Disability and ill health

Senior Woman Sitting In WheelchairIf you have an illness or a disability that prevents you from working or makes it difficult to work, there is support available. You can claim benefits in relation to both physical and mental disabilities. The severity of your disability can be of any amount. It is slight or substantial if you can work but need more time and more breaks. It is “long term” or “enhanced” if you have been suffering for at least 12 months and sometimes cannot be expected to go into work.

Depending on your circumstances, the benefits available to you if are disabled are:

  • Employment Support Allowance (ESA) / Universal Credit
  • Disability Living Allowance / Personal Independence Payments

This page also covers Carer's Allowance, which you can claim if you are looking after someone who is disabled.

Employment Support Allowance (ESA)

You can claim ESA if you are ill or disabled and your ability to work is limited. You can be employed, self-employed or unemployed.

If you are currently receiving ESA you will have been placed in one of two groups: 

Work- related Activity Group 

Support Group 

You are expected to take part in Work-Focused Interviews and prepare for suitable work.

If you have been receiving ESA for 365 days, you will no longer be paid this benefit. The 365 days includes the days spent assessing whether you should be put into this group

The members of this group have to attend interviews or undertake training. There is no 365-day limit on this benefit.


ESA is one of the benefits that is in process of being replaced by Universal Credit.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) / Personal Independence Payments (PIP)

Children up to the age of 16 who have a disability will qualify for DLA, which covers two different methods of support. Firstly, the child may receive help with day-to-day tasks such as cooking, cleaning, washing and generally looking after themselves. Secondly, they may receive help with mobility, if they cannot walk or need supervision. The child must undergo an assessment to see whether and how they qualify for DLA.  There is one assessment for children under 16 and one for children under three. Both have a care and a mobility component, which simply tests their ability to care for themselves and to what extent and their mobility and how far they can go without help from another.

If you are looking after a child who receives DLA, you may qualify for Carer's Allowance (see below).

If you are disabled and over 16, you will receive Personal Independence Payments (PIP) until you are 65. You will receive between £21.55 and £138.05, depending on how much your disability affects you. PIP is means tested. There are face-to-face consultations, which for some, allows the person assessing the claim to see how the condition is affecting you. It covers both daily living and mobility, paid at different rates.

Attendance allowance

Attendance allowance is available for people who are aged over 65 and need help with caring. The person must live in the UK. However, they would not qualify for attendance allowance if they were in hospital or living in a council care home. You must have had care needs for at least 6 months before you qualify for attendance allowance. Note however, that this does not apply for people who are terminally ill.

There are two rates:

  • The lower rate is £54.45 a week, which you can get if you need frequent care, either in the daytime or in the night 
  • The higher rate is £81.30 a week, which you can get if you need frequent care 24 hours a day or if you are terminally ill.

People who claim attendance allowance also get an automatic Christmas bonus of £10.

Armed Forces Independent Payment

If your disability or injury was caused by your service in the armed forces, you can claim Armed Forces Independent Payment (AFIP) instead of PIP. To be eligible, you must be entitled to a Guaranteed Income Payment of 50% or higher through the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS). You will receive £134.40 per week. To claim AFIP, you can get a claim form from the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (SPVA).

Carer’s Allowance

You can claim Carer’s Allowance if you are over 16 years old and looking after someone who receives DLA, attendance allowance, AFIP and PIP, for at least 35 hours a week.It is not a means tested benefit, but you can only claim it if you do not earn more than £102 a week after deducting care costs while you are at work, taxes, and 50% of anything you pay into a pension. You will receive £61.35 a week.

You cannot receive Carer’s Allowance, if you:

  • Are in full-time education, and studying for 21 hours a week or more (including supervised study, coursework or experiments, and not just time spent with a tutor)
  • Receive other benefits that pay you £58.45

Carers under 16

Children under 16 who look after parents who are ill can get support from charities, such as The Children's Society, which helps children who are carers. These young carer programmes help children and are based all over the UK. These programmes are especially designed to help young carers with a variety of issues. This can include financial, emotional and the actual practical side of caring for someone at such a young age. These programmes can also sometimes run events in which young carers get together. This would allow the young people to be aware that they are not alone and there are other young people facing the same issues as the same situation. Support can include having someone care for the parent for a day whilst the child attends these sessions with other people that care and have a day off. Other help can include applying for the benefits that apply e.g. DLA soon to be PIP and having a carer present throughout the day and night so the responsibility does not fall solely on the child. 

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