Brief guide to benefits
The benefits system is complex, and the rules often change, so even if you’ve looked into it before, it might be worth checking again. Across the UK, billions of pounds are unclaimed each year - make sure you get what you are entitled to.
It's worth noting:
- Some benefits are affected by earnings, other types of income and the amount of savings or capital you (and sometimes your partner) have
- The main changes take place on 5 April each year, so mid-April may be a good time to have an annual benefits check at a local advice agency
- Some benefits are affected by a claimant's age, so check your entitlement when you/your partner/your children turn 16, 18, 60, or 65
- If your circumstances change, your local Citizens Advice Bureau can help check what you're entitled to
- If the symptoms of your MS get worse it is worth arranging a benefits check, particularly if any progression in your MS looks like it will be long-term
- Many benefits overlap, so if you receive one there may be others that you cannot get
- The rules about some benefits may vary between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Find out where to get more information.
This is a brief guide to benefits you may be entitled to.
- Statutory Sick Pay
- Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Help to pay Council Tax
- Housing Benefit
- Working Tax Credit
- Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- Universal Credit
- Other benefits
If you are not able to work because of your condition, you may be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay. This is paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks.
This can give you time to think about whether you could continue working or if you would be better off retiring early.
Once Statutory Sick Pay ends, you may be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance.
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit paid if your ability to work is limited by ill health or disability. It replaced Incapacity Benefit and Income support (paid on the basis of incapacity).
If you are on a low income you may be entitled to Council Tax Benefit. To claim, contact your local authority.
Disability Reduction scheme
You may be entitled to a reduction in your Council Tax bill if you are "substantially and permanently disabled" and your home has certain features that are essential to you living there (e.g. an additional bathroom or kitchen, or space to use a wheelchair indoors). The reduction will reduce your Council Tax bill to the next lowest band down. To claim, contact your local authority.
The Discount scheme
The Council Tax Discount scheme is applied to dwellings where less than two adults are resident. Certain people are classed as being ‘disregarded’ when counting the number of residents (eg students, people with a severe mental impairment and certain live-in carers). If just one adult is counted as resident, the Council Tax bill will be reduced by 25 per cent. If everyone in the household can be ‘disregarded’, the Council Tax bill will be halved. To claim, contact your local authority.
Housing Benefit is a means-tested benefit for people who rent their home.
They may be on:
To check if you’re eligible and to claim, contact your local authority.
If you are in work but on low pay, you may apply for Working Tax Credit to top-up your earnings.
You may get extra if someone in your household is disabled. To claim, call 0345 300 3900.
DLA is designed to support the extra costs of living with a disability.
People can spend it on whatever they need, such as paying for support to remain independent during relapses, or to help with extra costs such as heating, transport or help around the house. Find out more about DLA on this page of our site.
The Government proposes to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with a new ‘Personal Independence Payment’ (PIP), from 2013. Existing working-age DLA claimants will be re-assessed for PIP sometime between 2013 and 2016.
There are two types of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and it is possible to get both at the same time:
Contribution-based JSA - This is a flat-rate payment for people who have worked and paid enough National Insurance contributions in the relevant years. It doesn’t matter what savings you have, but your earnings (although not those of your partner or any other family member) are taken into account. Contribution-based JSA lasts for up to six months (in either one period of unemployment or several ‘linked’ spells).
Income-based JSA - This is for people who:
- have received their six months of contribution-based JSA or
- did not pay enough National Insurance contributions to get contribution-based JSA or
- are entitled to have their contribution-based JSA topped up because, for example, they have a partner who does not work.
For each type you must be below State Pension age and be capable of work. Yu must be unemployed (or working fewer than 16 hours a week), available for work, and actively seeking work.
To claim, call Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688.
The government is going to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with a new benefit, the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), for people aged 16 to 64 (inclusive).
PIP will have some similarities with DLA, but the eligibility rules are likely to be stricter for some people. However, the details of the benefit have not yet been finalised.
The government is moving many different benefits into one Universal Credit.
It will incorporate the following:
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Council Tax Benefit
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Child Benefit
- Child Tax Credit
- Financial support for students in higher education
- Disabled Students’ Allowance
- State Pension
- National Insurance credits
- Pension Credit
- TV Licence concessions
- VAT concessions for some equipment and services
There's lots more information and support on benefits available.
Online or by post:
In person or by phone:
Your local MS Society branch will also be able to give you information on benefits and other sources of support locally. However, they canot give specific advice on individual benefits.
It's often worth seeking expert advice from a benefits adviser, such as those available at your local Citizens Advice Bureau. They can also help you filling in forms.
In Scotland your social work department should offer you a benefits check as part of a care needs assessment. Citizens Advice and other welfare rights services can also do checks. Find your local money advice or welfare rights service through Citizens Advice Scotland.
You can call the Benefit Enquiry Line on 0800 88 22 00 if you need an application form for a disability benefit.