Claiming Benefits - What are benefits?
Benefits and tax credits are payments from the government to certain people on low incomes, or to meet specific needs. Read our guide to find out more about them and how to claim.
What are benefits?
Benefits and tax credits are payments from the government to certain people on low incomes, or to meet specific needs. They can help you if you:
- Are on a low income
- Are out of work
- Have children
- Are pregnant
- Are sick or disabled
- Have been bereaved
- Are a carer
Who administers benefits?
Different organisations administer different benefits. These include:
- Department for Work and Pensions DWP which operates through agencies such as Jobcentre Plus and The Pensions Service
- HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
- Local authorities/councils
Employers pay some benefits then claim the money back from the government. These are called Statutory Benefits.
What types of benefits are there?
Benefits usually come under one of two types:
Your entitlement to means-tested benefits depends on how much you have in income, savings and other capital. You can get these benefits even if you have not paid enough national insurance contributions.
If you have over a certain amount (the amount the government estimates that you need to live on), your means-tested benefits are less or not paid at all.
The amount of means-tested benefits you get can be different for each person. You can check your entitlement to means-tested benefits in our Benefits Calculator.
Non-means-tested benefits don't take into account your income and savings in the same way as means-tested benefits do, but they do have their own rules which must be met:
These benefits are to replace earnings, for example when you lose your job or are unable to work because of illness or disability. Whether you get the benefit depends on if you (or in some cases your partner) have paid or been credited with enough national insurance contributions. They are not means-tested, but if you have income in the form of earnings or pension payments the amount you get may be affected.
These benefits replace earnings if you are off work due to maternity/adoption/paternity or sickness. There is no means-test but there are earnings rules to meet in order to qualify. These benefits are paid through your employer.
Mostly these benefits are intended to help with the extra costs of having a disability or caring for someone with a disability. There is no means-test and no national insurance contribution conditions, you just have to fit the rules for who can claim. They are usually ignored as income for means-tested benefits.