Financial support and arthritis

IMG 0078If you have arthritis, you may find that you need help with getting about or caring for yourself. These needs may lead to extra expenses. You may not be able to work, or you may need support to stay in work.

Such needs may be met through claiming one or more social security benefits. These are provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (or the Social Security Agency in Northern Ireland). This information lists, alphabetically, the benefits most commonly claimed by people with arthritis and tells you how to make a claim.

This is a condensed version of the information found in our financial support factsheets, which you can download on our publications page.

Benefits you can claim 

There are also a number of other benefits, grants and credits which are applicable in certain situations.

Access to Work

If you have a disability or health condition, a grant from Access to Work can pay for practical support to help you start work, stay in work or move into self-employment. An Access to Work grant can cover such costs as:

  • special aids or equipment for employment
  • adaptations to the equipment you already use
  • help with travel to work if you can’t use public transport
  • a support worker to provide help in the workplace.

You may be eligible for an Access to Work grant if you are employed (including as an apprentice), self-employed or unemployed and you have a job to start, and you are disabled. Northern Ireland has its own version of Access to Work.

To apply, you will need to give general details such as your National Insurance number, your employer’s contact details, a brief description of the job, details of your disability or health condition, and how this will affect your work. Before you ring, think about the tasks involved in the job and the impact your disability may have on them.

Carer’s Allowance

Carer’s Allowance is a weekly taxable benefit paid if you are aged 16 or over and regularly spend at least 35 hours a week caring for someone who is ill or disabled. Carer’s Allowance is not means-tested. The person you care for does not have to live with you or be related to you, but must be receiving a qualifying benefit, such as:

You can work part time, earning up to £110 a week (after tax, National Insurance and other allowable expenses) and still receive Carer’s Allowance. The earnings limit increased to £116 in April 2017. You are not entitled to Carer’s Allowance if you are in full-time education.

If you claim Carer’s Allowance, it could affect the amount of benefit the person you care for receives. If they are getting a means-tested benefit (such as income-related ESA or Pension Credit), they could lose the severe disability premium (or Pension Credit equivalent). Seek advice if you think you may be in this position.

If you receive certain other benefits, including the state pension, which are paid at a rate that is the same as or more than Carer’s Allowance, you may not receive payment of Carer’s Allowance as well. However, you may keep what is called an ‘underlying entitlement’ to it (which can help you get an increase in any means-tested benefit you receive).

Help with health costs

Some people qualify for help with NHS charges, vouchers for glasses or contact lenses, and hospital travel fares because of their circumstances. You qualify automatically if you or a member of your family receive certain means-tested benefits (including income-related ESA and income support).

Other people can qualify for a HC2 (full) or HC3 (partial) certificate for help with NHS charges, hospital travel costs and vouchers for glasses on the basis of low income. If you qualify on low-income grounds, your partner and dependent children also qualify.

Housing Benefit

If you are on a low income, whether or not you are working, and need help paying your rent, you can claim Housing Benefit. If you are claiming Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, ESA or Pension Credit, you can claim Housing Benefit at the same time, otherwise you can get claim forms from your local council.

Note that if you are in a Universal Credit full service area, you will not be able to claim housing benefit – you will need to claim Universal Credit instead.

Income Support

Income Support is a means-tested benefit that provides a basic income. It is now only available to limited groups of people, including carers and lone parents with very young children. It can be paid on its own if you have no other income, or can top up other benefits, such as Carer’s Allowance.

The amount you get depends on your savings and income, but not on National Insurance contributions. In brief, your needs (and those of your partner, if you have one) are compared with your resources, such as your income and savings, and Income Support worked out from this comparison. Any savings above £6,000 will be taken into account and assumed to provide you with a certain income.

You must be aged between 16 and Pension Credit qualifying age (see below). You will not usually be eligible for Income Support if you work more than 16 hours a week or your partner works more than 24 hours a week. Income Support can help towards mortgage interest payments and certain other housing costs.

If you are in a Universal Credit full service area, you will not be able to claim income support – you will need to claim Universal Credit instead.

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is for people who are unemployed or working, on average, less than 16 hours a week, who are available for, and actively seeking, work. You will usually need to sign on fortnightly at your local Jobcentre Plus office and discuss how your job search is progressing. You can restrict your availability to work in any way (for example, pay, hours, travel time and type of work), providing the restrictions are reasonable, given your condition. You can ask to be referred to a disability employment officer to discuss your options.

There are two types of JSA: Contribution-based and income-based. Contribution-based JSA is a flat-rate benefit, payable for up to six months, based on your National Insurance contributions. Income-based JSA is a means-tested benefit, worked out in a similar way to Income Support.

Note that if you are in a Universal Credit full service area, you can only claim contributory JSA. You can claim by calling the service centre (0345 600 0723; textphone 0345 600 0743).

Loans and grants

Budgeting Loans

If you have been getting income-related ESA, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Pension Credit for at least 26 weeks, you may be able to get an interest-free Budgeting Loan. This can be used to help meet intermittent expenses for specified items, such as clothing, bedding or a washing machine. A Budgeting Loan has to be repaid within two years.

If you are in a Universal Credit full service area, you cannot claim a Budgeting Loan, but will need to claim a Budgeting Advance instead. Contact your work coach at your local Jobcentre Plus office to apply.

Local Authority Grants

Grants to cover one-off expenses are administered by Local Authorities. In England, each Local Authority runs its own scheme. In Scotland, there is a nationwide ‘Scottish Welfare Fund’, in Wales a similar ‘Discretionary Assistance Fund’, and in Northern Ireland there are ‘Discretionary Support Payments’.

Disabled Facilities Grants

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Disabled Facilities Grants are available to help meet the cost of adapting a property for the needs of a disabled person. The grants are mandatory and are administered by Local Authorities.

Disabled Facilities Grants can cover a variety of adaptations, including those to:

  • allow you access to and from the house (for example, widening doors for wheelchair access and installing ramps)
  • make the house safe for you
  • allow you access to a room used or usable as a living room
  • allow you access to, or providing, an appropriate bedroom
  • help you to prepare and cook food
  • facilitate access and movement around the home to allow you to care for someone dependent on you who also lives there.

Disabled Facilities Grants are means-tested; the person in question may be expected to make a contribution to the cost of the works, depending on their income. The means test does not apply to an application made on behalf of a disabled child.

Pension Credit

Pension Credit is a means-tested or income-related benefit. It has two elements: the ‘guarantee credit’ and the ‘savings credit’. You may receive either one, or both, depending on your circumstances. Pension Credit is not taxable.

To claim Pension Credit, you must have reached the qualifying age, which is being raised from 60 to 66 between April 2010 and April 2020, alongside the rise in women’s State Pension age. To check the qualifying age at the time you want to claim, contact The Pension Service on 0800 991 234 or use the State Pension age calculator.

The guarantee credit is intended to provide for your basic living expenses. If you have no other income, it can be paid on its own.

Alternatively, it may be paid as a top-up to other benefits, such as the State Pension. In doing so, it will bring your income up to your ‘appropriate minimum guarantee’ (the basic amount the law says you need to live on). In brief, your needs (and those of your partner, if you have one) are compared with your resources, such as your income and savings, and the guarantee credit worked out from this comparison.

Any savings above £10,000 will be taken into account and assumed to provide you with a certain income; if you are a homeowner, the value of your property is disregarded. The guarantee credit can help towards mortgage interest payments and certain other housing costs. 

Savings credit may be paid if you or your partner are aged over 65, although generally it is not paid if you reached state pension age on or after April 6 2016. It is intended to provide a small amount of extra money for people who have made extra provision for their retirement.

Tax Credits

Child Tax Credit is a means-tested benefit that supports people who are responsible for children. You can be in or out of work. You child must be under 16, or under 20 and in full-time education or approved unwaged training. Child Tax Credit is made up of several elements to suit the different circumstances of families.

Working Tax Credit is a means-tested payment for those in low-paid work. It supports families with children and disabled workers, and also certain workers without children or a disability. It is made up of various elements, including an element to cover up to 70% of childcare costs (up to a maximum of £175 a week for one child and £300 for two or more children).

HM Revenue and Customs is responsible for administering tax credits. Claims for both Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit are made on the same claim form: the TC600. Note that if you are in a Universal Credit full service area, you will not be able to claim tax credits – you will need to claim Universal Credit instead.