Benefits while you're abroad

Information Standard

If you travel abroad for proton beam therapy, you may still be able to receive any benefits you are claiming. The rules vary for different benefits, and depend on how long you are away and the reasons for your absence. It also depends on whether you are travelling within or outside the European Union.

The rules for payment of benefits abroad are quite complicated. If you need to travel abroad for treatment for yourself or your child, you can find out which rules apply to which benefits below. It may also be worth discussing your situation with a specialist benefits adviser to make sure you are fully informed about all the options available to you. Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau or phone CLIC Sargent on 0300 330 0803 and we’ll put you in touch with one.

Please note that the information below is only relevant to people who live and receive benefits in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland).

For the most up-to-date information about benefits in Great Britain go to For information on benefits in Northern Ireland visit

Disability Living Allowance

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children under the age of 16 can be paid for up to 26 weeks if it is for medical treatment, and provided Great Britain is still the country where you ‘ordinarily reside’. If you’re likely to be away for longer than this, DLA may still be paid if the absence is temporary and is for the specific purpose of being treated for an illness that began before leaving Great Britain, and the Department for Work and Pensions agrees you should be treated as if present in Great Britain.

If you are travelling to the European Union (EU), it may be possible to receive DLA care component without any restriction on your length of stay or purpose of travel. Seek specialist advice if you are travelling to the EU for longer than 26 weeks.

Universal Credit

If you are receiving Universal Credit (UC) then you will be able to receive it if you, or another member of your household, is temporarily away from your home; however, this will only be for a limited time.

You will receive the full amount of UC for:

  • up to one month if you go away for any reason
  • up to six months if you go abroad for medical treatment

If there are any changes to your cicrumstances that may affect your benefit and you want to find out more about your entitlements while you are abroad, then you can call UC advisers on 0345 6000 723.

Carer’s Allowance

Provided you are ordinarily resident in Great Britain, you can receive Carer’s Allowance while abroad in the following situations:

  • For four weeks provided you are accompanied by the disabled person you care for, unless you are permitted a break from caring under the Carer’s Allowance rules (seek specialist advice on this)
  • Where a temporary absence (absence of less than 52 weeks) is for the specific purpose of caring for a disabled person who is absent from Great Britain and who remains entitled to DLA care component while they are absent.

However, if you are travelling to the European Union you may be able to take your Carer’s Allowance with you without any time limit – seek specialist advice if this is the case.

Child Benefit

If you are ordinarily resident in Great Britain, you are treated as present and eligible to receive child benefit:

  • For the first eight weeks of temporary absence (absence of less than 52 weeks)
  • For the first 12 weeks of absence, if you and your child both leave Great Britain so that you, your partner or your child can have treatment.

However, if you remain in Great Britain and only your child travels for treatment, your child is treated as present in Great Britain during any temporary absence for the purpose of treatment for an illness that began before their absence. This means that you could receive Child Benefit for up to 52 weeks (the limit of temporary absence), if you remain in Great Britain.

If your child travels to another European Union country you may be able to receive Child Benefit for them without any time limit as long as they remain your dependent.

Employment Support Allowance

You can’t usually get Employment Support Allowance (ESA) if you aren’t present in Great Britain. However:

  • It can be paid for the first four weeks of absence providing the absence is unlikely to exceed 52 weeks
  • Both contribution-based and income-related ESA can be paid for the first 26 weeks of any absence from Great Britain provided the absence is unlikely to exceed 52 weeks and the absence is solely in connection with treatment of a disease or disablement that is related to your limited capability for work or the disease and disablement of a dependent child whom you are accompanying.

You can receive ESA indefinitely only if, before leaving Great Britain you received permission from the Department for Work and Pensions and your absence is for NHS-funded treatment at a hospital or other institution outside Great Britain.

If you are travelling to the European Union and your absence is likely to be longer than 26 weeks, you should seek specialist advice as you could be entitled to ESA for longer.

Parents also need to be aware that new government legislation limits the length of time you can claim ESA once you are in a Work Related Activity Group to one year. This applies whether you are in the UK or not when the year ends.

Housing and Council Tax Benefits

You can receive Housing and Council Tax Benefits if:

  • You remain liable for rent and/or Council Tax during your absence
  • Your absence is unlikely to be for more than 52 weeks (or, in exceptional circumstances, you are unlikely to be away for significantly longer than this) and
  • The reason for absence is medical treatment for you or a dependent child. If the absence is not in connection with medical treatment you can normally only receive Housing Benefit for up to 13 weeks’ absence.

Income Support and Job Seeker’s Allowance

You cannot normally get Income Support (IS) or Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) if you are not in Great Britain, but there are a few exceptions to this rule if you are accompanying a child for treatment, rather than travelling for treatment yourself.

If you were entitled to IS or JSA immediately before leaving Great Britain and are temporarily absent, your entitlement can continue for eight weeks if:

  • Your absence is unlikely to be for more than 52 weeks, and
  • Is solely in connection with arrangements made for the treatment of a child or young person

The treatment must be carried out by, or under the supervision of, a person qualified to provide medical treatment and the child must be a member of your family.
If you are the IS/Income-based JSA claimant and your partner goes abroad while you stay in Great Britain, you can be paid for your partner for up to eight weeks if s/he meets the condition above. After this you would be treated as if you were single.

For JSA purposes, you should be treated as available for and actively seeking work while abroad for the treatment of your child under the above rule.

If you are claiming IS and are travelling treatment abroad for proton beam therapy on the NHS, then IS could continue indefinitely provided other entitlements are met. This is a complicated area, so it is best to seek specialist advice.   

Tax Credits

If you are ordinarily resident in Great Britain, Working and Child Tax Credits can be paid for the first 12 weeks if any temporary (less than 52 weeks) absence abroad is for the treatment of your own or a dependent child’s illness. If the temporary absence is for some other purpose you are only entitled for the first eight weeks of absence.

If you (or your partner) spend longer abroad than the permitted periods above, you will cease to be entitled to tax credits. If you fail to notify HM Revenue & Customs of this within one month, you may be overpaid and could be subject to a penalty.

Payment of Working Tax Credit is also subject to rules concerning hours of work, and you can only continue to receive it if you also qualify as being in work during your absence (this would be the case if you yourself are not at work because you are too ill to work). Get advice on this point if you are not sure.

Under European Union (EU) rules you can be paid Child Tax Credit (CTC) for a child resident in another EU country, so CTC may be payable for longer than 12 weeks if your child travels to the EU for treatment.

June 2015, next planned review March 2016