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About Income Support

Income Support is a benefit that's paid to top up your income if you're on a low income.

Income Support is just one of the benefits you may be eligible for as a carer. You can find out more information on the range of benefits for carers online or by calling Carers Direct on 0300 123 1053.

You can claim Income Support using this claim form (PDF, 324Kb.

Why claim Income Support?

Even if the amount of benefit you get is quite small, it's still worth claiming because getting Income Support means that you'll be entitled to extra help, for example:

  • Help with your housing costs if you have a mortgage.
  • If you pay rent, some, if not all, of it will be paid, but you'll need to claim a separate benefit called Housing Benefit.
  • You might also be able to get a reduction on your council tax. Find out more about Council Tax Reduction
  • You may also be entitled to free prescriptions and dental treatment, help from the Social Fund, help with hospital fares and free school meals. You may also be able to get help with housing grants.

You can claim Income Support if you're not able to seek work because you have other responsibilities, such as being a carer.

In these pages, you'll find more information on the rules that determine who can claim Income Support, who you can make a claim for, and how to claim. There's also information on how much Income Support you might be entitled to, and how this is calculated, as well as information on challenging any decision made about your Income Support claim.

You'll also be able to find out about notifying the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about changes to your claim.

If you receive Income Support, you will be automatically entitled to other help such as free NHS dental treatment, sight tests, prescriptions and housing grants.

The official online source of government information on benefits is GOV.UK.

Click on the bars below for more information on the Income Support rules.

Work and Income Support

To be eligible for Income Support, you can work but not full time. Be careful to check your working hours, because you may lose Income Support altogether if you work for 16 hours a week or more. If you're a carer, special rules apply about the hours of work (see below).

If you have a partner, he or she can work, but if they work for 24 hours a week or more, you may lose Income Support completely.

If you or your partner works longer hours than these, you may be eligible for Working Tax Credit.

The amount you earn affects how much Income Support you'll get.

Carers and work

If you're a carer, you're not limited in your hours of work. However, the amount you earn still affects your Income Support (see the section on how Income Support is worked out). Also, if you get Carer’s Allowance, you'll no longer be entitled to it if you earn more than £100 per week after certain deductions.

Voluntary work

You can do voluntary work and still get Income Support. However, make sure you're only paid your reasonable expenses, such as travel. Anything more than that  may affect your benefits.

If Jobcentre Plus thinks that you ought to be paid for the work you do, it could affect your benefits.

If you claimed Income Support before October 27 2008 because you're incapable of working, you're not allowed to do voluntary work for a close relative. But the care that you provide for a close relative won't count as work.

Ill or disabled

People who are ill or disabled and who claimed Income Support before October 27 2008 can do some part-time work under the 'permitted work' rules.

People with disabilities can also work and claim Income Support if their disabilities mean that their earnings or hours are reduced to 75% of those of someone without a disability doing the same sort of job. This too applies only to claims made before October 27 2008.

Who can claim Income Support

To qualify for Income Support, you mustn't be expected to sign on as available for work. This will depend on your particular circumstances.

You won't be expected to sign on as available for work if you're looking after someone who's ill or has a disability, because you're a carer, or you're looking after your partner or a child who's temporarily ill.

You won't be expected to sign on as available for work if you're pregnant or looking after children and:

  • You're a lone parent and your youngest child is under the age of 7.
  • You're on parental leave from work but you're not receiving any pay, and you were getting Tax Credits (payable at a higher rate than the family element) or Housing Benefit on the day before your leave began.
  • You're on paternity leave from work, but you're either not receiving any pay, or you were getting Tax Credits (payable at a higher rate than the family element) or Housing Benefit on the day before your leave began.
  • You're looking after a child under 16 whose parent or guardian is temporarily away or has taken ill.
  • You're pregnant and Jobcentre Plus accepts that you are not capable of work because of a medical condition caused by your pregnancy.
  • You're pregnant and due to have your baby within the next 11 weeks.
  • You had a baby within the last 15 weeks.
  • You're fostering a child and you're single.

You also won't be expected to sign on as available for work if:

  • You're on Statutory Sick Pay and your income is low.
  • You're on a government-approved training course and you are aged 16-24.
  • You have to go to court (for instance as a juror or witness).
  • You're a student who can claim Income Support (see Income Support and study on the Income Support claims page).

You'll need to seek advice if any of the following special circumstances apply:

  • You're aged 16 to 19 and you're in full-time education. You're normally excluded from Income Support, but there are exceptions, which include being 'estranged' from your parents or from anyone who has been acting as a parent for you (see Income Support and study section on the Income Support claims page for further details).
  • You're remanded in custody.
  • You're a refugee who is learning English in order to find work.
  • You're subject to immigration control.
  • You're involved in a strike.

What if I'm ill or I have a disability?

You can claim Income Support if you're on Statutory Sick Pay and your income is low. Otherwise, if you need to claim benefits because you're unable to work due to illness or disability, you must claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). You can no longer make a new claim for Incapacity Benefit and/or Income Support due to being unable to work as a result of illness or disability from October 27 2008.

Exceptions

There's an exception if you received Income Support before October 27 2008, stopped receiving Income Support and then claim again within a certain time. If you're in this situation, seek advice.

The second exception is that you can make a new claim for Income Support after October 27 2008 if it's to top up an existing claim of Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance.

If you're ill or disabled and currently getting Income Support

If you're ill or disabled and you claimed Income Support before October 27 2008, you'll continue to receive it. But eventually, existing claimants will be reassessed and, if they qualify, will be transferred to Employment and Support Allowance.

Claiming Income Support as a carer

You can claim Income Support as a full-time carer if you care for another person on a regular and substantial basis and:

  • You're paid Carer’s Allowance.
  • The person you're caring for gets Disability Living Allowance (DLA) at the middle rate or high rate of the care component, or they get Attendance Allowance (AA), or they get Constant Attendance Allowance as part of Industrial Injuries Benefit or War Disablement Pension.
  • The person you're caring for has been awarded DLA at the middle rate or high rate of the care component, or has been awarded AA in advance but hasn't received payment yet.
  • You're caring for someone who's disabled and has claimed DLA or AA but hasn't heard the result of their claim yet. You can claim Income Support this way for up to 26 weeks from the date the claim for DLA or AA is made, or until the claim is decided, whichever comes first.

Claiming for the person you look after

The person you're looking after can claim Income Support if they're on Statutory Sick Pay and their income is too low. Otherwise, if the person you're looking after needs to claim benefits because they're unable to work due to illness or disability, they must claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). They can no longer make a new claim for Incapacity Benefit or Income Support due to being unable to work as a result of illness or disability from October 27 2008.

Exceptions to this rule

There's an exception if the person you're looking after received Income Support before October 27 2008, stopped receiving Income Support and then claims again within a certain time. If the person you're looking after is in this situation, seek help.

The second exception is that the person you're looking after can make a new claim for Income Support after October 27 2008, if it's to top up an existing claim of Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance.

People currently getting Income Support

If the person you're looking after is ill or disabled and claimed Income Support before October 27 2008, they'll continue to receive it for the time being. Eventually, existing claimants will be reassessed and, if they qualify, will be transferred to ESA.

Other benefits

If you're looking after a person who is 60 years old or over, they may be able to claim Pension Credit.

If the person you're looking after is under 65 years old, they may also be able to claim Disability Living Allowance. If they're 65 or over, they may be able to claim Attendance Allowance instead.

If the person you're looking after can't manage their own claim for benefit, you can do this for them, which is known as being an 'appointee'. The Department for Work and Pensions would have to agree to this.

If you're an appointee it's important to manage the claim as if it were your own because you're equally responsible for making a proper claim and keeping it up to date.

Who you can claim for

You can claim Income Support for yourself and your partner. This can mean the person you're married to, have a civil partnership with, or are living with as if you were married or civil partners.

Claiming Income Support for children

If you've just started to claim Income Support and you have children, you’ll find that Income Support covers only yourself and your partner if you have one. Payments for children are covered by Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit, which can be paid alongside Income Support.

If your Income Support claim started before April 2004 and you're still claiming, your Income Support may still include amounts for your children. You can't get Child Tax Credit as well as payments in Income Support for your children.

This makes a difference to how Income Support is calculated, so you need to be sure if your children are included in the Income Support claim or not.

Eligibility

To qualify for Income Support you must meet all of the following conditions:

  • You're over 16 and under the qualifying age for the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit (for details see About Pension Credit). If you've reached the qualifying age, you should check if you can claim Pension Credit instead. If you're under the qualifying age but your partner has reached the qualifying age, you can’t get Income Support if your partner claims Pension Credit. You may be better off as a couple if your partner claims Pension Credit because there are more favourable rules about how savings are treated.
  • You're not expected to sign on and look for work, for instance because you're caring for someone who's disabled, or you're a lone parent with young children.
  • You're not working 16 hours or more, and if you have a partner they're not working 24 hours or more. There are some exceptions to this rule (see Work and Income Support above).
  • You're not in full-time education, or you're a student who's allowed to claim Income Support ( see Income Support and study on the Income Support claims page).
  • You're present and 'habitually resident' in Great Britain, and you're not barred from claiming because of your immigration status.
  • Your income is not too high and you don't have too much in savings (see How much Income Support?).

You won't be asked to sign on or be available for work if you claim Income Support, but you (and your partner if you have one) may be asked to attend work-focused interviews (see Changing circumstances on the Income Support claims page).

What if I'm ill or have a disability?

In most cases, you'll need to claim a benefit called Employment and Support Allowance instead if you're making a new claim, but there are some exceptions.

What if I'm unemployed and able to work?

If you're unemployed and able to work, you can’t claim Income Support, but you can claim Jobseeker’s Allowance instead.

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Page last reviewed: 15/08/2012

Next review due: 15/08/2014

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Media last reviewed: 17/07/2013

Next review due: 17/07/2015