“Am I eligible?” Citizens Advice top tips on support available for people struggling

Citizens Advice’s research has shown that around 3 million households are facing a cost of living crisis this winter, unable to afford basics like food or heating. 

The welfare safety net is there to support all of us when we are struggling to make ends meet. So to help hard up households, Citizens Advice’s experts answered the top 5 most commonly searched for benefits eligibility questions on the charity’s website last year.

Kate Smith, Senior Benefits Expert at Citizens Advice, said:

“This year many people will be feeling the pinch as the cost of living crisis bites. One of the most important things to do if you’re facing tough times is to make sure you’re getting all the support that you’re entitled to. 

“And remember that if you’re struggling this January, Citizens Advice can help you whoever you are and whatever your problem.” 

Citizens Advice most-searched benefits eligibility questions in 2021

Am I eligible for… Personal Independence Payment?

If you need extra help because of an illness, disability or mental health condition you could receive the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). 

It’s assessed on the level of help you need with specific activities and it’s hard to say if you will qualify for PIP. But if you struggle with things like preparing and cooking food, washing and bathing or communicating with others, it might be worth applying. There is also a mobility component to PIP, so if you have difficulty walking outside you might qualify.

Kate Smith, Senior Benefits Expert at Citizens Advice, said:

“For people struggling with day-to-day tasks because of their health needs, PIP can be a real lifeline.” 

To start a new claim for PIP you can contact the PIP New Claims line on 0800 917 2222.

Am I eligible for… Pension Credit?

Pension Credit is a weekly benefit to boost your income. It’s based on how much money you have coming in. There are two parts to Pension Credit, 

The first is called Guarantee Credit and to get it you must be of State Pension age and live in the UK. 

This benefit uses a calculation of your income and savings over £10,000. If your weekly income is below £177.10 as a single person it’ll boost it to that level. If you’re claiming as a couple, it’ll top up your income to £270.30. You might be eligible for additional help if you’re a carer, responsible for a child or disabled.

The second, Savings Credit, is a small top-up for people who have a modest amount of income or savings. It’s available for people who reached state pension age before 6 April 2016.

Kate Smith, Senior Benefits Expert at Citizens Advice, said:

“Pension credit can make a real difference if you’re struggling to make ends meet in retirement. There are lots of people who might be eligible who don’t know about this support, so make sure to check if you can get it”

You can use the Pension Credit calculatoron the government’s website to see if you qualify.

Am I eligible for… Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a benefit you can claim if you’re on a low income or unemployed. It can also be claimed if you’re unable to work because of illness or disability. You can get PIP as well if you’re eligible. 

There’s no set level of income where you stop being eligible so if you’re struggling to pay your bills on your salary, are out of work or have caring responsibilities, you could apply. You may be able to get help with childcare costs if you’re eligible.

You’ll need to be below the state pension age, to live in the UK and have less than £16,000 in savings to apply. 

Kate Smith, Senior Benefits Expert at Citizens Advice, said:

“Universal Credit can help people in lots of different situations. It can be crucial for people who’re struggling to make ends meet on low pay.”

Citizens Advice’s Help to Claim team can support you with the early stages of your Universal Credit claim. 

Am I eligible for… Working Tax Credit?

Universal Credit has replaced tax credits for most people. If you already get Child Tax Credits, you can still add Working Tax Credits to your claim. 

If you are eligible, the amount you’d get would depend on your income and other factors, like if you have children. You’ll also need to work a minimum number of hours a week, which varies depending on your age and circumstance.

Kate Smith, Senior Benefits Expert at Citizens Advice, said:

“Many people are still paid Working Tax Credits, but it is largely closed to new applicants. If you’re not already getting Working Tax Credits and are worried about making ends meet, you should see whether you can get any help through Universal Credit.”

Am I eligible for… a Council Tax Reduction?

If you’re the only adult in your home, you ought to be eligible for a 25% discount in your bill. You’ll also get this if the only other adults in the home aren’t counted for council tax purposes. This includes full-time students and people with learning disabilities or severe mental impairment.

You might also be eligible for a Council Tax Reduction. The rules governing these are set by your local council, so will vary depending on where you live. If you’re on a low income, or are in receipt of benefits, it’s worth checking with your local council to find out if you can claim.

Kate Smith, Senior Benefits Expert at Citizens Advice, said:

“Depending on your situation and where you live you might be able to get a reduction in your council tax. Adults living alone should get a 25% discount regardless of their circumstances.”

Check your local council’s website for details on your eligibility for council tax reductions.

Notes to editors

  1. Citizens Advice includes the national charity; the network of independent local Citizens Advice charities across England and Wales; the Citizens Advice consumer service; and the Witness Service.

  2. Citizens Advice is the statutory consumer advocate for energy and post. We provide supplier performance information to consumers and policy analysis to decision makers.

  3. The Citizens Advice Witness Service provides free, independent support for prosecution and defence witnesses in every criminal court in England and Wales.

  4. Citizens Advice offers Pension Wise services at 500 locations in England and Wales.

  5. Citizens Advice’s services are free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to all regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.

  6. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice, visit citizensadvice.org.uk

  7. For consumer advice, call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133 or 0808 223 1144 to talk in Welsh.

  8. We helped 2.6 million people face to face, by phone, email and webchat in 2017-18. For service statistics see our monthly publication Advice trends.

  9. Citizens Advice staff are supported by over 23,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 locations in England and Wales.