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Check if you can get Income Support

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

You might be able to get Income Support if you’re on a low income. It’s particularly common for carers, parents or people looking after young children to get it. Other people can be eligible, so it’s worth checking even if you’re not in one of these groups.

How many hours you work and how much you earn also affects whether you can claim Income Support.

You don’t need a permanent address to claim, so it doesn’t matter if you’re staying in temporary accommodation or sleeping rough.

You can’t usually claim Income Support if you’re already getting Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Getting Universal Credit instead of Income Support

Universal Credit is replacing Income Support in some areas of the UK. You might need to apply for Universal Credit instead, depending on where you live.

Check if you should apply for Universal Credit instead of Income Support on nidirect.

If you're not from the UK

Claiming Income Support could affect your right to stay in the UK if you’re not from a country in the European Economic Area (EEA). Contact your nearest Citizens Advice before you apply.

You can usually claim Income Support if you’re a refugee and you’re learning English for more than 15 hours a week. You’ll need to have started the course less than a year after you arrived in Northern Ireland.

Who can get Income Support

You can usually claim Income Support if you’re 16 or over and:

  • either pregnant, a carer or a single parent looking after a child under 5
  • working less than 16 hours a week (you might still be eligible if you do unpaid voluntary work or go on unpaid parental or paternity leave)
  • under Pension Credit qualifying age - check this on GOV.UK
  • on a low income or have no income
  • have less than £16,000 in savings
  • living in Northern Ireland

If all of these points don’t apply, you might still be able to claim Income Support in some cases, if either:

  • you can't work because you're disabled or a carer
  • off work and getting Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
  • aged 16-20 and full-time education or training (excluding university) 

Check the extra conditions for your circumstances

Depending on your circumstances, there are some extra conditions you’ll need to meet before you can claim.

Extra conditions if you're pregnant

You can usually get Income Support from 11 weeks before your due date until 15 weeks after your baby is born.

If you can’t work because you’re pregnant, you can claim Income Support sooner than 11 weeks before your due date.

Extra conditions if you're a carer

You can claim Income Support at the same time as Carer’s Allowance, as long as the person you care for is getting or has applied for one of the following:

  • Attendance Allowance
  • the care component of Disability Living Allowance at the middle or highest rate
  • the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment

Getting Income Support won’t affect your Carer’s Allowance, or any benefits claimed by the person you care for.

Extra conditions if you're looking after a child or young person

You can claim Income Support as a single person if you’re:

  • aged 18 or over and looking after a child under 5
  • aged 16 or 17 and looking after a child of any age
  • looking after a foster child who’s under 16
  • adopting a child (your claim starts after the child is placed with you)

You can claim Income Support as a single person, or in a couple, if you’re:

  • looking after a child who’s sick or disabled and gets a qualifying benefit
  • looking after a child under 16 while the person who usually looks after them is away or ill
  • a woman who’s given birth in the last 15 weeks, or you’ve had a miscarriage in the last 15 weeks

You can also claim Income Support while on unpaid parental leave if you were getting one of the following benefits:

  • Housing Benefit
  • working tax credits
  • child tax credits, if you got more than the family element

You can’t claim Income Support while on paid parental leave.

If you’re looking after a child who’s sick or disabled, you can still claim Income Support even if you’re working more than 16 hours a week.

Extra conditions if you're in full-time education or training

You might also be able to get Income Support while you’re studying or training full-time. You need to be between 16 and 20 and one of the following:

  • a parent
  • living away from parents or guardians
  • a refugee learning English

Most education counts, as long as it's below the level of a university degree - for example GCSE, A-level and NVQ.

If you’re in a training, it needs to be an unpaid, government-approved scheme - for example a Foundation Apprenticeship or Traineeship. 

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you aren’t sure whether your education or training means you can can claim Income Support.

Claiming as a couple

If you’re married, in a civil partnership or living together, you’ll need to give your partner’s details on the application. To qualify, your partner needs to be:

  • under Pension Credit qualifying age
  • working less than 24 hours a week
  • not getting Universal Credit, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance

Your partner’s work, income and savings will also be taken into account.

Check you're on a low income

Your income needs to be less than a certain amount to claim Income Support - this amount depends on your circumstances.

Your income can’t be higher than the amount you’d get from Income Support each week - check how much you can get.

When you work out your earnings, you can exclude the first:

  • £5 a week if you’re single with no children
  • £10 a week if you’re claiming as a couple
  • £20 a week if you’re a single parent, disabled or a carer

Some other benefits also count towards your income, for example working tax credits or Carer’s Allowance.

If you get other benefits, you should use the Turn2us benefits calculator to work out if you can get Income Support alongside your other benefits.

Work out your capital

You can’t get Income Support if your capital is worth more than £16,000. This includes your partner’s capital if you’re in a couple.

Capital is any money or property you have - for example your savings. It doesn’t include personal possessions like a car or furniture.

Your home doesn’t count as part of your capital if:

  • you live there
  • you’ve moved out but your partner still lives there - for example if you’re living in a care home

Your home does count as part of your capital if you and your partner both live somewhere else.

If you've separated and your ex-partner still lives in the home you jointly own, the property won't count as capital for the first 26 weeks of your claim. If your ex-partner carries on living in the property as a single parent, the property won't count as capital for as long as they live there.

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