Managing on a low income

The government offers financial help if you have a low income:

  • Income Support helps people on a low income between the age of 16 and retirement. It covers basic living costs. Your savings must be less than £16,000 to claim Income Support. Your age, the number of hours you work and your household costs will also be taken into account. You may get extra payments if you are disabled or a carer.
  • Working Tax Credit is for people who work between the age of 16 and retirement. It’s for people who earn a low income or who have a disability. It includes a basic amount but there are extra payments for single parents and people with a disability. You may also get an extra payment to cover childcare.

Working Tax Credit and Income Support are being replaced by Universal Credit. You can contact one of our welfare rights advisers for more information. Call them for free on 0808 808 00 00.

Income Support

This is a benefit for people on a low income. It is for people aged between 16 and retirement age.

Income Support helps cover basic living costs. It’s for people who do not have to register as being unemployed if they are out of work. This includes:

  • carers
  • single parents with a child under five
  • some people who get Statutory Sick Pay but still don’t have enough to live on
  • people who claimed Income Support on the basis of incapacity to work before 31 January 2011.

If you are making a new claim, Income Support is gradually being replaced by Universal Credit in England, Scotland and Wales. Universal Credit will be introduced in Northern Ireland during 2017.

The benefit you have to apply for will depend on where you live. To find out how these changes may affect you, contact a welfare rights adviser.


Who can claim Income Support

You can claim Income Support if all of the following apply to you:

  • You, and your partner if you have one, have £16,000 or less in savings between you.
  • You, and your partner if you have one, have no income or a low income. If you are claiming on the basis of sickness, earnings from some types of ‘permitted work’ are not taken into account.
  • If you are single, you must work less than 16 hours a week.
  • If you have a partner, you must work less than 24 hours a week between you.

You can also claim if you are aged under 19 and:

  • you are a parent
  • you are not living with a parent (or someone acting as a parent)
  • you are a refugee learning English.


How much Income Support will you get

Income Support is paid at different rates depending on your situation.

You may get basic payments (called personal allowances). There are different basic payments you may get depending on your situation, for example:

  • your age
  • whether you are single or have a partner
  • whether you are a single parent (if you are aged under 25).

You may get extra payments (called premiums) for special circumstances, for example if you are disabled or a carer.

Income Support acts as a ‘passport’ to other benefits, such as free school meals, free prescriptions or Housing Benefit. It can also include some help with paying off the interest on mortgages.

The amount of Income Support you get will not be reduced if you, or your partner if you have one, also claim Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance. In fact, it may increase.


How to claim Income Support

In England, Scotland and Wales call Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688, textphone 0800 023 4888, or visit gov.uk/income-support

In Northern Ireland, call the Social Security Agency on 0800 022 4250 or visit nidirect.gov.uk.


Working Tax Credit

This benefit is for people aged from 16 to retirement age who either:

  • work but have a low income
  • work and have a disability.

If you are making a new claim, Working Tax Credit is gradually being replaced by Universal Credit. The benefit you have to apply for will depend on where you live.

Who can claim

To claim Working Tax Credit (WTC), you must:

  • be working for a certain number of hours each week, either for an employer or for yourself (if you are self-employed)
  • have an income below a certain level, or have a disability that would place you at a disadvantage if you tried to get a new job.

If you are aged between 16 and 24, you can only claim WTC if you have a child or a disability.

If you are off work due to illness, you may still be able to claim WTC for up to 28 weeks.


How much WTC will you get

WTC includes a basic amount. There are also extra payments (called elements) for people in certain situations. The extra elements include:

  • a single parent element
  • a disability element
  • a childcare element.


Changes to WTC

If you are already getting WTC, you will continue to get it until either:

  • your circumstances change
  • the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decides to transfer you to Universal Credit.

If you, or your partner if you have one, still get WTC, you will not be affected by the benefit cap. This is true even if you are entitled to WTC but do not get a payment for some reason (if you are awarded a ‘nil entitlement’). So it’s worth finding out whether you qualify for this benefit. Contact a welfare rights adviser for more information.


How to claim Working Tax Credit

Call HMRC Tax Credits Helpline on 0345 300 3900 or textphone 0345 300 3909.

Back to Working age benefits

Jobseeker's Allowance

Jobseeker’s Allowance can give you a weekly income if you are unemployed and able to work.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a payment for people who are on a low income or looking for work in England, Scotland and Wales.