What are working-age benefits?
Working-age benefits are a range of benefits you can claim if you're below State Pension age, and you meet the criteria. You've probably heard of some, eg Housing Benefit, Jobseeker's Allowance and Working Tax Credit. Most people claiming working-age benefits will have to claim through Universal Credit, which replaced the old system of claiming and receiving separate benefits individually.
As of May 2019, you may have to claim working-age benefits even if you're above State Pension age. If your partner hasn't reached State Pension age, neither of you will be eligible for Pension Credit. This means you'll have to apply for working-age benefits instead.
Universal Credit could help you if you're on a low income or out of work. It's a means-tested benefit, which comes as a single monthly payment. You have to meet some additional criteria to qualify for Universal Credit, eg you usually have to be looking for work.
It replaces the following benefits (called 'legacy benefits'):
- Housing Benefit
- income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Income Support
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit.
Contribution-based ESA and JSA aren't part of Universal Credit, and are not included as 'legacy benefits'. You need to be entitled to the severe disability premium with any of your benefits to apply for either of these. See below for more information about which benefits you can claim when you're eligible for the severe disability premium.
If you aren't eligible for the severe disability premium, you'll need to apply for 'new style' ESA and 'new style' JSA instead. These are based on your National Insurance contributions, and you can receive them alongside Universal Credit if you're eligible.
Should I claim Universal Credit?
If you or your partner is below State Pension age, you'll need to claim Universal Credit instead of Pension Credit. To be eligible you must:
- be on a low income, or not working
- have less than £16,000 in savings, including your partner's savings if you have one
- be below State Pension age, or have a partner who's below State Pension age
- not be eligible for the severe disability premium.
If you're currently claiming any of the benefits listed above (apart from contribution-based and 'new style' ESA and JSA), you'll eventually be moved to Universal Credit. You don't need to do anything now. However, if you want to make a new claim for any of these benefits, you'll need to claim Universal Credit instead.
You can't claim Universal Credit if you're eligible for the severe disability premium. See below if this applies to you.
Check if you should be applying for Universal Credit by using the Citizens Advice eligibility checker.
Will Universal Credit affect me if I'm over State Pension Age?
Universal Credit won't affect you unless you're part of a mixed-age couple, where one of you is below State Pension age, and you want to make a new claim for any of the 'legacy benefits'. If you and your partner are both over State Pension age, you'll be able to make a claim for Pension Credit instead. See our Pension Credit guide for more information.
If you have a partner and one of you is below State Pension age and not working, and neither of you are eligible for the severe disability premium, you'll have to claim Universal Credit instead. This will be significantly lower than Pension Credit. If you think this might affect you, contact Citizens Advice.
How to apply for Universal Credit
You usually need to apply online for Universal Credit. You may be able to apply over the phone or have someone visit you at home if:
- you have a sight impairment
- you have a long term physical disability or mental health condition
- you have a physical condition that stops you from using a computer or smartphone
- you can't read or write.
To apply you need to prove your identity, and your partner's identity if you have one. You'll also need to provide information about your income and assets.
For more information call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644, or contact your local Citizens Advice.
If you're eligible for the severe disability premium
You can't claim Universal Credit if you're eligible or you're already receiving the severe disability premium with any of your benefits. Instead you'll have to apply for the 'legacy benefits' listed above.
For help claiming these benefits, contact your local Jobcentre Plus.
To find out more about Universal Credit, go to understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk or call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644.