Benefits for people affected by dementia of working age

There are a number of benefits available to people affected by dementia who are of working age, including Universal credit, ESA and Statutory sick pay.

What benefits are available for people affected by dementia of working age?

If you are of working age and you are affected by dementia, there are several benefits you may be entitled to:

  • Universal credit
  • Employment support allowance (ESA)
  • Incapacity benefit
  • Statutory sick pay.

2024/25 rates for working age benefits

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Standard allowance

  • If you’re single (aged 25 or over): £393.45
  • If you live with your partner (both aged 25 or over): £617.60 (for both)

Extra amounts depending on circumstances

If you have children

  • For your first child born before 6 April 2017: £333.33
  • For your first child any other eligible children born on or after 6 April 2017: £287.92 (per child)
  • If you have a disabled or severely disabled child: £156.111 or £487.58

If you need help with childcare you can claim back up to 85% of your childcare costs if you’re working (up to £646.35 for one child and £1,108.04 for 2 or more children).

If you can no longer work due to dementia or other health conditions

  • If you have limited capability for work: £156.11
  • If you have limited capability for work and work-related activity: £416.19

Find out more about Universal Credit (government website)

The assessment phase rate is paid for the first 13 weeks of your claim while a decision is made on your capability for work through the Work Capability Assessment. If you're aged 25 or over, this will be £90.50.

Your weekly rate during the main phase will be:

  • Basic allowance: £90.50
  • Work related activity component: £35.95
  • Support component: £47.70
  • Long-term (after 52 weeks): £138.90 a week

This benefit was replaced by Employment Support Allowance (ESA)

  • Standard rate: £116.75 a week (you need to be earning at least £123 a week to qualify).

What is Universal credit?

Universal credit is now available in all areas. It has replaced many older benefits (known as ‘legacy benefits’), including:

  • income-based Jobseeker’s allowance
  • income-related Employment and support allowance
  • Housing benefit 
  • Income support 
  • Working tax credit 
  • Child tax credit.

No new claims can be made for these six legacy benefits, except for Housing benefit in some situations. Other working age benefits such as Council tax support, disability benefits and benefits based on your National insurance contributions will continue to be available.

Universal credit is managed by the DWP. It has many rules that are similar to Income support, ESA or Housing benefit. These include savings limits, assessing the finances of couples and exemptions from looking for work if you’re too ill to work or if you are caring for someone.

However, there are some significant changes:

  • Universal credit is paid monthly in arrears (meaning payments cover the previous month). You can claim an advance for the first month, if needed.
  • The application process for Universal credit is almost fully online.
  • Universal credit can also be used as a top-up to wages for people who work.
  • Universal credit is made up of different parts (called ‘elements’). There are elements for the person making the claim (and any partner), children and housing costs, as well as extra amounts if you’re considered unfit for work and work-related activity, or if you’re a carer.

The introduction of Universal credit only affects people of working age. Men and women over State pension age will generally not be affected.

However, if you are a couple where one person is under pension age and the other is over pension age, and you need to top up your income, any new claim will now be for Universal credit instead of Pension credit. Those who already receive Pension credit will continue to receive it.

If you are already on legacy benefits you will remain on them until you’re invited by the DWP to claim Universal credit. However, if you have a major change of status, such as being found unfit for work when you were previously working, or becoming unemployed, this could mean that you have to claim Universal credit. 

However, you may be able to claim contribution-based benefits in certain circumstances, or amend the claims for means-tested benefits you are already on.

Always seek advice before transferring to Universal credit as you cannot go back onto or claim one of the legacy benefits listed above even if this leaves you with less money. 

Getting a benefits check from a local benefits adviser is important – contact Citizens Advice or Age UK for help.

What is Employment and support allowance (ESA)?

Employment and support allowance (ESA) may be claimed by anyone under the State pension age who has limited ability to work because of an illness or a disability.

ESA has two forms:

  • contributory ESA – this replaced Incapacity benefit and the DWP now refers to it as 'new-style' ESA
  • income-related ESA – this is means-tested and is being gradually replaced by Universal credit.

You need to have paid enough National insurance to be eligible for contributory ESA.

For people in the ‘work-related activity group’, claims for contributory ESA are limited to 12 months.

If you are in the ‘support group’, contributory ESA is not limited to 12 months.

Income-related ESA is means-tested. Your needs are compared with the money you have, such as your income and savings, and the amount you receive is worked out from this. 

You can receive income-related ESA on its own or as a top-up to contributory ESA. However, for new claims income-related ESA has been replaced by Universal credit.

How much support can I get with Universal credit or ESA?

After your initial claim for ESA or Universal credit, there will be a work capability assessment to decide how your illness or disability affects your ability to work.

The first part of this assessment will look at whether you have a limited capability to work and therefore qualify for ESA or Universal credit. The second part of the assessment will decide what level of work-related activity you can do.

Depending on the result of this assessment, you will be placed in one of two categories:

  • Support group – If you can’t do work-related activity (such as training courses or voluntary work) you will be placed in this category. This means you will receive a higher level of ESA or Universal credit.
  • Work-related activity group – If you can do work-related activity, you will be placed in this category. In this group, you will be expected to do activities such as attending interviews at the job centre. During these, you’ll be asked about your condition and your progress with being able to work or look for work.

Eligibility for ESA or Universal credit is normally reviewed regularly. However, if you have dementia, have been found eligible for ESA or Universal credit and are in the ‘support group’ you may not have to be reassessed regularly. The DWP must carefully consider whether a review is necessary.

For more information ask the DWP or Citizens Advice about reviews of ESA and Universal credit. 

There are also other organisations that can give further information and support on benefits for people affected by dementia.

How much money will I receive on ESA?

The amount of ESA you may receive depends on:

  • your ability to work
  • your past National insurance contributions 
  • how long you have been claiming, and
  • whether you are entitled to one or both types of payment – income-related ESA and contributory ESA.

The payment can be backdated for up to three months and will continue until you are able to work or look for work.

It is important to seek advice if you think that you are not getting the right amount of money. 

Both types of ESA are paid at a lower rate for the initial 13-week assessment period. Then if you are still entitled, payment either continues at that rate or is paid at a higher rate if you aren’t expected to prepare for a return to work.

If you’re eligible for income-related ESA or Universal credit, you may also be entitled to other benefits such as help with housing costs and prescriptions.

What is Statutory sick pay?

Statutory sick pay is paid by employers to employees below pension age.

It is paid for up to 28 weeks in any one period of sickness that lasts for four days or more. In most cases, you won’t get Statutory sick pay for the first three days that you aren’t able to work.

Statutory sick pay is paid at a flat rate and is taxable.

Am I entitled to Statutory sick pay?

To qualify, you must be employed and earn a set amount or more each week before tax.

If you know you will continue to be unable to work, you can start a claim for contributory ESA up to three months before the end of your statutory sick pay. Your employer will need to complete the SSP1 form. The ESA payments will then begin when your statutory sick pay ends.

Find out how to claim working age benefits.

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