.g. £250 for a one-bed property, £290 for a two-bed, £340 for a three-bed and £400 for four or more beds).
Council Tax Support – this benefit provides assistance meeting council tax payments – since 2013 the decision as to whether to offer this benefit is now made by local authorities, rather than on a national level.
Cold Weather Payments – during winter, those already entitled to other Benefits can claim an extra £25 a week towards energy costs when temperatures drop below zero.
Those with health problems and the elderly
Disabled people and those over 65 are entitled to benefits in certain circumstances to help with every day life.
Attendance Allowance – designed for the over 65s who need help with physical problems or have learning difficulties. Rates vary from £55.10 to £82.30 a week.
Disability Living Allowance – for those under 65 who need help with their every day life. Since 2013 this has been gradually replaced with the Personal Independence Payment.
Winter Fuel payments – to help those over 65 with fuel bills when temperatures drop below zero.
Carers Allowance – for those who are caring for someone in receipt of Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Allowance for 35+ hours a week. Payments of £62.10 a week.
These are just some of the Benefits available to people in the UK – if you think you might be entitled to a Benefit you’re not claiming then the Benefit Checker may be able to help you identify what you might be missing out on. Keep in mind that getting credit when on benefits will not be easy.
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read more about Alex Hartley