Introduction to benefits

5 mins read

If you have a disabled child, or you are on a low-income or not working, you may be entitled to certain benefits and tax credits to help with the extra costs you face.

In this article


There are a number of benefits and tax credits that you may be able to claim.

You might be eligible for some benefits because of your child’s disability. You might be able to get others due to your circumstances. For example, you may be getting Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for your child, Carer’s Allowance as their carer and Universal Credit as you are on a low income.

Each benefit and tax credit has its own set of eligibility criteria. This means you need to meet certain conditions to qualify:

Benefits you might be eligible for

We have detailed information on some of the key benefits for families with disabled children:

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

The main benefit for children under 16 with a condition or disability in England, Northern Ireland & Wales.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

The main benefit for people aged 16 to pension age with a condition or disability.

Universal Credit

A benefit to help with living costs for people of working age, either out-of-work or on a low-income.

Carer’s Allowance

The main benefit for carers.

Tax credits

Benefits for people with children and people on a low income; it is not longer to make a new claim for tax credits in most cases.

Help with Council Tax & rates

Families with disabled children might be able to get help paying Council Tax and rates.

Bedroom tax

Not a benefit, these rules determine how much help with rent you get via housing benefit or Universal Credit based on the number of bedrooms you are assessed as needing.

Other benefits

There are a range of other benefits, including Income Support, that some families receive. Universal Credit replaces new claims for some of these benefits.

You can also read about the benefit cap, a limit on the amount of benefits an out-of-work family can receive.

Welfare Benefits in Scotland

Most benefits that families in Scotland can claim are the same as elsewhere in the UK. However, there are some important differences. In particular, the Child Disability Payment replaces new claims for DLA in Scotland.

See our webpages on welfare benefits in Scotland or download our free Money Matters guide to financial support in Scotland [PDF].

Welfare Benefits in Northern Ireland

For the most part, the benefits system in Northern Ireland mirrors the benefits system in the rest of the UK. But there are some differences.

For example, instead of Housing Benefit and Council Tax reductions, Northern Ireland has a system of rate and rent rebates. There is also a package of temporary financial support in Northern Ireland to mitigate the impact on people worse off as a result of welfare reforms.

When to claim

When you know which benefit or tax credit to claim, phone the appropriate office straight away. It is difficult to get awards backdated.

You can’t get payments for some benefits (for example DLA ) for a period before the date you claimed, no matter what the circumstances. So long as you are not subject to immigration control, you should claim now, even if you are not sure you qualify, as you could miss out if you delay.

How are benefits paid?

Some benefits are paid as tax credits by HM Revenue and Customs.

Different offices of the Department for Work and Pensions (Social Security Agency in Northern Ireland) pay most other benefits.

Your local authority (Housing Executive in Northern Ireland) pays housing and Council Tax benefits.

Benefits and tax credits are usually paid directly into a parent’s bank account. Any benefits for your child – such as DLA and child benefit – will be paid to you as their parent. When your child reaches 16, they may be able to claim benefits in their own right.

Social Security Scotland administers some benefits in Scotland.

Get a benefits check

Use our Turn2Us online benefits calculator, contact our freephone national helpline or your local Citizens Advice Bureau or welfare rights unit to carry out a full benefits check for you.

Future changes

Most people who want to make a new claim for a means-tested benefit need to claim Universal Credit instead. Currently, this only affects new claimants and not existing claimants.

The government eventually plans to move all existing means tested benefits claimants onto Universal credit as well. The Covid-19 outbreak delayed these plans. 

The Scottish Government has already introduced Child Disability Payment to replace Disability Living Allowance. Over the next few years, it also intends to introduce new disability and carer benefits to replace Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance and Carer’s Allowance.