How much might I get in benefits?

This depends on the benefit. For contributory benefits, you get a fixed sum of money.

For example, for contributory-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), you get up to £57.90 a week if you are aged between 16 and 24 and £73.10 if you are 25 and over.

Depending on your circumstances, you could get some income-based JSA on top of this.

In August 2017, the Sure Start Maternity Grant is a one-off payment of £500 and Child Benefit is £20.70 a week for your oldest child and £13.70 for your other children.

For means-tested benefits like income-based JSA, Income Support and income-related Employment and Support Allowance, the government has fixed an amount that it calculates you and your family need to live on. This is called the 'applicable amount'.

The applicable amount will vary for each person because it is made up of different elements which depend on your circumstances. For example, for Income Support, it includes:

  • a personal allowance, which is a basic amount for you and your partner;
  • extra money called premiums if you have higher living costs (for example, because your partner is over 60, you or your partner are disabled, or you are caring for a sick or disabled person); and
  • in some cases, help to pay your mortgage interest (though this will be replaced by loans from 5 April 2018).

Your weekly income is compared to this applicable amount. The difference between the applicable amount and your income is the amount of Income Support you'll get. You will only be entitled to Income Support if your income is less than your applicable amount.

If you have no income, you will get Income Support at the level of your applicable amount. This means that any extra income you have coming in each week may reduce the amount of your benefit.

If you get certain means-tested benefits, you automatically qualify for other benefits. For example, if you’re getting income-based JSA, you will automatically qualify for the maximum amount of Housing Benefit to help with your rent. Remember that Housing Benefit may not cover all your rent, even if you get the maximum amount allowed.

This will depend on the sort of property you are renting and your family circumstances. Unless you are aged 60 or over, you will have to wait a number of weeks before you get help with your mortgage interest, your Income Support, your income-based JSA or income-related ESA. Even if you do get help, it might not cover all of your housing costs.

If you are on Universal Credit, your benefit is calculated and paid on a monthly basis (in arrears) directly into a bank account.

The amount of Universal Credit you can get depends on your circumstances and income. The payments are made up of a basic ‘standard allowance’ and any extra amounts that apply to you.

Universal Credit monthly rates 2017-18:

Your circumstances Standard allowance
Single and under 25 £251.77
Single and 25 or over £317.82
In a couple and you’re both under 25 £395.20
In a couple and either of you are 25 or over £498.89

You may get more money on top of your standard allowance if you have children, if you pay for childcare, if you care for a disabled child or adult or if you are disabled or have a health condition.

There is also help available with housing costs, depending on your situation.

If you start to earn or to earn more, payments will be reduced gradually. For every £1 you earn your Universal Credit payment will be reduced by 65p.

But, if you are responsible for a child or young person, or if you have a disability or health condition that affects your ability to work, you can earn a certain amount before your Universal Credit is reduced. This is called a 'work allowance'.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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