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How to claim Income Support

Income Support can help towards the costs of living, housing, disability, medical needs and childcare. Carers can also receive support.

​​​Can I apply for Income Support?

You can apply for Income Support if you’re on a low household income and you meet the following requirements:
  • you pass the Income Support residence test
  • you’re working, looking for work or exempt from looking for work

Income Support residence test

How much Income support will I receive?

The amount of Income Support you may get varies according to your household circumstances. The following factors may affect how much you receive:
  • your age
  • if you live alone or as a couple
  • the number of dependent children or young adults you have living with you
  • the age and income of non-dependants living with you
  • any disability and medical needs, including needs of any dependants
  • if you're caring for someone
  • any earnings, other income or savings you or your partner have

Income Support rates

Proving that you’re working, looking for work or exempt from full time work

If you’re an adult under 65, you are expected to work full-time (35 hours a week) or to look for full-time work. Some people are only expected to look for part-time work, and some people are not expected to work at all.

If you’re expected to work, you must register as a jobseeker and we will help you look for work.

You must attend the Social Security Department on a regular basis and prove that you’re actively seeking work. If you don’t do enough to look for work, you’ll receive a written warning. If you ignore this warning, your benefit will be cut and eventually all payments to your Income Support Household will be stopped. Your ability to claim Income Support will also be affected if you leave work without good reason.

Income Support sanctions for people who give up work or who don't do enough to look for work

Income Support Households: who is covered in the claim?

Your Income Support benefit is based on the needs and income of your family unit. The family unit is known as an ‘Income Support Household’ and can be any of the following:

  • one person living alone
  • a couple (married, unmarried or civil partners)
  • a family living together at the same address with children under school leaving age or still in full time education

Any other family members would not be part of your Income Support Household even if they share a property with you. For example, if an elderly relative lives with their son or daughter, they would be a separate Income Support Household and would have to make a separate claim.

Each adult who is included in an Income Support Household must pass the Income Support residence test.

Income Support residence test

Make an Income Support claim

Contact the Social Security Department to arrange an interview. You'll need to bring documents with you to confirm your circumstances, such as:

  • birth certificates
  • tenancy, lease or rent book
  • payslips
  • bank statements

You will need to fill in an Income Support claim form.​ You can download an example of the form to help you understand what sort of information will be needed to fill it in.

Download an example of the Income Support claim form (size 791kb)

You can learn more about the rules of Income Support by downloading the below document. It describes the law and policies as of February 2014.

Download the Income Support Policy Guidelines 2014 (size 666kb)

If you have a long term illness or disability, you will be asked to complete an additional form.

Support for people with long term illnesses or disabilities

Special payments, exceptional payments and emergencies

Additional payments are also available to certain households. These include payments for heating costs for pensioner households, households that contain a person with a long-term illness or disability and households that contain babies or very young children.

Special payments may also be available to meet urgent or essential expenses. The Minister for Social Security can also make payments to people who would not normally qualify for Income Support.

Special payments: help with emergency costs

Food Costs Bonus and Cold Weather Bonus

Can I appeal if I am unhappy with the decision?

Yes, you can ask for any decision to be reviewed by another officer. If you still don’t agree with the decision, you may appeal to an independent tribunal.

If you think a Social Security decision is wrong

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