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.

Young people aged 18 or over, who are not in full time education, are eligible to apply and extra funds are available for people with a disability or health condition, childcare costs or caring responsibilities. Find out more about Universal Credit.

Employment Support Allowance (ESA)

ESA helps people over the age of 16 whose health condition or disability affects their ability to work. There are two components of ESA, one of which is means tested (income-related), provided you meet the assessment criteria using the Work Capability Assessment. You may get one or both of these components, depending on your circumstances. Find out more about ESA.

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 no more than £16,000 in savings). You may also get IS if you're getting Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). 

Working Tax Credit

Once you are diagnosed with cancer, you can get Working Tax Credit on the basis that you are disabled, provided you meet all the following criteria: you work at least 16 hours a week; your income is low enough; you get certain benefits because of your disability; and your disability puts you at a disadvantage in getting a job.

HM Revenue and Customs may ask you to give them the name of a healthcare professional who can confirm how your disability affects your chances of finding work. This might be a doctor or a community nurse.

Housing Benefit

If you are struggling to pay your rent, and you’re 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.

If you rent a room or a property from a private landlord, Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is used to work out how much Housing Benefit you will get. The amount you receive will depend on your circumstances.

Council Tax Reduction

If you're on a low income or not working at all, then you may be able to receive Council Tax Reduction. 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. If you are a student and you live in accommodation with other full-time students then you won't have to pay Council Tax.

Order or download our factsheets about benefits from our Publications Library free of charge.

If you’re a parent

If you’re a parent, or your partner is, you could be entitled to receive some of the following benefits or financial support. These include:

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.

Working Tax Credit

If you and/or your partner have to reduce your working hours you may be entitled to Working Tax Credit, and may be entitled to claim extra money due to disability. 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.

In addition to these means tested benefits, there are a number of other allowances and entitlements that could help with childcare costs. 

The Benefit Cap

The Benefit Cap was introduced in Great Britain 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 you if you are receiving Disability Living Allowance (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 need a spare room because you can’t share due to being unwell or you need a carer to stay overnight. 

Free help and information

CLIC Sargent provides an accredited telephone welfare advice service. You can access this service by calling 0800 815 4439 or by emailing

Advisers can help you with any questions you may have about the forms you need to fill in or benefits in general, as well as letting you know about other organisations that may be able to help you.

Updated August 2016, next review due 2017.