Benefits Guide

What are benefits?

Benefits are paid by the government to people who are unable to work or are on a low income. There are several types of benefits which provide financial support to help people meet their living costs. You may be able to apply for benefits if:

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You have children
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You are out of work
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You are disabled or ill
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You are on a low income

If you’re struggling financially, for example if you’re unable to meet your essential costs and/or pay your debts, you should check if you’re entitled to any benefits that you’re not already claiming, You can find more information about the benefits that are available by visiting https://www.gov.uk/browse/benefits.

What types of benefits are there?

UK benefits often fall into two categories: means tested and non-means tested.

Means Tested Benefits

If a benefit is means tested, this means the government takes into account your financial situation when deciding your eligibility and how much you should receive in benefits. If you apply for a means tested benefit, it often means that the more income or savings you (or your overall household) has, the fewer benefits you will receive. This of course is not always the case, and takes into account many other elements with different types of benefits focusing on different factors.

Some most commonly known means- tested benefits include:

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Council tax support
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Housing benefit
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Income Support
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Child and Working tax credits
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Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
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Universal Credit

Non-means tested Benefits

In contrast to means tested, non-means tested benefits do not take into account your income or savings when deciding your eligibility. They do however have their own set of criteria, which falls into three categories:

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Contributory benefits: These are benefits which are designed to replace your income if you are unable to work. Your national insurance contributions may determine the amount you are granted rather than your income amounts. Common Contributory benefits include Jobseekers Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance.

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Non-contributory benefits: Non-contributory benefits are there to help those with a disability with the extra costs this may come with. Unlike contributory benefits, your national insurance contributions have no bearing.

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Statutory benefits: Statutory benefits, like Contributory benefits, are designed to replace your income, but only for a time-limited period, for example maternity leave. As if it is used as a replacement income from your normal job, these are paid to you through your employer. Common Contributory benefits include Maternity and Paternity time off, sick pay or holiday entitlement.

Am I eligible for benefits?

If you think you may qualify for any of the kinds of benefits mentioned above, you can check online to see if you are eligible. You can use a benefit calculator which will tell you what you may be eligible for. We recommend using one by Turn2Us, linked below.

What information do I need to apply for benefits?

When applying for benefits you will need (at the ready) accurate information about your:

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savings
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income, including your partner’s (from payslips, for example)
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existing benefits and pensions (including anyone living with you)
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outgoings (such as rent, mortgage, childcare payments)
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council tax bill

For more information about benefits, you can contact Money Helper on 0800 138 7777 or you can visit your local Citizens Advice Bureau.