Benefits you can claim before state pension age

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I get lots of emails from WASPI women whose state pension has been delayed. They are often struggling financially and want to know what financial help is available. There are no specific benefits to bridge the gap until you get your state pension, but here’s a roundup of the main benefits you can claim before state pension age.

Benefits you can claim before state pension age

There are several benefits you may be able to claim before state pension age. Some have an upper age limit of 65. If you’re part of a couple, it’s usually the age of the oldest person in the couple. With Universal Credit, it’s the reverse and it’s the age of the youngest of the couple that is taken into account.

Jobseeker’s Allowance

You may be able to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) if you’re out of work (or working part time) and actively looking for work.

How much you’ll get: The maximum Jobseeker’s Allowance is £73.10 a week or £114.85, if you’re a couple. These figures are for 2017 – 18.

There are three types of Jobseeker’s Allowance:

  • Contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance: You can claim this for up to six months. It’s based on your National Insurance contributions. You can get it if you’ve paid enough Class 1 National Insurance (NI) contributions in the last two benefit years. If you have a partner, their income and savings don’t affect what you get.

SAVVY TIP: A ‘benefit year’ starts on the first Sunday in January and ends a year later.

  • Income-related Jobseeker’s Allowance: You can claim this if you work less than 16 hours a week, on average and if your partner – if you have one – works less than 24 hours a week, on average. You can’t claim this if you have more than £16,000 in savings. If you have more than £6,000 in savings, you’ll be assumed to earn a certain amount of interest from them, and that will be taken into account.

SAVVY TIP: You’ll have to claim income-based JSA if you haven’t paid enough National Insurance in the last two years.

  • ‘New style’ Jobseeker’s Allowance: You can claim this if you’re entitled to Universal Credit. That means if you’re single and living in England, Wales or Scotland or a couple living in a Universal Credit area. It works the same way as contribution-based JSA.

SAVVY TIP: In theory, you can get it at the same time as Universal Credit, but you won’t get any extra cash as the JSA will be deducted from your Universal Credit payments.

Income Support

You may be able to get Income Support if you are caring for someone or – in some cases – unable to work due to illness. You must also be under the state pension age and you (and your partner, if you have one) have no or a low income and less than £16,000 of savings. If you have more than £6,000 in savings, you’ll be assumed to earn a certain amount of interest from them, and that will be taken into account. You have to work less than 16 hours a week and your partner must work less than 24 hours a week.

How much you’ll get: The basic allowance for Income Support is £73.10 a week or £114.85, if you’re a couple (this assumes you’re both over 25). These figures are for 2017 – 18. You may get more if your partner is over state pension age or you’re disabled or a carer.

SAVVY TIP: These rules apply in England, Scotland and Wales, but not in Northern Ireland. You can’t get Income Support and Universal Credit or Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance at the same time.

Employment and Support Allowance

This benefit is paid to people who can’t work due to illness or disability – as long as they meet the qualification criteria. There are different types of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA):

How much you’ll get: The maximum Employment and Support Allowance is £73.10 a week or £114.85, if you’re a couple (this assumes you’re both over 25) for the first 13 weeks. Once you’re assessed, there’s the same maximum if you’re in the work related activity group and up to £109.65 a week if you’re in the Support Group. You may get more if you qualify for additional disability premiums. These figures are for 2017 – 18.

There are different types of ESA:

  • Contribution-based ESA: You can get this if you’ve paid enough National Insurance, or been credited with NI. You can claim this for a year if you’re put in the work related activity group (and may be able to reapply for it) and can claim it for as long as you need it if you’re in the support group.
  • Income-related ESA: You can claim this once you no longer qualify for contribution-based ESA. You can’t claim it at the same time as Universal Credit. Your own income and your partner’s (if you have one) will affect how much you get. You can’t claim this if you have more than £16,000 in savings. If you have more than £6,000 in savings, you’ll be assumed to earn a certain amount of interest from them, and that will be taken into account.
  • ‘New style’ Employment and Support Allowance: You can claim this if you’re entitled to Universal Credit. That means if you’re single and living in England, Wales or Scotland or a couple living in a Universal Credit area. It works the same way as contribution-based ESA.

Housing Benefit and Local Housing Allowance

Housing Benefit is designed to pay some or all of your rent if you’re out of work or on a low income. The amount you get will depend on your rent, how much you (and your partner, if you live together) earn, whether or not you or your partner has savings over £6,000 and whether you or your partner has a disability.

Your eligible rent may be different to the rent you actually pay. If you rent from a private landlord, rather than social housing or from the council, your Housing Benefit will be based on something called the Local Housing Allowance. This may be less (or more) than the rent you pay.

SAVVY TIP: You can only use Housing Benefit to pay towards your rent. You can’t use it for your bills, such as gas, electricity etc.

Incapacity Benefit

Incapacity Benefit can be claimed if you can’t work because you’re ill. However, you can’t claim Incapacity Benefit as a new claimant. Instead, you have to claim Employment and Support Allowance. If you’re already on it, you may be moved onto Employment and Support Allowance.

Working Tax Credit

You can only get Working Tax Credit if you’re already in work, but on a low income. It’s not a benefit you can receive if you’re looking for work. You could get up to £1,960 a year, if you qualify for the basic amount of WTC, although you could get more – or less.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is being rolled out and is gradually replacing a range of other benefits. As with some other benefits, you’ll get less if you have savings over £6,000 and your partner’s income and savings are also taken into account.

How much you’ll get: Universal Credit is paid as a monthly amount, but I’ve converted it to a weekly sum for comparison. You’ll get £73.34 if you’re single (and over 25) and £115.13 if you’re claiming as a couple. You could get more if you’re ill or disabled or are caring for someone who’s ill or disabled.

Useful links:

Turn2Us is a charity that has lots of useful information on different types of benefits and a free calculator you can use to work out what benefit you might be entitled to.

Entitledto also has free calculators to help you work out what you may be able to claim.

You can find out more about each of the benefits I’ve mentioned on the Gov.uk website, or niDirect if you’re in Northern Ireland.

Related articles:

Raising the state pension age to 66; when will you get your state pension?

When is the winter fuel allowance or winter fuel payment paid and how much is it?

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