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How to claim Income Support

This advice applies to Scotland

When you claim Income Support, there are usually 3 stages unless you’ve claimed before or are part of a couple.

You’ll need to:

  1. Call Jobcentre Plus to start the claim
  2. Fill in the application pack they send you
  3. Visit the Jobcentre for an interview

If you’ll find it difficult to get to your local Jobcentre for an interview, you can ask for a home visit. This can take a while to arrange, so you should mention it during your first phonecall.

If you’re part of a couple

You’ll usually need to give your partner’s details for your Income Support claim if you live together as a couple.

The person who’s likely to get more Income Support should start the claim process - check how much Income Support you could get before you start.

If you’ve claimed Income Support before

You can speed up the claim process if you stopped claiming Income Support in the last 26 weeks and your circumstances haven’t changed. This is called a ‘rapid reclaim’.

When you call Jobcentre Plus, the adviser will ask if you’ve claimed before and arrange an interview - usually within 2 days. At the interview, you’ll fill in a shorter form to reclaim Income Support.

Starting your claim

If this is your first time you’ve claimed Income Support, the easiest way to apply is to call Jobcentre Plus:

Jobcentre Plus - new claims
Telephone: 0800 055 6688
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

An adviser will call you back and take your details. The application should take about 40 minutes.

When you claim over the phone, your claim will be backdated to the date of the phonecall.

If you’d rather apply by post, you can download and print a claim form on GOV.UK.

Send the completed form to your local Jobcentre by Royal Mail Signed For and keep the receipt - you might need to prove when you posted it and when it arrived.

What you’ll need to start your claim

When you speak to Jobcentre Plus over the phone, you’ll need to give the adviser your:

If you’re staying in temporary accommodation, for example at a hostel or with a friend, you can give this address instead.

If you’re currently working, you’ll also be asked for:

  • your employer’s contact details
  • how many hours you work each week
  • your payroll number or the department you work in

If you aren’t working, the adviser will ask how how you’ve been supporting yourself while unemployed - for example by using savings or claiming other benefits.

You’ll also need to give your previous employer’s contact details if you left work in the last 6 months.

If you live with other people

If you live with people other than your partner, you might need to give their details during the phonecall. The adviser might ask you for each person’s:

  • name and date of birth
  • relationship to you
  • income

You’ll also need to tell the adviser if anyone you live with pays you rent or board.

This is so that your claim counts any income or support you might get from the people living with you.

If you need your Income Support urgently

You can ask for your first payment before your application is finished - this is called a ‘short term benefit advance’. You can ask for this when you make your first phone call.

You’ll need to explain why you need the money urgently, and the Jobcentre might ask for proof that you can’t get financial help from friends or family.

If you’re eligible, you’ll usually get the money the next working day. The adviser will explain how to pay back the advance - usually by taking a small amount from your benefit for a few weeks.

Backdating your claim

You should ask for your claim to be backdated if it wasn’t possible for you to claim earlier. For example if you couldn’t attend the interview because a close relative died, or because a postal strike delayed your application.

Tell the Jobcentre adviser you want to backdate your claim. They’ll ask you for:

  • the date you want to backdate your claim to
  • the reason why you couldn’t have claimed earlier
  • any proof you have - for example a postage receipt if there was a postal strike

If you’re claiming in writing, the claim form asks when you think your claim should start from. There’s a section at the end of the form where you can add your reasons for backdating.

It can be difficult to prove that you’re entitled to backdated payments - contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you need help.

Preparing for your interview

After you’ve started a claim over the phone, you’ll be sent an application pack with details about your claim and an invitation to an interview at your local Jobcentre.

Your application pack will include a list of documents you should take to the interview - these are to prove things like your:

  • identity - for example your passport, driving licence or marriage certificate
  • work and income - for example payslips, accounts or benefits letters
  • savings and capital - for example bank statements, premium bonds or passbooks

At the interview, you’ll talk to an adviser about your claim and go through the different evidence you have.

If you have children

To help prove you’re eligible, the DWP might ask you for:

  • child benefit letters you have from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
  • birth certificates for children who were born recently

If you’re getting Disability Living Allowance for a disabled child, you should take a letter from the Disability and Carers Service.

If you’re a carer

To prove you’re eligible, you should take any:

  • benefits award letters for the person you care for
  • your award letters if you claim Carer’s Allowance

 If you don’t have evidence

You should contact the Jobcentre and explain why you can’t get some or all of the evidence they’ve asked for. There might be something else you can take instead. 
Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you still can’t get the evidence - for example if an ex-partner has the documents or they’ve been lost.

What happens next

After your interview, you should get a letter from the Jobcentre within 14 days.

If your claim is successful, the letter will tell you how much you’ll get. Contact your local Jobcentre and ask for an update if you don’t hear anything after 14 days.

This letter also tells you if you need to go back to the Jobcentre for a follow-up interview. This is called a ‘work-focused interview’ and is an informal chat about your work prospects and income.

If your claim is unsuccessful, the letter includes the reasons why - you can challenge this decision if you think it’s unfair.

Once you start claiming Income Support, it’s important that you let the Jobcentre know as soon as possible about any changes that could affect your claim.

Make sure you tell the Jobcentre as soon as possible so you get the right amount of Income Support.  If you get paid too much, you’ll need to pay back the overpayments.

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