Benefits and grants

Lots of us have less money than we should because billions in benefits, including housing benefit and pension credit, go unclaimed each year.

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Find out about benefits and grants

Most of us are entitled to welfare benefits at one time or another. And many of us qualify for grants. In this short guide to benefits and grants, we help you understand the basics so you can find out what you’re entitled to. 

  • What are benefits?

    Benefits and tax credits are payments made by the government and their agencies to certain people on low incomes, or to meet specific needs.

    Means tested
    A means-tested benefit is one where your income and savings are checked to ensure your eligibility for that benefit. 

    Non means tested
    In some cases, a benefit can be given with no check on your income and savings, though other criteria would apply. The winter fuel allowance for pensioners is an example of this type of benefit.

  • Is it right to claim benefits?

    Every year, £15 billion in benefits goes unclaimed and more than a million low-income pensioners don't collect their pension credit.  

    Evidence suggests that it is common to feel uncomfortable about claiming benefits, but on average we each pay a quarter of a million pounds in taxes and national insurance which fund the benefits system for us.

    Welfare benefits are not a favour from the government, they exist to provide people with financial support when they need it.
  • Who can claim benefits?

    The benefits system is complex, and the rules change frequently, so it’s not easy to summarise exactly who's eligible to receive benefits but there are some broad categories:

    Family: If you have dependent children, especially if you have a disabled child, a large family, or if you need to spend a lot on childcare. 

    Unemployed: If you’re out of work.

    Low income: If you’re in work but on a low income.

    Health: If you are caring for someone, or have an illness or disability, including a mental health issue.

    Age related: Specific help is available for young, old, and very old people.

    There are a huge range of benefits and they are not just for people who are unemployed. 
  • What about grants?

    Grants are payments designed to help meet a particular need and are provided by:
    Commercial organisations: for example energy companies who might provide support for a more energy efficient boiler.
    Charities: for example, a cancer charity providing a grant towards expenses due to cancer treatment.
    Government: for example, a subsidy or payment for home insulation.
    Not-for-profit: for example, funding for training courses.
    There are a wide range of organisations providing grants for anything from educational support through to respite breaks for carers.  

    All organisations will have clear eligibility criteria that must be met and most will provide a one-off not a recurring grant.

Next steps

If you think you might not be getting all you should be, look at our actions for checking if you’re entitled to benefits or a grant to help boost your income.