Home Advice for Parents & CarersLow income benefits Benefits you can claim if you are not working or only working a few hours a week

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.

All parts of the UK have now switched over to Universal Credit (UC). 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 if you have reached State Pension age or if you are in receipt of a Severe Disability Premium.

Benefits for you

Any new claim for benefits if you are not working and you are able to look for work will be a claim for Universal Credit. However, you should check in case you are able to claim any another benefit which is not work related. For example, if you are a parent and care for a disabled child, you may be able to claim Carer’s Allowance  and Disability Living Allowance.

If you are sick or disabled, you may be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance or Statutory Sick Pay if you normally work.

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. You can no longer make a new claim for Child Tax Credit (unless you are in receipt of the severe disability premium). 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, pulses or vegetables. Healthy Start has been replaced with Best Start Foods in Scotland.

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. If you are based in Scotland you may be entitled to Best Start Grant – pregnancy and baby payment instead.

Benefits for housing or council tax

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.

If you are already in receipt of Housing Benefit it may help towards payment of your 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.

Council Tax Reduction can help you with the costs of your council tax bill. This is a separate application to Housing Benefit. 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 Universal Credit.

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.

Challenging a benefits decision

If you have applied for any of the benefits listed above and you have been told that you are not entitled and you disagree, you can challenge it. To do so, you need to request what is called “mandatory reconsideration” within one month of the date of the decision. You can request it verbally over the phone by calling the number provided on the decision letter, however, it is always best to make a request in writing (on the relevant GOV.UK form or your Universal Credit online account if this is about Universal Credit). If you’ve missed the deadline, it is still worth applying, there are circumstances where you may be able to make an out of time request if you have good reasons for why you are late. For more detailed advice, contact the Citizens Advice, and for more information see: www.gov.uk/mandatory-reconsideration.


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.

If you have further questions and would like to contact our advice team please use our advice contact form below or call us.

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