Income Support is a benefit paid to people who are not in full-time work, whose income falls below a prescribed level, and who meet certain conditions. If you receive Income Support, you are also entitled to certain other benefits - for example, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and help with health costs. Note: this leaflet gives a brief summary of Income Support and is for guidance only. It does not cover all situations, nor is it a full statement of the law. If you are not sure if you qualify, or whether you qualify for other benefits, then seek expert advice. Sources of further more detailed information are given at the end.
Who is Income Support intended for?
Income Support is intended for people who cannot normally work (or who work fewer than 16 hours a week), and who are on a low income. For example, if you:
- Are incapable of work due to illness or disability.
- Care for a sick or disabled person.
- Are a lone parent responsible for a child under 16.
You must be between 16 and 59 to claim Income Support. Between 2010 and 2020 the maximum age up to which men and women will be able to receive Income Support will rise in line with the increase in women's State Pension age from 60 to 65 and the further increase to 66 for men and women. People aged 60 (gradually going up to 66) and over may be able to claim other benefits such as Pension Credit.
How is Income Support worked out?
Income Support is means-tested and depends on your circumstances. Regulations approved by Parliament specify how much you should have coming in for your basic living expenses. This depends upon age, family size, disabilities, etc. If the money coming in is less than this amount, you will get Income Support to make up the difference. However, some income is ignored (such as Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance) and some income only taken partly into account (such as part-time earnings and some charitable payments).
You would not normally be entitled to Income Support if you:
- Work 16 hours or more a week.
- Have a spouse or partner working 24 hours a week or more.
- Are a full-time student, unless you are also a lone parent or disabled.
- Have savings of £16,000 or more.
Income Support does not cover rent and Council Tax. However, if you are getting Income Support you can get help with these from separate Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit schemes run by the local authority. If you are buying your home, an amount for the interest part of your mortgage payments may be added into the calculation of your Income Support entitlement.
Note: because of the complicated rules it is not easy to work out what Income Support you could get. You can only be sure by claiming. Many people, including those with disabilities, do not claim the Income Support that is due to them. Although the claim form is long and detailed, do not let this put you off claiming.
If I get Income Support, what else am I entitled to?
You are entitled to certain other benefits. For example:
- Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.
- Help with health costs. For example, free prescriptions, free NHS dental treatment, vouchers for glasses, and help with fares to hospital if you have hospital appointments.
- Grants and loans from the Social Fund.
- Free school meals for your children.
Even though you may only be due a small amount of Income Support, it may be worth claiming because of these fringe benefits.
How is Income Support paid?
Income Support is normally paid directly into a bank account, building society account, post office account, or national savings account. However, in some situations you may get cheque payments that you can cash at a post office if you do not have any of these accounts.
How can I claim Income Support?
To claim for Income Support:
- Get a claim form from your local Jobcentre Plus.
- Call free on 0800 055 66 88 (8.00am to 6.00pm Monday to Friday) or 0800 0234 888 for textphone, but note textphones can't receive text messages from mobile phones.
Further information, help and advice
Directgov provides information from across UK government departments on topics ranging from travel safety and parental leave, to special educational needs, local NHS services, and benefits. The site also brings together an increasing number of online government services - including being able to download and/or complete certain benefit claim forms online.
Citizens Advice Bureau
Provides independent advice on many issues including benefits. Listed in the phone book under 'Citizens Advice Bureaux'. Also, see their website: www.citizensadvice.org.uk
Dr Tim Kenny