Means-tested benefits

This page gives an overview of Universal Credit and the current benefits that will eventually be replaced by it. You can still apply for any of these benefits individually, but you won't be able to claim them, and Universal Credit, at the same time.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a monthly payment for people who are looking for work or on a low income. This new single benefit will replace the existing benefits listed below for people aged 16 to 64, and is being gradually rolled out across Great Britain. It may also be introduced from 2017 in Northern Ireland. Extra funds are available for people with a disability or health condition, childcare costs or caring responsibilities. This means that parents supporting their child can apply, as well as young people aged 18 or over. Find out more about Universal Credit.

Other means-tested benefits

Child Tax Credit

You can apply for Child Tax Credit for each child you’re responsible for. You could get a basic amount per year, plus extra amounts on top of this for each disabled or severely disabled child. If your child is awarded the highest rate care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), you will be entitled to the severe disability element of Child Tax Credit. 

Employment Support Allowance (ESA)

ESA is a benefit that helps people over the age of 16 whose health condition (including stress and anxiety) or disability affects their ability to work. There are two components of ESA, one of which is means tested. Your child may be entitled to one or both depending on their circumstances. Find out more about ESA.

Housing Benefit

If you are struggling to pay council tax and/or rent, and are on a low income, you may be entitled to Housing Benefit. It can’t be paid for heating, hot water, energy or food, but you can look at our Saving money pages for advice about this. Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is used to work out how much Housing Benefit you will get if you rent a room or a property from a private landlord. The amount you receive will depend on your circumstances. It’s worth noting that backdating of Housing Benefit is currently restricted to a maximum of four weeks. 

Council Tax Reduction

As well as applying for Housing Benefit, if you're on a low income or not working at all, then you may be able to receive Council Tax Reduction, which replaced Council Tax Benefit (from April 2013). This could be up to 100 per cent reduction in your bill. This benefit only applies in England, Wales and Scotland. In Northern Ireland people on low incomes can apply for a reduction in their rates through the Rates Housing Benefit and Rate relief schemes.  

Income Support (IS)

If you're on a low income you can apply for Income Support (IS) to help cover basic living costs, provided you meet the set criteria (for example, you have savings of £16,000 or less). You may also get IS if you're getting Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). Lone parents can only get IS if their youngest child is under five. If your child is older and you don't work, you may need to claim Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) instead.

Working Tax Credit

If you and/or your partner have to reduce your working hours you may be entitled to Working Tax Credit, or may be entitled to more if you already receive it. For all tax related benefits, it’s important to tell the tax office about any changes to your circumstances as soon as possible, to make sure you’re getting the right amount.

The Benefit Cap

The Benefit Cap was introduced in the UK in July 2013 and will be introduced in Northern Ireland in 2017. It means there will be a limit on the total amount of certain benefits you can get if you are of working age. This does not affect families with a child that receives DLA or Personal Independence Payment (PIP). 

The ‘Bedroom Tax’

If your home is considered too big for you then you may have your benefit cut or stopped altogether. However, there are special circumstances where this will not affect you. For example, if you have a disabled or sick child and need a spare room because they cannot share a room (or need a carer to stay overnight). 

Find out more

For a detailed review of what you’re entitled to, call CLIC Sargent on 0300 330 0803 and we will put you in touch with one of our specialist benefits advisors.

For more information about state benefits and allowances, go to or

Updated July 2016, next review due 2017.