Protecting your right to state benefits

We are currently updating our financial information following the March 2015 budget announcement. For the most up-to-date information, please contact us on 0808 808 00 00.

Your entitlement to contributory benefits, such as State Pension and bereavement benefits, depends on the amount of national insurance (NI) you have paid.

During times when you were not paying NI, you would usually get NI credits. This may have been when you were off sick from work or on benefits. These credits cover the payments you were unable to pay.

In some instances, there may be a gap in your NI record. This might be if:

  • you work but earn less than £112 a week
  • you take an unpaid break from work
  • you take early retirement.

You can choose to make voluntary NI payments. To find out whether this is suitable for you, contact the HM Revenue and Customs National Insurance Helpline on 0300 200 3500 or textphone 0300 200 3519.

The Welfare Reform Bill is still under consideration in Northern Ireland. For benefits information and support in Northern Ireland, please visit or call 0800 232 1271. Or you can speak to one of our welfare rights advisers on 0808 808 00 00.

Protecting your right to state benefits

Your entitlement to some state benefits (contributory benefits) depends on how much national insurance (NI) you’ve paid or been credited with. State Pension and bereavement benefits are examples of contributory state benefits.

There may be times when you’re not paying national insurance because you’re off work sick or are claiming state benefits for illness or disability. In these situations, you usually continue to get NI credits. These cover the contributions you were unable to pay and protect your entitlement to contributory state benefits.

However, sometimes you may have a gap in your NI record. For example, if:

  • you’re not paying NI because you work but are earning less than £112 a week in 2015–16 (unless you’re also claiming benefits such as Working Tax Credit because your income is low – in that case, you’ll get NI credits)
  • you no longer qualify for sickness and disability benefits but decide to take an extended, unpaid break from working
  • you take early retirement and you’ve not yet reached State Pension age.

If you have a gap in your NI contributions, you could choose to pay voluntary contributions to plug the gap and protect your State Pension and bereavement benefits. But working out whether this is worth doing is complicated, because you can have quite large gaps without any loss of pension.

For advice on how to pay voluntary national insurance contributions and finding out whether it would be worthwhile, contact the HM Revenue and Customs National Insurance Helpline on 0300 200 3500 or textphone 0300 200 3519.

We have more information about state benefits. You can also get benefits advice from our welfare rights advisers by calling the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00.

Welfare reform in Northern Ireland

The benefits system is changing across the UK. Some changes that have already happened in England, Scotland and Wales (such as the introduction of PIP) are still being debated in Northern Ireland.

The latest news on the reforms can be found on our welfare reform page and also at

Macmillan Cancer Support, in partnership with Citizens Advice, provides a dedicated Welfare Rights Service to people affected by cancer in Northern Ireland. For information and support, or to arrange an appointment, please call 0300 1 233 233. Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am-12.30pm and 1pm-4pm.

You can also call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00.

For benefits information and support in Northern Ireland please visit or call 0800 232 1271.

You can also contact the Northern Ireland Benefit Enquiry Line on 0800 220 674, or textphone 028 9031 1092 if you are deaf or hard of hearing.

Back to About benefits

The Welfare Reform Act

There have been changes to the benefits system. There are a number of ways your benefits could be affected.

Macmillan grants

A Macmillan grant is a one-off payment for adults, young people or children with cancer, to cover a wide range of practical needs.