-A A +A
Select color visibility that suits you Basic theme Dark theme Darker theme Text only

Income support

Make a donation and support this factsheet

Disability Rights UK Factsheet F45

1. What is income support?

Income support is a means-tested or income-related benefit. It is intended to provide for your basic living expenses (and those of your partner, if you have one). It does not depend on your national insurance contributions. It can be paid on its own if you have no other income or it can top up part-time earnings or other benefits such as carer's allowance. Income support is only available to limited groups of people, including carers.

2. Who can get income support?

To get income support you must:

  • be aged 16 or over;
  • be under pension credit qualifying age (this is being raised from 60 to 66 between April 2010 and April 2020);
  • satisfy the presence and residence conditions (see section 6 below) and not be subject to immigration control;
  • not be claiming either jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) or employment and support allowance (ESA). If you have a partner, they must not be claiming income-based JSA or income-related ESA;
  • not be in full-time education, though there are exceptions;
  • not be working for 16 hours or more a week (if you have a partner, they must not be working 24 hours or more a week);
  • have no income, or your income is below a set amount – your ‘applicable amount’ (see section 3 below);
  • not have capital or savings above £16,000; and
  • be in one of the groups of people who can claim income support (see below).

Which groups of people can claim income support? 

Only certain people are allowed to claim income support. You may be able to eligible to claim if you:

  • are entitled to statutory sick pay;
  • are pregnant and incapable of work because of your pregnancy or are due to have your baby in the next 11 weeks;
  • have had a baby in the last 15 weeks;
  • are a lone parent and responsible for a child under 5; or
  • are caring for someone and either you get carer's allowance, or the person you are looking after gets a qualifying benefit (attendance allowance or constant attendance allowance, the middle or highest rate of the care component of disability living allowance, the daily living component of personal independence payment or armed forces independence payment).

You can see a full list of who can claim in the Disability Rights Handbook.

3. How much is income support?

Your income support is calculated by comparing your needs with your resources (ie any capital and income you have). Set amounts for different needs are added together to reach the total amount the law says you need to live on: your ‘applicable amount’. Any income (including any earnings) you have is deducted from your applicable amount. This leaves the amount of income support you are entitled to.

Income support normally only provides support for you and your partner. If you have children, claim child tax credit. For more information on this, see our Factsheet F9 - a guide to tax credits.

Your applicable amount

Your applicable amount is made up of the following:

  • a personal allowance; 
  • premiums; and
  • housing costs (this can only cover some service charges).

Since April 2018, payments towards mortgage interest, which could previously be covered as housing costs, have been replaced by ‘support for mortgage interest’ (SMI) loans. These must be repaid with interest once your property has been sold. The SMI loans may be secured by a charge on your property. You do not need to accept an offer of these loans; the scheme is voluntary.

You can view the current benefit rates for income support on our website.

Personal allowance

This is a basic allowance. The amount paid depends on your age and whether you are part of a couple (whether married or living together or civil partners).


You can get extra amounts in the form of premiums if you meet certain conditions. There are five in all:

  • carer premium;
  • disability premium;
  • enhanced disability premium; 
  • pensioner premium; and
  • severe disability premium

Details of the qualifying rules for these are in the Disability Rights Handbook.


You cannot get income support if your (and your partner’s) capital or savings are above an upper limit of £16,000. There is also a lower limit, normally set at £6,000. If your capital is between the lower and upper limits, it is treated as generating income. This is called ‘tariff income’: £1 a week for every £250 (or part of £250) above the lower limit is included as your income in the income support calculation.

Disregarded earnings and benefits

Some of your earnings are not taken into account when working out income support. This is normally £5 if you are single or £10 if you have a partner. £20 of your earnings is disregarded if you qualify for the disability premium, the carer premium or are a lone parent.  

Some benefits are not taken into account when working out income support. These include child benefit, attendance allowance, disability living allowance, personal independence payment and armed forces independence payment. 

The benefit cap

Income support is included in the list of benefits to which the ‘benefit cap’ applies. This cap limits the total weekly benefits that can be claimed. You can find out more information in our Factsheet F8 – benefit cap.

4. How to claim income support

You start your claim for income support by ringing the Jobcentre Plus claim-line (0800 055 6688; textphone 0800 023 4888; Northern Ireland 0800 022 4250). The claim-line will put you through to a regional contact centre. The contact centre will take your details and go through your claim over the phone. In some cases, they may need to ring you back for additional information. They may also arrange a date for you to attend a Jobcentre Plus interview with a work coach about work prospects.

If you are not able to use the telephone, a claim can be made on a paper form – the A1. You can download this form from: www.gov.uk/government/publications/income-support-claim-form.

5. Students and young people

You cannot now claim income support on grounds of disability or incapacity unless your claim began before 27.10.08. If you are a disabled student, you may be able to get employment and support allowance. For more information on this, see Factsheet F31 - employment and support allowance.

You may be able to get income support in certain other circumstances, including if you are a lone parent (see section 2 above).

If you claim income support as a full-time student, your eligible student loan will be taken into account, regardless of whether you claimed it or not. Tuition fees and certain grants are ignored.

If you are a postgraduate student, 30% of your degree loan is taken into account as income. Any special support loan you get is disregarded.

For further information on the above and the support that is available for disabled students, contact the Disabled Students Helpline: tel: 0330 995 0414 or email: students@disabilityrightsuk.org

6. Residence and presence conditions

To claim income support you must

  • be present in Great Britain (or Northern Ireland, if you live there) – there are rules that may allow you to be treated as present during a temporary absence;
  • be habitually resident in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, the Republic of Ireland or the Isle of Man; and
  • have the right to reside.

The term ‘right to reside’ is not defined but is dependent on your immigration status and nationality. There is no legal definition of 'habitual residence'. Relevant factors are where you normally live, where you expect to live in future, your reasons for coming to this country, the length of time spent abroad before you came here, and any ties you still have with the country where you have come from.

For more information, see the Disability Rights Handbook.

7. Universal Credit

Universal credit is a new benefit which will eventually replace several means-tested benefits, including income support. If you are already getting income support, you will be moved, at some point, over to universal credit.

For more information see our Factsheet F55 - universal credit

8. Where can I get more help or information?

This factsheet is a basic introduction to income support. You can find out more detailed information in our Disability Rights Handbook. This and all our other publications are available from our shop at https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/shop. You can also place orders by contacting Disability Rights UK.

You can get help and information at your local advice centre, such as a Citizens Advice Bureau. You can get more information about where to get personal advice from our Factsheet F15 - Getting advice. All our factsheets are free to download on our website at disabilityrightsuk.org.

9 May 2018