understanding UK benefits

Understanding if you are eligible to receive benefits and knowing how to claim them can be challenging, especially if you’re new to the UK benefits system.  

Depending on your personal circumstances, you may be entitled to some form of assistance. Here, we talk you through some of the main benefits and the criteria you must meet to be eligible to receive them. 

the main UK benefits 

Universal Credit (UC) 

Universal Credit is a means-tested benefit supporting people of working age on a low income. Working age means under state pension age. It replaces six existing means-tested benefits, known as legacy benefits. These are: Income Based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit. If you already receive one of these legacy benefits and your circumstances change, it is recommended you seek advice prior to claiming Universal Credit.  

Your income and capital will affect the amount of Universal Credit you receive. If you have capital over £16,000, you are not eligible for Universal Credit. The first £6,000 of capital is ignored. Capital between £6,000 and £16,000 will affect the amount you receive. Some capital may be disregarded, but you may also be treated as having capital that you do not actually have.   

Universal Credit can be applied for online through the  Government website.  

New Style Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) 

If you are unemployed or work less than 16 hours a week, you may be eligible for  New Style Jobseekers Allowance.   

This is a contribution-based benefit. You may be eligible if you have paid and/or been credited with enough Class 1 National Insurance contributions in the two full tax years before the calendar year of your claim. The benefit is paid for up to 182 days.  

Your savings and capital, and your partner’s savings and capital, aren’t taken into consideration. If you receive any earnings or a private pension, this may affect the amount you receive.  

Other conditions for eligibility apply. These include being available for work, actively seeking work and being under state pension age.  

If you are eligible, the weekly rate is £77.00, if you are 25 and over, and £61.05, if you are aged 18 to 24.   

You can claim New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance and top this up with Universal Credit if, for example, you have children, or housing cost.  

New Style Employment and Support Allowance/Contribution-Based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) 

New Style/Contribution Employment and Support Allowance  is a benefit for people under state pension age, who have limited capability to work due to an illness or disability, and are not receiving statutory sick pay.   

As with New Style/Contribution Based JSA, it is a contribution- based benefit. You must have paid/been credited with enough Class 1 or 2 National Insurance Contributions during the last two full tax years prior to the year you claim.  

You will need to have a fit note from your doctor confirming you are not well enough to work. If you have only just become ill, you can self-certify for the first seven days.  

New Style ESA does not take into consideration your partner’s income or any savings that you or your partner have. Most of your income is ignored, but if you are receiving an amount from a personal pension, this may affect the amount you receive.  

As with JSA the weekly amount is £77.00, if you are 25 and over, and £61.05, if you are 18 to 24.   

As with New Style/Contribution Based JSA, if you do not have enough income to meet your housing and other costs, you may be eligible for Universal Credit as well, providing you meet the criteria for both benefits.

Pension credit 

Pension Credit  is a means-tested benefit for people who are on a low income and have reached state pension age. 

This benefit tops up your weekly income to the following basic amounts for 2022/23:  

  • single person £182.60 
  • couple £278.70 

As with  Universal Credit,  additional payments are paid given if you are severely disabled, or are a carer for someone who is.   

In addition, you may be eligible for other means-tested benefits to help with your costs, such as Housing Benefit, Support with Mortgage Interest, and Council Tax Support. 

Housing Benefit  

Housing Benefit  is provided through your local council and is a means-tested benefit to help people on low incomes with their rent.  

A claim for Housing Benefit can be made if:  

  • both you and your partner have reached state pension age  
  • you or your partner have been receiving Pension Credit prior to the 15 May 2019  
  • you live in supported, sheltered or temporary accommodation  

If you do not fall into one of these categories, and you require assistance with your rent, you should claim Universal Credit.   

Discretionary Housing Payment 

Discretionary Housing Payment is discretionary assistance available through your local council and can be provided to assist with rent shortfalls if you are already in receipt of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit where a housing element is included for rental costs. 

Assistance can also be applied for to help with the costs of starting a tenancy such as a rental deposit or rent in advance if you need to move.

To apply for this benefit please visit your local councils website.

Support with Mortgage Interest (SMI)  

To qualify for a  Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI)  loan, you need to receive one of the following:  

  • income Support  
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)  
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)  
  • universal Credit  
  • pension Credit  

You can start getting a loan:  

  • from the date you start receiving Pension Credit  
  • after you’ve received nine consecutive Universal Credit payments  
  • after you’ve claimed any other qualifying benefit for 39 consecutive weeks  

Support with Mortgage Interest is provided as a loan and the repayment depends on your circumstances when the house is sold, or ownership is transferred. You will also have to pay interest on the loan.   

Council Tax support  

This benefit is provided by your local council and is a means-tested benefit to help people on a low income with their Council Tax bill.  

This benefit is localised and the support you receive depends on your local council’s rules, although they are broadly similar across the country. Council Tax support is:  

  • means-tested and takes into consideration your income and capital.  
  • available to people who live in rental properties or homeowners.  

For further details, visit your local council’s website.  

Personal Independence Payment  

Personal Independence Payment (PIP), is a benefit for people, who are aged between 16 and state retirement age, and have additional care needs due to an illness or disability. If you are in receipt of PIP before you reach state retirement age your claim will continue past state pension age if your additional care needs remain. 

PIP is a non-means-tested benefit, so your income and capital are ignored.  

PIP is made up of a daily living and mobility component. The  daily living  element is for the extra help you need with everyday tasks such as preparing meals, washing, dressing, bathing and managing money. The mobility element consider how far you can walk and any difficulties you may have with making journeys.  

If you are awarded this benefit, you should check to see if you are eligible for other means-tested-benefits or disability discounts.  

The weekly rates for 2022/2023 are:  

daily living  

  • standard - £61.85 
  • enhanced - £92.40  


  • standard - £24.45 
  • enhanced - £64.50 

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)  

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)  is a benefit for children, who have additional care or mobility needs due to an illness or disability. They must be under the age of 16 to make a claim. There are additional age rules in relation to the mobility element of DLA.  

DLA has two components - the personal care component and mobility component. It is non-means tested and therefore capital or income is not taken into consideration.  

The weekly rates for 2022/2023 are:  


  • low rate - £24.45 
  • middle rate - £61.85 
  • high rate - £92.40 


  • lower Rate rate - £24.45 
  • higher Rate rate - £64.50  

Attendance Allowance  

Attendance Allowance  is for people who have reached state pension age, and are:  

  • physically or mentally disabled and need assistance or supervision with their personal care needs  
  • need supervision or support to keep them safe 

This benefit is available to people, who live on their own or with others, and is not dependent on whether the assistance that is needed is being provided.  

It is a non-means-tested benefit and therefore capital and income are ignored.  

If you are awarded this benefit, you should check to see if you are eligible for other means-tested-benefits or disability discounts.  

The weekly rates for 2022/23 are:  

  • lower rate (for help in the day or night) £61.85  
  • higher rate (for help in the day and night) £92.40 

Carer's Allowance  

Carer’s Allowance is paid to people who provide more than 35 hours’ informal care for those in receipt of the following benefits:  

Personal Independence Payments - for daily living   

  • disability Living Allowance -  care component middle or higher rate  
  • attendance Allowance  

All of the following must apply:  


  • are aged 16 or over  
  • spend at least 35 hours a week caring for someone  
  • are not in full-time education  
  • are not studying for 21 hours a week or more  
  • earn £132.00 or less a week after tax, National Insurance and expenses  

Before claiming Carer’s Allowance, make sure you seek professional advice because it can impact on the benefit entitlement of the person you are caring for.  

Receiving Carer’s Allowance may also mean you are entitled to receive other means-tested benefits or increase existing benefit payments.  

The weekly rate for this benefit in 2022/23 is £69.70 a week. 

Council Tax reduction/discount schemes  

Disability Reduction Scheme for Council Tax (Disabled Band Reduction Scheme)  

This is a non-means-tested reduction so not dependent based on your income or capital.  

Your Council Tax bill can be reduced if you or somebody in your home is ‘substantially and permanently disabled’ and you have:  

  • a room (other than a bathroom, kitchen, or toilet) that is used to meet your needs e.g. for dialysis, treatment or storing of equipment  
  • a second bathroom or kitchen used to meet your needs  
  • enough space in your home to use a wheelchair indoors  

If any of these apply, the bill for your home will be reduced to the next lowest band. If you are already in an A brand property, you will have your bill reduced by 17 percent.  

The reduction can be backdated, but this may be limited to six years.  

Contact your local council for further details and an application form.  

Severe Mental Impairment disregard for Council Tax  

People who are severely mentally impaired are not included in the calculation of Council Tax liability. To qualify for this benefit:  

  • somebody within your household needs to be diagnosed as having a ‘“severe mental impairment’” that appears to be permanent. This could be due to conditions, such as dementia, severe learning difficulties or another condition that causes a ‘“severe impairment of intelligence and social functioning.’" You will need a certificate from your doctor to confirm the diagnosis.  

You also need to receive one of these benefits:   

  • personal Independence Payment (standard or enhanced daily living component), Attendance Allowance (any rate) or Disability Living Allowance (care component paid at the middle or higher rate)  

If you meet the criteria and live with one other person who isn’t severely mentally impaired, you will receive a 25% discount on your Council Tax.  

If everyone in the house has a severe mental impairment, then an exemption for the whole property is applied and you won’t have to pay Council Tax.  

If you are considered severely mentally impaired but live with two or more adults who are not severely mentally impaired, you will not receive a Council Tax discount.  

To apply for this benefit, contact your local council. In Wales, there is a national scheme.  

Carer Disregard for Council Tax  

You are classed as being disregarded as an occupant of a property if you are a live-in carer looking after someone. The person you care for cannot be your husband, wife, civil partner or your child under 18. If you do care for a child that is under the age of 18, you can be disregarded if you are not their parent.   

You must care for the person for at least 35 hours a week and they must receive one of the following benefits:  

  • any rate of Attendance Allowance  
  • the middle or highest rate of Disability Living Allowance (care component)  
  • any rate of the Personal Independence Payment (daily living element)  
  • an increase in his or her Disablement Pension  
  • an increase in Constant Attendance Allowance  

The carer does not have to receive Carer’s Allowance to be disregarded.  

Care workers living at a property may also be disregarded for Council Tax purposes.  

To be classed as a care worker, you need to:  

  • provide support or care to another person at the same address  
  • be employed to provide support or care to that person, and have been introduced to him or her by a charity or local authority  
  • earn no more than £44 a week  
  • work for at least 24 hours a week  
  • live where the care is provided or in premises that have been provided to enable a better standard of care to be carried out  

how we can help   

We supports the wellbeing of past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, ICAEW staff members, and their spouses, partners and children up to the age of 25. If you believe you may be entitled to receive benefit support, but are not sure about eligibility we can help. Contact our team of advisors, to discuss further.      

The information in this article is designed to provide general advice only. The list of benefits is not exhaustive. Every effort has been made to make sure that the information is correct. However, as the benefits system is complicated and legislation can change, we recommend you seek expert advice in relation to your personal situation. 

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your questions answered 

Who is eligible for support?

We support past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW)1, ACA students2, ICAEW staff members3, and the family and carers of members and students4

  1. No matter where your career takes you, past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England Wales (ICAEW) are eligible for caba’s services for life, even if you change your career and leave accountancy 
  2. ACA students (ICAEW Provisional Members) who are either an active student or have been an active student within the last three years are eligible for caba's services 
  3. Past and present staff members of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's services for life, even if you leave either organisation. Please note, for former employees, our financial support is only available to those who have had five years continuous employment with either organisation 
  4. Family members and carers of either an eligible past or present ICAEW member, ACA student or past or present employee of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's support. We define a family member as a: 
    1. spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner 
    2. widow, widower or surviving civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    3. divorced spouse or civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    4. child aged up to 25. Please note, children aged between 16 and 25 are not eligible for individual financial support 
    5. any other person who is or was dependent on the eligible individual supporting them financially or are reliant on the eligible individual’s care 
    6. any other person on whom the eligible individual is reliant, either financially or for care 

You can find out more about our available support both in the UK and around the world on our support we offer  page. 

Are your services means-tested?

If you need financial support, we carry out a means test where we consider income, expenditure, capital and assets.  

*Please note none of our other services are means-tested. 

I’m an accountant, but not a member of ICAEW, can you still help?

Unfortunately not. We only support past and present ICAEW members, their carers and their families. If we are unable to support you, where possible we will point you to help elsewhere.

caba has supported me in the past; can I receive support from caba again?

We understand that circumstances change. If we’ve helped you in the past there’s no reason why we can’t help you again. You can contact us at any time. Please call us if you need our help.

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