Understanding benefits

The costs that come with cancer can have far more of an impact on your finances than you may have anticipated.  Understanding the benefits system isn't always easy, but it can help you cope during difficult times.

Understanding benefits

In times of financial hardship, there are a range of different benefits available that could help take the pressure off. This is especially important if you're unable to work, you're self-employed, or you have had to reduce your hours to care for your child.

Through these pages, we aim to give you a clearer understanding of how different benefits and allowances could help you, so you can get the financial support you need at this already difficult time.

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 (means-tested benefits)
  • and for those who are ill or disabled.

For people looking for work or on a low income

You may already be familiar with some means-tested benefits such as Jobseeker's Allowance and Income Support. What you are entitled to will depend on your income and savings.

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 aged 16 to 64 who are looking for work or on a low income. It is being gradually rolled out across Great Britain and 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 those with health conditions or who have a disability, and their carers. It's important to note that once your child is given a cancer diagnosis, they are classed as disabled and therefore they may be entitled to receive certain benefits.

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 telephone welfare advice service. You can access this service by calling 0800 815 4439 or by emailing welfareadvice@clicsargent.org.uk

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.

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 July 2016, next review due 2017.