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're 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.
- As benefits can change, it’s worthwhile checking regularly to see if you’re claiming everything you’re entitled to.
- 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 can help check what you're entitled to.
- If the symptoms of your MS get worse it's 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 can't get.
- The rules about some benefits may vary between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
MS benefits advice service
Do you have a question about benefits? We can help. Our MS benefits advice service offers free, confidential advice to people affected by MS, supporting people in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
You can get in touch with our MS Benefits Adviser by calling the Helpline on 0808 800 8000 or emailing [email protected].
Which benefits am I entitled to?
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is designed to support the extra costs of living with a disability.
You can spend it on whatever you 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.
PIP is replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for people of working age.
Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) used to be the benefit you could claim if you had difficulties getting around or needed help with everyday tasks.
DLA remains in place for children. Adults in Great Britain who are already receiving DLA may stay on it for the time being, but at some stage will be invited to claim PIP instead. PIP is now also available in Northern Ireland.
If you're of working age and making a new claim, you'll now need to apply for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
Children can still claim DLA until they turn 16. Anyone who was aged 65 or over on 8 April 2013 and already claiming DLA will continue to receive it.
Everyone else currently claiming DLA will be reassessed for the new benefit at some point.
If you’ve reached the State Pension Age and you have care needs and you aren’t already receiving DLA, you can claim Attendance Allowance.
If you spend at least 35 hours a week looking after someone with MS, you may be able to claim Carer’s Allowance.
If you claim Carer’s Allowance it can affect other benefits either you or the person you care for may be claiming, so it's worth getting advice before claiming.
Unable to work
Statutory Sick Pay
Statutory Sick Pay is paid by your employer if you're too ill to work. It may be relevant if you have a job but are unable to work because of a relapse. It can be paid for up to 28 weeks.
Once Statutory Sick Pay ends, or if you aren’t eligible for it because you're unemployed or self-employed, you may be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance.
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit paid if your ability to work is limited by ill health or disability.
Universal credit has replaced several benefits, for most people. You might need to claim this instead of ESA. But before you make any claim, find out more about Universal Credit to make sure you make the right choices for you.
Able to work
Universal credit has replaced several benefits, for most people. You might be able to claim it even if you are able to work. But before you make any claim, find out more about Universal Credit to make sure you make the right choices for you.
Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
You can apply for ‘new style’ Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) to help you when you’re looking for work.
If you already get one or both of the older JSA payments you can keep getting them until your claim ends if you're still eligible. These older versions are called contribution-based JSA or income-based JSA.
For most people, Universal Credit has replaced income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA).
Working Tax Credit
For many people, Universal Credit has replaced Working Tax Credit.
Home and bills
Help to pay Council Tax
If you're on a low income you may be entitled to a Council Tax reduction. To apply, contact your local council.
Disability Reduction scheme
You may be entitled to a reduction in your Council Tax bill if you're ‘substantially and permanently disabled’ and your home has certain features that are essential to you living there (eg 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 council.
The Discount scheme
You can get a discount on your Council Tax if you live alone (single person reduction), or if you live with someone who isn’t counted for Council Tax purposes, for example a person with a severe mental impairment, some carers and students.
Housing Benefit can help you pay your rent if you’re not in work, or your income in low. It’s being replaced by Universal Credit.
You can only make a new claim for Housing Benefit if you've reached State Pension age or if you’re in supported, sheltered or temporary housing.
Universal credit has replaced several benefits, for most people, including:
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support
Online or by post
You can download the MS Society publication Benefits and MS or visit the GOV.UK page about benefits for more details on benefits you may be entitled to.
There are a number of online sources of information and benefits checkers that can help you to find out which benefits you may be able to claim:
In person or by phone
Your local MS Society group will also be able to give you information on benefits and other sources of support locally. However, they can't 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. They can also help you filling in forms.
In Scotland your council's health and social care 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.