Government benefits – for those on low incomes

One of a series examining the different types of government benefits, this guide looks at some of the options available to assist those who’re on a low income and are struggling to support themselves or their families.

Income support – this is a means-based allowance for those who are unable to work full time and have a low income, or who can only work less than 16 hours per week. It can be very helpful for people who have children or who look after an elderly or disabled person, or who are ill or disabled. Again, you won’t qualify if you have more than £16,000 of savings. There are lots of different factors that will be taken into consideration in order to determine your eligibility for income support, including your age, your income, your savings, your dependants, whether you have a partner, your partner’s income, your partner’s savings, and whether you’re disabled or caring for someone. People on income support also qualify for free NHS dentistry and prescriptions, as well as housing and council tax benefit. You can claim online or in person at a jobcentre plus, and as part of the application process you’ll have an interview with a personal adviser who’ll review your financial situation with you.

Working tax credits – again designed to support working families or individuals on a low income, this benefit is suitable for people who work at least 16 hours per week and have dependants to support, or people who have no children but who work over 30 hours per week in a low-paid job. Some of the factors that will be taken into consideration when calculating how much you’ll receive in working tax credits are your income, the number of hours you work, whether you live with a partner, the number of children you have, how much you spend on childcare, whether you’re entitled to any other benefits, or whether you’re disabled. It’s managed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who’ll pay it directly into your bank account. To claim, either phone your nearest HMRC office or pop into your local jobcentre plus.

Council tax benefit – you’ll be eligible to receive council tax benefit (up to 100% reduction in your council tax bill) if you’re on a low income and have less than £16,000 in savings. If you don’t qualify to receive it, you may still be eligible to receive a ‘second adult rebate’, giving money off your council tax bill in circumstances where you share your home with another adult who isn’t your partner and who doesn’t pay council tax or is on a low income. If you claim income support or jobseeker’s allowance, you’ll be given a form for claiming council tax benefit.

Housing benefit – housing benefit, paid by local councils, assists those who’re unable to pay their rent. You can claim this whether you’re a council tenant or live in a privately rented property. You’ll only qualify if you’re on a low income with less than £16,000 of savings, aren’t a full-time student and don’t live with a close relative. If you’re living in a council property you’ll receive housing benefit directly into your rent account from your local council. If you’re in privately rented premises, the council will investigate whether the rent amount asked for the property is acceptable for its size and location and for the size of your family in order to determine your eligibility. If you do qualify, you’ll either receive a cheque or direct payment into your bank account, or your landlord will be paid directly.