Benefits you can claim if you are not working or only working a few hours a week
If you are not working, or only working a few hours a week, there are several benefits you may be able to claim. However, remember that if you have come from another country to the UK, you may not be able to claim certain benefits, or your right to claim may depend on your circumstances. The benefit cap may reduce your benefits by reducing your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit if your total benefits would otherwise be more than the cap.
Before making a benefit claim it’s important to check whether or not you are in part of the UK that has switched over to Universal Credit (UC). The government has stated that it expects all parts of the UK to be switched over to UC full service by December 2018. This means that you will not be able to make a new claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Tax Credits or Housing Benefit, you will have to claim UC instead. There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as where you have more than 3 children or if you are receiving Pension Credit. To find out if your area has already switched over to UC or to check what date the change will happen you can use an online postcode checker.
Benefits for you
The main benefit you claim if you are not working and you are able to look for work is Jobseeker’s Allowance. However, you should check in case you are able to claim another benefit which does not require you to look for work. For example, if you are a parent or a carer, you may be able to claim Income Support.
You can claim Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income Support if you are working under 16 hours a week, and/or, if your partner is working, they work under 24 hours a week, but bear in mind that your wages will affect the amount you can get and you may earn too much to get benefit. If you or your partner are working 16/24 hours a week or more it is worth checking whether you can claim Working Tax Credit.
As the benefit system changes, you may be told that you have to claim Universal Credit if you make a new claim for income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, income-based Employment and Support Allowance or Working Tax Credit.
Benefits for your children
As well as benefits for yourself, you may need to claim benefits for your children, such as Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit. In some areas of the country, if you make a new claim for Child Tax Credit you will be told to claim Universal Credit instead.
If you are pregnant or have a child under four, you may be able to claim Healthy Start vouchers to help with the costs of milk, fruit or vegetables.
If you are pregnant with your first baby or have recently had your first child, you may be entitled to the Sure Start Maternity Grant.
Benefits for housing or council tax
Finally, you may entitled to Housing Benefit to help pay the rent. If you pay a mortgage, some benefits can include help towards the mortgage, usually after a waiting period of 13 weeks (39 weeks from April 2016). For example, this help can be included in Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance and income-based Employment and Support Allowance.
In some areas of the country, you will be told to claim Universal Credit if you make a new claim for Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-based Employment and Support Allowance.
Council Tax Reduction can help you with the costs of your council tax bill. Council Tax Reduction depends on your local authority (council) and so you should check on their website to find out more. Council Tax Reduction is not being replaced by Universal Credit so you can receive it while also claiming UC.
Checking your benefit entitlement
You can check your benefit entitlement online by using the Turn2Us or EntitledTo calculator. This is a free tool which helps you check which benefits you may be entitled to now, and will also give you an indication of your future Universal Credit entitlement if applicable. If you need more information, you can ring the Working Families helpline for more advice.
This advice applies in England, Wales and Scotland. If you live in another part of the UK the law may differ. Please call our helpline for more details.