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Benefits for carers who are working age


This information applies to people living in England, Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, see our A-Z of changes to benefits, assessments and support for the latest updates.

If you are a carer of working age and need to make a new claim for benefits, in most cases you will have to claim Universal Credit (UC) instead of older style ‘legacy benefits’ 

Legacy benefits’ include: Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.

However, you should still be able to make a new claim for another legacy benefit if you need to, if you already receive one of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based JSA
  • Income-related ESA 
  • Housing Benefit and receive the Severe Disability Premium in this benefit (or did within the last month and are still eligible for it). 

If you are not already receiving any of the benefits listed above, you will not be able to claim a legacy benefit and should claim Universal Credit instead.

Universal Credit

Univesal Credit is a benefit that you may be entitled to if you're on a low income and unable to work. It is paid monthly or possibly twice a month if you're based in Scotland, For new claims, it replaces the old 'legacy' benefits listed above.

For more information about the criteria you would need to meet to apply, the process involved and the latest changes in the light of COVID-19, see our Universal Credit page.

If you or your partner have a choice over which benefits to claim it is a good idea to get a benefits check, as one benefit might be better financially than another, depending on your circumstances. Contact the Carers UK Helpline for further information on any of these benefits and for a benefits check.

 


Income Support - for people on a low income

Who can claim Income Support?

You could be entitled to claim Income Support if you meet all of the following conditions:

  • You must be 16 or over and under State Pension age.
  • You must be in one of the limited categories of people who can claim Income Support (ie, a carer).
  • You must not be claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and if you have a partner they must not be claiming income-based JSA or income-related ESA.
  • You (and any partner) must have income below your ‘applicable amount’ and must not have capital of over £16,000 (see below).
  • You must not be in full-time education, although there are some exceptions to this.
  • You must not normally be working 16 or more hours per week, and if you have a partner they must not be working 24 or more hours per week, although there are some exceptions to this, one of which is specifically for carers.
  • You must meet the residence and presence conditions.

Income and capital

Income Support is a means-tested benefit which means it depends on your income (and any partner’s) and capital. It works by topping up your income to your ‘applicable amount’.

Your ‘applicable amount’ is worked out by adding your personal allowance to any relevant premiums.

The personal allowance for a single person over 25 is £74.35 per week and for a couple who are both over 18 is £116.80 per week. There are other personal allowance amounts if you do not fit into one of these categories.

There are certain premiums that can be added onto your personal allowance such as:

  • the carer premium which is £37.50 per week. This can be included if you or your partner are receiving Carer’s Allowance or the underlying entitlement to Carer’s Allowance.
  • There are other premiums which can be included if you or your partner meet certain conditions.

Most income you (and any partner) receive is taken into account such as earnings (although generally the first £20 is disregarded); other benefits and tax credits; personal pensions etc. However some income is fully disregarded including DLA; PIP; Attendance Allowance; Child Benefit and any Child Maintenance you receive.

If you (and any partner) have capital (not including the home you live in) of over £6,000, £1 per week is taken into account as income for every £250 (or part of £250) you have over £6,000. This is called ‘tariff income’. If you have over £16,000 in capital then you will not be entitled to Income Support.


Example

Adriana is a single carer over 25 who receives Carer’s Allowance and has £10,000 in capital.

Her ‘Applicable amount' is made up of a: personal allowance (£74.35) + a carer premium of (£37.50) = £111.85 per week.

Adriana’s income is: Carer’s Allowance (£67.25 per week) + ‘tariff income’ from her capital (£16) = £83.25 per week.

‘Applicable amount’ (£111.85) – income (£83.25 ) = £28.60 per week Income Support that can be paid.


If I claim (or if I am already receiving) Income Support, will I have to go to work focused interviews (WFI) or undertake work related activity (WRA)?

If you are claiming Income Support as a carer you will have to go to some WFI but will not have to take part in any WRA.

For further information on WFI and WRA you can view the WFI/WRA section of our website.

How do I claim Income Support and report a change in my circumstances?

In England, Wales and Scotland you can phone the Jobcentre Plus on 0800 169 0350 or you can download a claim form online.

In Northern Ireland you can contact your local Social Security or Jobs & Benefits office. For further information contact Carers Northern Ireland.

You can sometimes ask for Income Support to be backdated. For further information contact the Carers UK Helpline.

If there is a change in your circumstances you must notify the relevant benefit department. In England, Wales and Scotland this is the Jobcentre Plus (0800 169 0310) and in Northern Ireland this is your local Social Security or Jobs & Benefits office.

What happens if I disagree with an Income Support decision?

If you disagree with an Income Support decision you can challenge the decision. You have to do this within one month of the date on the decision letter (although if you are outside of this time limit it might still be possible so seek advice). For further information on challenging a decision you can view our challenging a benefit decision webpage.

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Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

ESA is a type of benefit you may be able to receive if you have a disability or illness that prevents you from working.

This information focuses on those people who are able to make a new claim for ESA. However, if you or your partner is being transferred over to ESA from another benefit, contact the Carers UK Helpline for further guidance.

There are three types of ESA: new style ESA, contribution-based ESA, and income-related ESA. 

New style ESA: To get this, you will need to have paid a certain amount in National Insurance contributions. You can find out more about this type of benefit in our A-Z of changes to benefits, support and assessments during COVID-19.

Contribution-based ESA is similarly based on National Insurance contributions, but the main difference is that you can receive this if you also get the Severe Disability Premium, which is not the case with new style ESA.

Income-based ESA is not based on your National Insurance contributions over the last two to three years unlike the other two types. However you do have to be receiving the Severe Disability Premium.

If you are entitled to contribution-based ESA, you may be able to apply for an income-related ESA top up depending on your (and any partner’s) income and capital. This is also the case if you are receiving a Severe Disability Premium in another benefit such as Housing Benefit. The contribution-based ESA also counts as ‘income’ when working out whether you are entitled to any income-related ESA.

Who can claim ESA?

You as a carer (or your partner) could be entitled to claim ESA if you meet all of the following conditions:

  • You must be 16 or over and under state pension age.
  • You must meet the extra conditions for income-related ESA or for contribution-based ESA (see below).
  • You must have a limited capability for work (see below).
  • You must not be claiming Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) or Statutory Sick Pay.
  • You must not be working (paid or unpaid), although there are some exceptions to this.
  • You must meet the residence and presence conditions.

What are the extra conditions for income-related ESA or contribution-based ESA?


The extra conditions for income-related ESA

Income-related ESA depends on your circumstances and that of any partner. These are the extra conditions:

  • You (and any partner) must have income below your ‘applicable amount’ and must not have capital of over £16,000.
  • If you have a partner they must not be claiming Universal Credit or income-based JSA.
  • You must not be in a certain type of education, although there are some exceptions to this.
  • If you have a partner, they must not be working 24 or more hours per week, although there are some exceptions to this.

Income-related ESA works by topping up your income to your ‘applicable amount’. The rules are similar to that of Income Support (see above). ESA can sometimes increase after you have gone through the work capability assessment (WCA). If you are placed in the support group following the WCA, a component of £39.20 per week will be payable, and will be backdated to week 14 of your claim. However, if you are placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG) following the WCA, there is no additional component payable (unless you originally claimed ESA before 3 April 2017 – in which case you may still be able to be paid a component of £29.55 per week – contact the Carers UK Helpline for further information).

 


The extra conditions for contribution-based ESA

Contributory-based ESA is a claim just for you (even if you have a partner) and is based on your national insurance (NI) contribution record. Your or any partner’s income and capital will not affect the claim, except if you have an occupational or private pension of over £85 a week or a councillor’s allowance of over £40 a week.

It has two contribution conditions:

The first condition is that you must have paid, or be treated as having paid, at least 26 weeks of Class 1 or Class 2 NI contributions on earnings at the lower earnings limit in one of the last two complete tax years before the start of the relevant benefit year. However an exception to this rule for contribution-based ESA is that if you were entitled to Carer’s Allowance for at least one week in the last complete tax year before the start of the relevant benefit year, you will satisfy the first contribution condition if you have paid, or can be treated as having paid, sufficient NI contributions in any complete tax year.

The second condition is that you must have paid or been credited with Class 1 or Class 2 NI contributions on earnings 50 times the lower earnings limit in each of the last two complete tax years before the start of the relevant benefit year.

Note: A ‘tax year’ runs from 6th April to 5th April the following year. A ‘benefit year’ starts on the first Sunday in January and ends on the Saturday before the first Sunday in January the following year.

For the first 13 weeks of your claim you will get a personal allowance which is £74.35 per week if you are over 25.

Once you have been through the work capability assessment (WCA) your contribution-based ESA will increase by £39.20 per week if you are placed in the Support Group (this extra amount will be backdated to week 14 of your claim), and if you are placed in the Support Group there is no time limit on your contributory ESA.

If you are placed in the work-related activity group no additional component will be paid, and your contribution-based ESA will stop after 12 months (from the date of your initial claim).


Having a limited capability for work

For the first 13 weeks of your claim you will be treated as if you have a limited capability for work if you keep sending in fit notes from your GP.

After 13 weeks (although it is sometimes longer than this) you would go through the work capability assessment (WCA). Once you have been through the WCA you can stop sending in the fit notes from your GP.

The WCA determines whether:

  • You are considered fit for work (in which case your ESA would stop – seek advice if this happens); or
  • You have a limited capability for work (in which case you will be placed in the work-related activity group); or
  • You have a limited capability for work related activity (in which case you will be placed in the Support Group).

The WCA involves a questionnaire and normally a face to face assessment. You have to score at least 15 points in the WCA to be considered to have a limited capability for work (and be placed in the work related activity group), and you have to meet one of the limited capability for work related activity descriptors to be placed in the support group (it is harder to get into the support group than the work related activity group).

Some exceptional circumstances can apply where you can be considered to have limited capacity for work or limited capacity for work-related activity even if you do not score the points needed.

Disability Rights UK has some web pages which go into more detail about the WCA. You can view these here.

If I claim ESA will I have to go to work focused interviews (WFI) or undertake work related activity (WRA)?

If you are claiming ESA and are in the work related activity group you will have to go to some WFI and might have to undertake some WRA. If you are claiming ESA in the support group you will not have to go to any WFI and will not have to undertake any WRA.

For further information on WFI and WRA you can view the WFI/WRA section of our website.

How do I claim ESA and report a change in my circumstances?

In England, Wales and Scotland you can phone the Jobcentre Plus on 0800 169 0350 or you can download a claim form online.

In Northern Ireland you can contact your local Social Security or Jobs & Benefits office. For further information contact Carers Northern Ireland.

You can ask for ESA to be backdated for up to three months.

If there is a change in your circumstances you must notify the relevant benefit department. In England, Wales and Scotland this is the Jobcentre Plus (0800 169 0310) and in Northern Ireland this is your local Social Security or Jobs & Benefits office.

Terminal illness and special rules

If you have a terminal illness, special rules apply for your ESA claim. Special rules apply where death can reasonably be expected within six months.

Once you have made your claim the DWP will normally contact a medical professional to confirm that you are terminally ill (or if you have been given a form called the DS1500 from a medical professional send this to the DWP as they can use this to confirm that you are terminally ill). Once the DWP have confirmed that you are terminally ill they will automatically place you into the support group and you can receive the support component from the start of your ESA claim.

What happens if I disagree with an ESA decision?

If you disagree with an ESA decision you can challenge the decision. You have to do this within one month of the date on the decision letter (although if you are outside of this time limit it might still be possible so seek advice). For further information on challenging a decision you can view our challenging a benefit decision webpage.

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Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)

What is Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)?

If you are looking for work or working for a limited number of hours, you may be able to claim this benefit. There are three different types: contribution-based JSA,  income-based JSA and new style JSA. Which one applies to you will depend on your eligibility and circumstances.

Who can claim JSA?

You could be entitled to claim JSA if you meet all of the following conditions:

  • You must be 18 or over and under state pension age (although some 16 and 17 year olds might be able to claim).
  • You must meet the extra conditions for income-based JSA or for contribution-based JSA (see below).
  • You must satisfy the ‘job-seeking conditions’ (see below).
  • You must not be claiming Income Support or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
  • You must not be in certain types of education, although there are some exceptions to this.
  • You must not be working 16 hours or more per week, although there are some exceptions to this.
  • You must meet the residence and presence conditions.

What are the extra conditions for income-based JSA or contribution-based JSA?

If you are entitled to contribution-based JSA, you can still apply for an income-based JSA top up if your income (and any partner's) and capital is below a certain amount. The contribution-based JSA will count as ‘income’ when they are working out whether you are entitled to income-based JSA.


Income-based JSA conditions

Income-based JSA depends on your circumstance and that of any partner. These are the extra conditions for income-based JSA:

  • You (and any partner) must have income below your ‘applicable amount’ and must not have capital of over £16,000.
  • If you have a partner they must not be claiming Income Support or income-related ESA.
  • If you have a partner they must not be working 24 hours or more per week, although there are some exceptions to this.

Note: Income-based JSA works by topping up your income to your ‘applicable amount’. The rules are the same as that of Income Support (see above).


Contribution-based JSA conditions

Contribution-based JSA is a claim just for you (even if you have a partner) and is based on your NI contribution record. Your or any partner’s income and capital will not affect the claim, except if you have any earnings or an occupational or private pension.

It has two contribution conditions which are similar to that of contributory ESA, however the exception for carers for the first contribution condition is different for contribution-based JSA.

The exception for carers for contribution-based JSA is that there is a special rule for carers which means that the ‘relevant benefit year’ for working out whether you meet the contribution conditions can sometimes be the year your Carer’s Allowance began, if you claim contribution-based JSA within 12 weeks of a Carer’s Allowance claim ending. This means that you might be able to claim contribution-based JSA based on years you were working before you became a carer.

Your contribution-based JSA will stop after six months.


The ‘job-seeking conditions’

To claim JSA you must sign a “Claimant Commitment” outlining the steps that you will take each week to look and prepare for work. You will need to be available for and actively seeking work, and you will be asked to attend regular meetings with your work coach. However in discussion with your work coach, you may be able to restrict the number of hours you are available for work to fit around your caring role, but not to less than 16 hours.

How do I claim JSA and report a change in my circumstances?

In England, Wales and Scotland you can phone the Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688 or you can apply online.

In Northern Ireland you can contact your local Social Security or Jobs & Benefits office. For further information contact Carers Northern Ireland.

You can sometimes ask for JSA to be backdated. For further information contact the Carers UK Helpline.

If there is a change in your circumstances you must notify the relevant benefit department. In England, Wales and Scotland this is the Jobcentre Plus (0800 169 0310) and in Northern Ireland this is your local Social Security or Jobs & Benefits office.

What happens if I disagree with a JSA decision?

If you disagree with a JSA decision you can challenge the decision. You have to do this within one month of the date on the decision letter (although if you are outside of this time limit it might still be possible so seek advice). For further information on challenging a decision you can view our challenging a benefit decision webpage.

Tax Credits – am I entitled to any?

If you are a carer who is in work, you may be entitled to Working Tax Credit (WTC).

If you are a carer who has dependent children, you may be entitled to Child Tax Credit (CTC).

It’s important to note that you cannot claim working tax credit and/or child tax credit at the same time as Universal Credit. You also cannot make a new claim for tax credits if you are entitled to claim Universal Credit. As with the above benefits, certain exemptions do apply though. Please seek further guidance at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Who can claim Tax Credits?

You may be entitled to WTC if you work 16 hours or more per week and one of the following conditions applies:

  • You are a single parent with a dependent child.
  • You are in a couple, you have dependent children, one of you works at least 16 hours per week and you work at least 24 hours per week between you.
  • You are in a couple, you have dependent children, and the partner who is not working is in prison, receiving Carer’s Allowance, or is incapacitated.
  • You are eligible for the disability element.
  • You are aged 60 or over.

If you don’t fit into one of the above categories, then you have to be over 25 and working at least 30 hours per week to be entitled to WTC.

Note: Time you spend caring on an unpaid basis (even if you are claiming benefits such as Carer’s Allowance) does not count as ‘work’ for WTC purposes.

You may be entitled to CTC if you are responsible for a dependent child or qualifying young person. A dependent child is someone aged under 16. Between their 16th birthday and the following 31 August, they will be treated as a qualifying young person without the requirement to be in education or training. To continue to be treated as a qualifying young person after that date, they must be under 20 and in full-time, non-advanced education or approved, unwaged, training. If they are 19 they must have been accepted or enrolled onto the education or training course before they turned 19.

How much are Tax Credits?

If you (or any partner) are receiving Income Support, IB JSA, IR ESA or Pension Credit you will automatically receive the maximum amount of Tax Credits that you are entitled to.

If you (or any partner) are not in receipt of any of these benefits, then HMRC will carry out a calculation based on your (and any partners) income and capital to work out whether you are entitled to Tax Credits, and if so how much.

Tax Credits are complicated to work out so for further information contact the Carers UK Helpline.

Note: If you make a new claim for CTC after the 6 April 2017, and if all of your children (even if you have more than 2) were born before 6 April 2017, you will be able to get an element for all of your children. However, you won't be able to get an element for any third or subsequent children you have who are born on or after 6 April 2017. This is unless an exception applies. If you are already receiving CTC, an amount will not be included for any third or subsequent children born on or after 6 April 2017. This is unless an exception applies.

How do I claim Tax Credits and report a change in my circumstances?

You can contact the Tax Credits Helpline on 0345 300 3900 to claim and to report a change in your circumstances.

What happens if I disagree with a Tax Credit decision?

If you disagree with a Tax Credit decision you can challenge the decision. The way you go about this is different to the process for other benefits so for further information contact the Carers UK Helpline.

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