Understanding benefits

The costs that come with cancer can have much more of an impact on your finances than you may have expected. Understanding the benefits system isn't always easy, but it’s important to know what you’re entitled to.

Understanding benefits

There are a range of different benefits that could help take the pressure off. This is especially important if you're unable to work, self-employed, or have had to reduce your hours while you recover or go through treatment. If you are a parent yourself, you will also have child-related expenses to pay for.

However, we understand that the benefits system can be confusing. Through these pages, we explain which benefits and allowances may help you, so you have a clearer understanding and can get the financial support you need.

How the system works

The benefits system is designed to offer financial support to people who:

  • need help while finding work, or are in work but need to top up their income (these are called means-tested benefits)
  • and for those who are ill or disabled.

For people looking for work or on a low income

These benefits are for people who are on low incomes or are looking for work. What you are entitled to will depend on your income and savings. You may already know about some means-tested benefits, such as Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support. 

However, the system is currently changing. Six of the main benefits (including Jobseeker’s Allowance and all those listed in our means-tested benefits page) are gradually being replaced by a new single benefit called Universal Credit. 

Universal Credit is a monthly payment for people who are looking for work or on a low income is 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. You can find out more about Universal Credit and other payments on our means-tested benefits page.

For people with a health condition or disability

This important group of benefits are for people with a health condition or a disability. Once you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you are automatically classed as disabled. This means that there are likely to be more benefits available to you and the people who care for you, such as your parents or partner. 

Some of these benefits have means-tested elements but it is worth speaking to a welfare adviser about what you may be entitled to. See our health-related benefits page for more information on each of these.

Further support

CLIC Sargent welfare advice

CLIC Sargent provides an accredited welfare advice service. You can access this service by calling 0800 915 4439 or by emailing welfareadvice@clicsargent.org.uk

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

More information

Our means-tested and health-related benefits pages give an easy-to-understand overview of benefits that may be useful to you. For more detailed information about state benefits and allowances, go to www.gov.uk or www.nidirect.gov.uk

If you aren't eligible

If you have a residence permit that allows you to live in the UK, you may not be able to claim most benefits. The NRPF network has a free advice line on 0207 527 7121, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. 

Updated August 2016, next review due 2017.