Income Support explained
The good news is that you've netted yourself a part-time job, but what if incomings still aren't matching outgoings? Dont panic, you may eligible for Income Support.
Income Support is changing
Between now and 2017, Income Support will gradually become part of Universal Credit. If you start a new claim for Income Support after October 2013, you're likely to find yourself being put on Universal Credit instead. If you are on Income Support at the moment you'll be moved in 2014.
In many ways things will stay the same, but there will be an emphasis on seeking work in return for getting benefit. A few things WILL be different - like you'll only get your benefit once a month. To find out more see our Universal Credit article.
What is Income Support?
Income Support is a benefit for people on a low income to help cover the cost of day-to-day living. It isn't so much for people who are seeking full-time work - although if you're looking for full-time work you may be eligible to claim for Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA). Instead, Income Support is intended for people in part-time work who might have commitments preventing them from working full-time, for instance, lone parents, people caring for others, or young people in training.
How do I know if I am eligible?
There are many factors that will determine whether you're able to claim Income Support, which can be a bit confusing. Experienced advisors at the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) or Jobcentre Plus will be able to take you through the process, but let's try to break it down.
To claim Income Support, you'll need to be 18 or over - although you may also be able to claim Income Support if you're 16 or 17 and have a child, are pregnant, or on certain kinds of training course.
You will also need to prove the following:
- You work less than 16 hours a week
- You have a low income
- You're not in full-time study (although there are some exceptions to this rule)
- You don't get JSA or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- You don't have savings above £16,000
And finally, you'll have to be able to demonstrate that you fit into one of the groups who 'do not have to be available for work'.
Unfortunately, in this case, being not available for work doesn't mean you've got a hangover, a rehearsal with your band, or some important clothes shopping to do. To be eligible for Income Support, you have to prove your circumstances prevent you from full-time work. This could mean:
- You're a lone parent bringing up a child under 10 on your own
- You receive a Carer's Allowance
- You're looking after your partner who is temporarily ill
- You're looking after a child under 20 for whom you are responsible and who is temporarily ill
- You're incapable of work because you're pregnant (some pregnant women might be able to claim ESA instead)
You may have trouble claiming Income Support if you're any of the following:
- 16 or 17 years old
- On strike
- From overseas
- Suspected of living with a partner (this applies to lesbian and gay partners, as well as heterosexual partners.)
- Homeless, or living in a care home or hostel
If you're 16 or 17 and want advice about claiming benefits, or you're 16 or 17 and have been in care, you should consult your CAB and speak to an experienced advisor.
Families and Income Support
If you live with your partner only one of you can claim Income Support (this applies to both heterosexual and same-sex couples regardless of whether you're married or in a civil partnership).
Whoever claims, claims for you both as a couple. This means that your partner's income and capital will be taken into account as well as yours, and if your partner works for 24 hours or more per week, you won't be able to make a claim. Also, if they're claiming income-based JSA or income-related ESA, this will also prevent you getting Income Support.
How much money can I expect from Income Support?
Ah. Now that's a tricky one to answer. The amount that you're entitled to is determined by a number of factors, from your available capital (income, savings, property) to your housing costs to your personal allowance (determined by age, living status, and number of children). The CAB has a very useful list that breaks it down, but to really determine how much Income Support you're due you'll need to speak to a benefits advisor, or make a claim via directgov.uk. It's even possible to claim backdated Income Support - ask an advisor for more details.
Remember to tell your benefits advisor if your circumstances change - for example if you get a pay rise, new job or get married. If you don't you could face a £50 fine as well as having to pay back any extra benefit. See GOV.UK for more information.
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