The UK welfare system is designed to help those in need live a dignified existence. People who find themselves in a difficult financial position due to reasons beyond their control can turn to the government for help. The biggest proportion of benefits claimants are the unemployed, people with disabilities, and elderly pensioners.
The main benefit for those out of work is Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). To qualify, an individual must be actively seeking work, be younger than the state pension age (65) and either unemployed or working less than 16 hours per week. There are two types of JSA. If you have worked for two years previously you will receive the full JSA for six months due to your previous National Insurance Contributions. If you have not contributed enough or remain unemployed for longer than six months you may only claim the means-tested JSA. This takes into account your savings and earnings. The full JSA is £60.50 per week or £94.95 for a couple. In addition, the unemployed can claim a reduction in council tax and help with the rent or mortgage. These benefits are administered by the local council while JSA is distributed through the Job Centre.
Those with a disability that prevents them from working or earning significant money may claim a series of benefits. The first is the Disability Living Allowance. This benefit is paid after a judgment as to the severity of the disability is made. Once the judgment is made, a successful claimant may receive up to £67 per week. Incapacity Benefit is paid to those who cannot work at all due to disability. For the first 28 weeks the benefit is paid at a lower rate of £68.95 per week, rising to £81.60 and then £91.49 after one year. A number of grants can also be claimed for alteration to a house to improve access or for equipment needed to help with the care of a disabled person.
The main benefit paid to the elderly is the State Pension. Individuals may claim it at 65 and it is automatically paid in full to anyone who has made enough National Insurance contributions over their working life. The full State Pension is £97.65 per week. In addition, should the State Pension be a retired person’s only income, means-tested Pension Credits are available; these can bump a single elderly person’s weekly earnings to £132.60 per week.
In addition to the benefits listed above, the British government offers an allowance and grants for carers, means-tested child maintenance payments and help for the poor and bereaved. The full list of smaller welfare benefits for the UK can be found at direct.gov.uk.