How to Find Out What Benefits You're Entitled to

by , Last Updated: 13 January 2015

We explain how to find out what financial assistance you're entitled to, and how to claim the benefits you're owed.

Two men paperwork desk smiling

When times are tough, help towards the cost of living can be really valuable. It might be possible that due to any number of your current circumstances, you are eligible for financial assistance from the government. There may be types of benefits available that you aren't aware of but are perfectly entitled to.

If there was once a social stigma associated with the idea of claiming benefits, there certainly shouldn't be any more. Benefits are there for a reason - to help those who are in need of financial support. If you think you might be eligible for benefits, there's nothing to lose in finding out - and everything to gain.

Who can claim for benefits?

Although the criteria set out for who can claim for benefits tends to change regularly, they will generally fall into the following categories:

  • If you are unemployed
  • If you are on a low income
  • If you are ill, disabled or injured
  • If you have dependants
  • If you are aged over 60
  • If you are pregnant, or have recently had a baby

What sort of financial help is available?

If you are unemployed and looking for work, there are benefits available such as Job Seekers' Allowance, which will supplement you with a basic weekly wage as long as you prove that you are actively seeking work. Those who are unemployed can also apply for Income Support, which, if received, will automatically make you eligible for various other benefits too: council tax benefit, housing benefit, free dental care, free prescriptions, and free school meals.

Similarly, if you are on a low income (though your idea of what constitutes a low income may differ from the government's) there is help at hand. Depending on your age, other circumstances and net annual income, you may be eligible for council tax benefit, housing benefit, or reduced earnings allowance, among others.

If you fall into any of the categories above it's a good idea to check through the miscellaneous benefits available at the DirectGov website, where you'll find variously named allowances and grants for those who have, for example, sustained work-related illnesses or injuries, those who are of pension age, and those who are caring for another. Here you can also find lots of useful information about benefits in general.

Another good way to find out if you might be eligible is by entering your details into the calculator on This is quick and easy, and you only have to enter a few details such as your salary, your dependants, your age and so on. The calculator will then estimate what kinds of benefits you may be entitled to, and gives you information about how you can go about claiming them.

How can I claim?

After you've discovered what you could be entitled you, you can apply for benefits in several ways. Unfortunately you will still be required to fill in lengthy forms and supply evidence of your circumstances, but this will be worth the time if you find you should be receiving financial help.

For many benefits nowadays you can apply online, which can make the whole process a lot easier. You may apply at the Department of Work & Pensions for benefits such as Income Support, Jobseekers' Allowance, and Child Maintenance, and HMRC for tax credits. Similarly, the DirectGov website offers the option to apply for many benefits online, or download the relevant forms and fill them in by hand, if you prefer.

You can of course still obtain benefit application forms by visiting your local Jobcentre, council, or Citizens Advice Bureau. Talking to someone about your individual circumstances at one of these establishments may also be a worthwhile venture, in order to find out what benefits could apply to you.

Many people are put off claiming for benefits because the system can be unnecessarily confusing, but this needn't be the case if you look carefully into the benefits you may be entitled to and apply accordingly for what you think you should be receiving. If you are successful with a claim, benefit money will be paid directly into your account from the day your claim was made - so it's worth applying as soon as possible.


i need to know if i can claim income support at sixty instead of job seekers allowance

by michael93, 9 Jun 2011

You should belooking at Pension Credit. The exact time you become eligible depends on your date of birth as the age corresponds to the female retirement age which is gradually being rolled back to the same as the male. Once you are in receipt of Pension Credit, you will no longer have to sign on and will be eligible for ather benefits. The same age applies to your bus pass.

by Codfather, 24 Jan 2012

I retired early to look after my grandchildren, am I entitled to claim for anything, I receive no payment.

by suedavemac, 29 May 2012

I am currently on single parent working tax cred and housing benefit but at the end of the month will be made redundant. I have a 14 year old child what benefits will i be entitled to. My redundancy pay is £1000.00.

by tracy30, 17 Jan 2013


you will be entitled to contributory ESA but this will only be applicable for 12 mths if you have not found work by then job seekers allowance however you will find that for no fault of your own as encouraged by this government and the divide they have created between those who work and those who don't you will be looked upon as a scrounger. I am retired and my wife has worked all her life until last year when she became too ill to work and that's how we were treated

by akille, 12 Mar 2013

I am a student nurse on the normal NHS bursary. I live in east lothian but study outside the Lothian's and was told I am eligible for some sort of financial support studying outside the Lothian's?

by skt123, 23 Apr 2013

l get 71.00 pounds a week to live on for everything for me and my daughter who is sixteen and 20.30 child benefit what else can we claim as it not enought

by sandyw61, 27 Apr 2013

Child tax credits

by lisala, 10 Jul 2013

I am currently on maternity leave and have decided not to go back to work as childcare is just too expensive, it would be pointless me working! Would my partner and I be entitled to anything to help?

by RMae123, 2 May 2013

what can i claim for to look after my mother

by sheila78, 10 May 2013

apply for carer's allowance its not much but will help a little. You can apply online at Direct Gov.

by staffslady, 24 Jun 2013

what can i claim for to become a carer for my mother

by sheila78, 10 May 2013

i came off maternity allowance early april 2013 but am at present 18 weeks pregnant do i go back on maturnity or do i stay on job seekers cause this time am unemployed

by miche88, 20 May 2013

Im 17 years old, I live with my aunt and uncle and will be starting college in september. Neither my parents or my aunt and uncle claim any money for me and I was wondering if anybody was eligible. surely my aunt and uncle should recieve family allowance as I am going to college?

by beccii, 9 Aug 2013

Just noticed your question and i am not sure, but if you don't mind moving away from home, all education in scotland is free, as it should be.

by garyand76, 28 Dec 2013

I've graduated this June and I've been on jobseekers ever since. I'm living with parents but I have to buy my own food and pay rent for my room. I was wondering whether there are any other benefits that I could be entitled to until i finally manage to secure a job?

by aleks91, 5 Nov 2013

I'm looked after child and I've moved on.My rent is paid by barnardos Scotland. What would end up being the case if my boyfriend who is unemployed moved in. I am also in full time education.

by mccallu82, 30 Dec 2013

I am 17 years old, my mother has recently moved to another country leaving me homeless as my farther lives on the other side of the country. I'm living with my unemployed sister, her unemployed partner and their one year old son. I am not currently in education (though I want to start in September) I am unemployed and have no income. We are soon to be evicted from our home and left homeless as the council are refusing to rehouse us. Is there anything I can claim?

by vicky96, 5 Mar 2014

I'm 40 yes old and on low income wage get 76 pound week I get housing benefit do I get dental and free perscirptions

by mhadle, 5 May 2014

Im a 21 year old woman moving out I work full time am I entitled to anything

by jessd4, 7 Jul 2014

hello my name is Craig hodgetts one of my friends who was in care told me she was entitled to some money for being in foster care and i also was in foster care since i was 3 years old i am now 24 and i have never revived any cards or money off the government my friend also said that they kept a savings from the government and she has received it because she has recently turned 18 i am just a little bit concerned

by craig1989, 11 Jul 2014

I'm 18 my mum died, I have to look after my 8year old sister I used to get money for her like child benifits but it's all stopped

by jessy124, 28 Aug 2014

I'm 20 years old, currently looking for work, using JSA, they just told me because I live with my partner and she earns on average £850 a month that I don't receive any benefit, I have a flat to run and my own car what could I be entitled to? Thanks

by adenb1, 1 Sep 2014

I can claim income support at iam in pregnant

by suthar65, 2 Oct 2014

Hi Suthar65,

You can check if you're eligible for income support online here;

I hope that's useful.

by Martin from, 6 Oct 2014

I Av just found owt that i haven't revived a payment from esa since November n my carers as just stoped due t a fall owt with my partner im so stressed i dnt no wer t start pls help

by beckis, 8 Oct 2014

I used to get JSA now and moved and to another city and i live with my partner and because not having income it is very difficult for me and my partner and am looking for job all the time could i have benefit till i find the job i seen on line am i in title for incapacity benefit don't have any information please give me more information about it . thank you .

by marjan_15, 5 months ago

Hi marjan,

A good place to start would be online on the website, you can enter your details and check if you're eligible for support;

I hope that's useful.

by Martin from, 5 months ago

i am 42 and recently seperated from my partner two years ago, we have a daughter of 4 who lives with her mother. i went through a solicitors to be able to have access to my daughter two days a week and every other weekend. i pay £350 a month to her mother for my daughters welbeing and also intail costs travelling and on the days and weekends i have my daughter. I have managed to get back on the property ladder and was wondering if there is any help i can recieve as my ex partner gets working tax credits, family tax credits and housing benifits to help her pay her rent. What help can i look into ?

by lils73, 3 months ago

Hello I have a seasonal job from March to October and in receipt of d l a low rate been told its indefinitely now the as have told me I will lose do a @21.50pence sometime in 2015 because of one of their infamous medical with Doctor no name and absolute discraseful medical which have no true account of the problems on going plus the impact its having . I have categorically refused to attend .until they provide me with proof of details namely the Drs name and in writing addressed to me the particulars about the medical plus findings . please tell me I am not being unreasonable requesting this. In the past I've had this become and immediately my GP explained that he and the consultants are being undermined . Also because there is 5month gap where I am unemployed the law says I am entitled to constitutional Incomesupport thorough paying National insurance however the Acidification officer concludes not so , Avery biased and regrettable decision ,forgive me but I was told that arbitrator is impartial l.clearly not so . the what I call spineless treacherous dogs that be have left me I in what I call a political refuge in my own country......

by matis, 3 months ago
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