People can experience financial hardship at any time for many different reasons. This includes having a disability or illness, or caring for someone who does, which can place a huge strain on household income and lead to financial difficulties.
The welfare benefits system exists to support people on low incomes and those with specific needs. However, many of those who are struggling are still not aware they could be entitled to claim benefits, or are deterred by the complexities of the system. As a result, billions in welfare support goes unclaimed each year, and many people miss out on additional income that could help to improve their situation.
This guide from UK charity Turn2us outlines what financial support is available to help pay for the extra costs of having a disability, or caring for someone who does, and how you can access it.
Which benefits could I claim if I have a disability?
Personal Independence Payment
If you are aged between 16 and 64, live in England, Scotland or Wales and have extra care and/or mobility needs due to a disability, you may be entitled to Personal Independence Payment (PIP). If you live in Northern Ireland, you can claim Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for adults as PIP has not yet been introduced.
PIP has two parts – a Daily Living Component looking at your ability to carry out daily activities, and a Mobility Component looking at your ability to get around independently when you are not at home. Each component has two rates of payment: a standard rate and an enhanced rate.
To see whether you will qualify, you will be assessed by a healthcare professional on daily living and mobility activities, and points are awarded based on how difficult you find each activity. These points determine how much you might receive.
You will need to meet the disability conditions for PIP for a period of three months before making a claim, and be expected to continue to meet them for a further nine months after making the claim. An exception to this is if you are terminally ill.
Most awards of PIP will be for fixed periods, after which you will have to re-apply, in case your needs have increased or decreased over time.
Disability Living Allowance (Children)
If you have a child aged under 16 who has extra care needs or mobility needs as a result of a disability, you may be entitled to Disability Living Allowance to help with the extra costs of looking after the child.
If you are aged 65 and over and have care needs because of physical or mental illness, you may be eligible for Attendance Allowance.
To qualify, you must not be living in a council care home or a hospital, and you must usually have had care needs for at least six months before you can receive it, unless you are terminally ill.
Attendance Allowance is paid at two rates depending on the level of help you need. It can be paid for a minimum of six months or longer if your care needs continue.
Attendance Allowance does not include a mobility component. However, if you are already getting a DLA or PIP mobility component when you become 65, you can continue to receive it. Some adults over 16 are still getting DLA, but this is gradually being replaced by PIP for people aged 16 to 64.
You can get PIP, Attendance Allowance and DLA (depending on type) whether or not you are working, and these benefits do not reduce any income related benefits you may get and may even increase the amount you can claim.
There are other benefits you may be able to claim for disability, illness or injury, depending on your situation, including Employment and Support Allowance and Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefits. There are factsheets on all of these benefits at: www.turn2us.org.uk.
Which benefits could I claim if I’m a carer?
Carer’s Allowance is money for people who spend at least 35 hours a week providing regular care for someone with a disability. To qualify, the person you care for must be claiming a relevant benefit because of their disability, which in some cases has to be paid at a certain rate, and you must not be earning more than £110 per week or be in full-time education.
If you are caring for a child with a disability who is under the age of 16, you must be claiming Disability Living Allowance for them.
As a carer you may also be entitled to Carer’s Credit, Income Support and other benefits. You can find out more on the carers situation page on the Turn2us website.
How do I check entitlements?
You can use the free Turn2us Benefits Calculator at www.turn2us.org.uk to check what welfare benefits, tax credits and other support you could be entitled to based on your income and situation. The calculator tells you the amounts you may receive and how to make a claim.
Even if you have checked your entitlements to benefits before, it is worth checking again, especially if you or someone you care for has recently experienced a change in circumstances. Claiming certain welfare benefits can also trigger eligibility for other forms of help.
What other support is available?
In addition to welfare benefits, you may be eligible for a grant from a charitable fund if you are struggling financially.
Charitable funds award grants and other forms of support to those who meet their eligibility criteria, including people with disabilities and those who care for them. Some funds may be able to give grants for disability equipment or home adaptations, or cover the costs of respite care.
You can use the free Grants Search on the Turn2us website to check your eligibility for help from over 3,000 charitable funds and to find out how to apply.
The website also features information on other forms of support for people with disabilities and carers and how to apply, including help with health and travel costs, and help from your local council.
Where can I find more information?
There is further information on welfare benefits at www.turn2us.org.uk. This includes details on how to make a claim, upcoming benefit changes and challenging benefits decisions.
There’s also a Find an Adviser tool if you’d like to seek further face to face advice on your situation in your local area.