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.
Able to work
Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
There are two types of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). It's possible to get both at the same time.
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).
This is for people who fulfil one of the following conditions:
- you've received your six months of contribution-based JSA
- you didn't pay enough National Insurance contributions to get contribution-based JSA
- you're entitled to have your contribution-based JSA topped up because, for example, you have a partner who doesn't work.
For each type you must be below State Pension age and be capable of work. You 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. In Northern Ireland contact your local Jobs and Benefits or Social Security Office.
Working Tax Credit
If you're in work but on low pay, you may apply for Working Tax Credit to top up your earnings.
You may get extra if you or someone in your household is disabled. To claim, call 0345 300 3900.
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 is paid by local councils to help people on a low income to pay their rent. Your eligibility will depend on your income – including earnings, some benefits, tax credits, and occupational pensions – and your savings. If you live with a partner, their income and savings will also be taken into consideration.
To check if you’re eligible and to claim, contact your local council.
The government is merging six different benefits into one Universal Credit.
It will incorporate the following:
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
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.