A simple guide to which benefits and discounts you might be entitled to and how to get them
Last updated: May 2016
The information in this article was correct at last update but is subject to change.
If arthritis makes it difficult for you to work, or to get about at home, you may be entitled to financial help and other benefits. While it’s not going to feel like winning the Lottery, you might find it helps make ends meet.
If the thought of needing benefits makes you feel uncomfortable, well, you’re not alone. Taking benefits can feel like a real downer for lots of young people, maybe because it seems like a desperate measure, or a sign that you are seriously ill or dependent. The truth, though, doesn’t need to be any of those things. Benefits exist to help all of us in times of need, and providing you qualify, they are an entitlement that you pay for through your taxes in your healthier months and years.
The process to receiving benefits can be a complicated one, but don’t be put off. It all really depends on the nature of your condition. The first question to answer is whether you count as disabled or not, because that will determine which benefits you could be entitled to. In short, there are more benefits available if you are disabled than if you’re not.
If you do count as disabled, it’s then about what kind of disability you have and how disabled you are. This is where the world of arthritis and benefits becomes a little complicated and you might benefit from getting some help. You’ll find this information and more in the sections below.
Do I count as disabled?
If you want to qualify for benefits due to your arthritis, generally you’ll have to prove that it causes you a disability in some way. You might have to jump through quite a lot of hoops to prove it, too. You often have to be tenacious about it, and if you don’t meet the criteria the first time it’s worth re-applying if your condition worsens.
Your local Citizens Advice Bureau can advise you on whether you’re entitled to any benefits.
There’s also some information on the NHS website about how you go about registering as disabled.
SCOPE/ DIAL is an independent network of local disability information and advice services run by and for disabled people, affiliated to the charity Scope. If you call 0808 800 3333 Scope’s Helpline team will be able to direct you to support available in your local area.
You can also register as disabled with your local council. They will have certain criteria. If you receive Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payments (more about this later), you’re sorted – that will qualify you for lots of freebies.
Some local councils will also register you as disabled if you have any kind of physical disability. You need to talk to their Social Services or Adult Services department to find out if you qualify.
Personal Independence Payments (formerly Disability Living Allowance)
Since April 2013 Disability Living Allowance has been replaced for new claimants with a new benefit, called Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
PIP is usually paid every four weeks. It’s tax-free and you can get it whether you’re in or out of work. How much PIP you receive is determined by an assessment of your needs.
Like the old Disability Living Allowance, PIP is made up of two parts – a “daily living component” and a “mobility component”. The standard daily living payment is £55.10 per week and the enhanced payment is £82.30. The standard mobility payment is £21.80 per week and the enhanced payment is £57.45.
You will be assessed to work out the level of help you’ll get, and you’ll be regularly reassessed to make sure you’re getting the right benefits.
The quickest way to get help regarding PIP is to phone:
Telephone: 0345 850 3322
Textphone: 0345 601 6677
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Find out about call charges
Employment and Support Allowance
If you’re ill or disabled, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) offers you financial support if you’re unable to work, and personalised help so you can work if you’re able to. You can get £57.90 per week if you’re under 25, for the first 13 weeks of your claim, and £73.10 per week if you’re 25 or over. After that you may be entitled to up to £106.50 a week. How much you get depends on your income and your National Insurance contributions.
After that, if you’re entitled to ESA, you’ll be placed in one of two groups and will receive:
- Up to £102.15 a week if you’re in the work-related activity group
- Up to £109.30 a week if you’re in the support group
If you’re in the support group and on income-related ESA, you’re also entitled to the enhanced disability premium at £15.75 a week. You may also qualify for the severe disability premium at £61.85 per week. How much you get depends on your income and your National Insurance contributions.
The quickest way to get help and apply is by phone:
Telephone: 0345 712 3456
Textphone: 0345 722 4433
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Find out about call charges
Disability premiums (income support)
Disability premium is an extra amount automatically added to your Income Support if you qualify for it. You could get at least £32.25 a week for a single person and £45.95 a week for couples, and you could get more if you qualify for extra payments.
Access to Work
You can apply for an Access to Work grant to help pay for practical support so you can stay in your job or move into self-employment. This can pay for things like specialist equipment and travel. How much you get depends on your circumstances. It’s only available in England, Scotland and Wales. There is no set amount for an Access to Work grant. How much you get depends on your circumstances. Grants are capped at £40,800 per year.
Work Choice is another scheme that can help you get and keep a job if you’re disabled and find it difficult to work. It’s voluntary and doesn’t involve hard cash – but can provide you with training and development, interview coaching and confidence-building. You can’t get Work Choice in Northern Ireland – they have different schemes instead.
If you get help from your council’s social services department, you can apply for direct payments. This means you can choose and buy the services you need yourself, instead of getting them from your council. You can only get direct payments if you’ve been assessed by social services as needing care and support services.
Disabled students’ allowances
Students can apply for tuition fee loans, maintenance loans and maintenance grants. For more information on universal student loans and grants, click here.
If you’re a student with a disability, you could be eligible for help to cover extra costs which come about from studying and having a disability – disabled students’ allowances.
For students who live in England or Wales, applications are assessed by the Local Authority (LA) or Student Finance England / Student Finance Wales.
For students who live in Northern Ireland, applications are assessed by the Education and Libraries Board (ELB) or Student Finance NI.
For students who live in Scotland, applications are assessed by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS).
Disabled Facilities Grants
If you need to make changes to your home because of your disability – to install ramps, improve access, or adapt heating or lighting controls, for example, then you could get a disabled facilities grant from your council to help pay for these changes.
Help for carers
Carer’s Allowance is a weekly taxable benefit paid if you are aged 16 or over and regularly spend at least 35 hours a week caring for a severely disabled person. To find out more about help for carers, check out the Carers Trust.
Other disability discounts
If you receive Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payments you may qualify for a Disabled Person’s Railcard. This allows you to save a third on most rail fares across Britain, for you and a companion. It costs £20 for one year or £54 for three years.
Disabled person’s bus pass
In England and Wales you should ask your local council who issues disabled bus passes in your area. If you live in Scotland you may be eligible for the National Entitlement Card which could allow you to travel free on buses and trains. Again, contact your local council for details. National Express offers Disabled Coachcards for £10 a year, which entitles you to a third off coach travel with National Express across the UK, all year round.
This site, Turn2us.org.uk, will also check if you and your carers are entitled to discounted or free travel for any of your journeys.
The Cinema Exhibitors’ Association Card Website
Yes – you could qualify for free cinema tickets! That’s if you get Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payments. If you are, you can apply for a national card which gives you a free ticket – not for you, but for someone accompanying you to the cinema.
It’s always worth asking! Many attractions and venues offer discounts for disabled people. They may also offer free tickets for carers. For example, London Zoo offers a discount for a disabled person and a free ticket for a carer accompanying them. Artsline has disability-related information on more than a thousand different arts venues in London.
If you buy something that’s specifically for your disability, like wheelchairs, hoists, specialist furniture etc, you can get it VAT-free – that’s 20% off.
Disabled leisure cards
Free swimming! Many local authorities will offer a concession card for disabled people, allowing them to swim for free in council leisure centres and get discounts on other facilities such as gyms and exercise classes. Ask your local council if you are eligible and what you can get.
Some local authority leisure centres also have specified times for less able swimmers, that are quieter, and carers can go free. Check with your local provider.
Toll bridge charges
If you’re disabled you may be able to pay a reduced rate or get free crossing at some toll bridges, river crossings and tunnels. In most cases, you have to apply in advance to get a concession.
This is one you may well not have thought of. But apparently if you get DLA/PIP you are also entitled to a half-price angling licence. Random, but true. The British Disabled Angling Association can tell you more.
You can apply to your local council for a Blue Badge parking permit. These are for people with severe mobility problems and allow you to park close to where you need to be. It applies to on-street parking and gives you free use of parking meters and pay-and-display bays. You can park for up to three hours on yellow lines, except where there is a ban on loading or unloading or other restrictions. To find out if you might qualify for a Blue Badge, check out this eligibility tool.
This is a scheme which can help you with leasing or buying a car, powered wheelchair or scooter. You have to be getting the higher rate of the mobility part of DLA or PIP to qualify though. For more information go to the Motability website.
Grants towards driving lessons
If you are signed up to the Motability scheme or you’re applying for a Motability car, you may be able to get a grant towards driving lessons, which would be handy. Phone for advice on 0300 456 4566.
Free road fund tax
If you get the higher rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payments you can get a free tax disc for one vehicle.
If you are a Blue Badge holder, you are eligible for a 100% discount on the London congestion charge. Find out more.
This allows you to travel free on almost all public transport in London. You can find out if you’re eligible by contacting the City of London’s contact centre on 020 7332 1224.
Taxicard is a London scheme which gives people with serious mobility problems subsidised taxi journeys. Contact the City of London’s contact centre on 020 7332 1224 to find out if you’re eligible. Other local authorities may run similar schemes so if you don’t live in London, it’s worth asking your local council.
These services are provided all over the country – your local council will be able to tell you more. The service is for disabled people who can’t use public transport. It’s free and door-to-door.
Benefits without a disability
This is a tricky one. It can be difficult to prove that your arthritis is disabling enough to qualify for benefits. In fact, if you don’t hold a disability card from your council or proof of your DLA or PIP award, then it’s difficult to prove to anybody that you have arthritis and that you’re entitled to anything.
However there are certain universal benefits which are available for disabled and non-disabled people, usually if you’re on a low income or unemployed.
Income Support is extra money you may be able to get if you have no income or a low income, or if you’re working less than 16 hours a week.
Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is available for people who are out of work or working less than 16 hours a week, who are available for – and actively looking for – work.
Housing benefit can help you pay your rent if you’re on a low income.
Council Tax Reduction
You may get Council Tax Reduction if you pay council tax and you’re on a low income or claiming benefits. You have to apply to your local council for council tax reduction.
There are two kinds of tax credits. Child Tax Credit supports people who are responsible for children, whether they are in work or not. It’s worked out based on your family’s income.
Working Tax Credit is for those in low-paid work. It supports families with children and workers with a disability. Payments vary depending on your income and circumstances.
You can find out whether you’re eligible for tax credits using this online tool.
Help with health costs
You can get help with your health costs if you or your partner are receiving Income Support or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance. This can include stuff like free NHS prescriptions, travel costs for hospital treatment and free NHS sight tests. Health costs help – England
Crisis Loans/Budgeting Loans
If you’re in real trouble, you used to be able to apply to the Social Fund for a Crisis Loan – this helped in emergencies or disasters, with things like funeral payments and winter fuel bills. However, this no longer exists. You can apply for a Budgeting Loan to help pay for essential things like rent, furniture, clothes or hire purchase debts. The smallest amount you can borrow is £100.