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What are benefits and how can I get them?

Curriculum for Life editorial team
Curriculum for Life editorial team
Get the lowdown on what benefits are out there, if you can claim, and what other support you can get.
Pound notes and coins in a small pile
Pound notes and coins in a small pile

What are benefits and who can get them?

Welfare benefits – often just called benefits – are payments to help with living costs. Benefits are usually paid to you by the government or your local council.

You could get benefits if you’re on a low income or out of work – or if you’re sick, disabled or a carer. Other benefits help with certain life stages, such as having children or old age.

For some benefits, you need to have a low income.

Other benefits are open to most people in a particular group. Most people with children below a certain age can get Child Benefit (except for high earners). Most older people can get a state pension.

How much could I get?

A benefits calculator can give you a quick idea of what you could get (but not if you’re a student). Extra rules apply if you’re under 18.

For some benefits, the amount you get will depend on who you live with and what savings you have. This is called means testing.

Money is usually paid into your bank account directly but is sometimes paid to others on your behalf. Help with childcare costs, for example, goes straight to your child’s nursery or childminder.

What is universal credit?

Universal Credit is a benefit for working-age people, paid every month. You can get Universal Credit if you’re on a low income, out of work or not able to work. It replaces six benefits, including Housing Benefit and Income Support, which used to be paid separately.

Your payment is made up of a basic allowance, along with extra amounts to help with costs such as housing, bringing up children or having a disability.

Citizens Advice Help to Claim is a free and confidential service to help you apply for Universal Credit. You can talk to someone on the phone, online or chat.

Claiming Universal Credit or certain other benefits means you may be able to get other support. This includes free NHS prescriptions, dental treatment and help with the cost of prison visits.

Certain charities also offer people on low incomes a range of services for free or at a reduced cost, such as help with vet bills.

What other benefits could I get?

Click below to find out more:

Benefits if you’re studying

If you’re 16-19 and studying, you may be able to get the 16-19 Bursary Fund. This will depend on your family income, if you’re in care or are a recent care-leaver, or receive other benefits.

If you’re at university, different rules apply – see more about student finance.

Benefits from your local council

Contact your local council (sometimes called the local authority) to see what other support you could get. You may be able to speak to someone who can make sure you’re getting all the benefits should. Use this postcode checker to find your local council.

Benefits from your local council can include:

Free school meals

Council Tax reduction – again, depending on your situation but includes students, people who live alone or who get certain benefits. Council Tax is a fee charged to each household to help pay for local services.

Emergency or hardship funds to help with costs such as food, energy or paying your rent

If you live in supported or temporary accommodation, your council may also be able to help with rental costs.

Benefits if you’re leaving care

If you’re leaving foster or local authority care, you may be able to get a range of support and benefits until you’re 25.

Other benefits

Other benefits may be open to you, depending on where you live.

If you’re 16-18, you can get free bus travel in Greater Manchester and a range of other discounts with Our Pass.

Find out more

Money Helper is a free and impartial advice service for help with everyday money, including benefits.

Turn2us is a charity which helps people in financial need gain access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and other financial help.


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