Arthritis and Disability Benefits
This page has been put together as a resource for people looking to find out more about the UK’s Disability benefits process.
If I have arthritis, can I apply for disability benefits?
- If you have a disability – either physical or mental – you may qualify for financial help and benefits.
- Many people with arthritis struggle with mobility at times, and some struggle with their activities of daily living. Most are reluctant to ask for financial help from the Government, often due to pride or denial, but sometimes a bit of extra money can make a huge difference to both physical and mental wellbeing.
- You can still qualify for benefits if you or your partner are working or have savings, so don’t be afraid to apply.
- There are a confusing number of benefits and complicated rules about what you may get, and the names of benefits sometimes change. In addition, many disabilities are invisible, and benefits application forms can be long and confusing. If you need help with your application, or knowing whether or not you qualify, Citizens Advice can be extremely useful.
- Disability benefits are based on what you can and cannot do, rather than the condition that you have. When you fill out the forms, it is important that you concentrate on this, rather than on your condition. If you have arthritis, this might mean explaining the problems you have with mobility because of your arthritis, rather than concentrating on the arthritis itself.
- Many people with arthritis want to be positive about what they can do, so they are over-optimistic on the application, and are therefore unsuccessful. It is important that you describe yourself on a bad day and try to estimate what proportion of your days are bad rather than good – for example 4 out of 7 bad days per week means that most of the time you have problems. It can be very helpful to get advice about how to fill out the form, for example from Citizen’s Advice or ask someone who knows you well to help you fill out the form so that you give yourself the best chance of getting help.
- If your application is not successful, you are allowed to appeal and, in some cases, attend a tribunal where decisions can be overturned.
- Applying for benefits, waiting for a decision, and appealing a benefits decision can be extremely stressful so make sure that you provide as much information on the form as you can. Sometimes letters from your GP or hospital doctors can help, so ask for copies of hospital letters if you have appointments.
What benefits can I apply for?
If you have a disability or health condition, you may be eligible for certain benefits, including:
- Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- Attendance Allowance
- Universal Credit
- Carer’s Allowance
- Disability Living Allowance for Children (DLA)
- Transport Benefits
Benefits can vary depending on which part of the UK you live in, and the rates of benefits change regularly, so check the government website for up-to-date details:
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
You can apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you have a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work.
ESA gives you:
- money to help with living costs if you’re unable to work
- support to get back into work if you’re able to
You can apply if you’re employed, self-employed or unemployed.
You can apply for ‘new style’ Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you’re under state pension age and you have a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work.
You also need to have both:
- worked as an employee or have been self-employed
- paid enough National Insurance contributions or credits
You might be able to get Universal Credit at the same time or instead of ‘new style’ ESA.
If you get both Universal Credit and ESA, your Universal Credit payment is reduced by the amount you get for ‘new style’ ESA.
You cannot get ‘new style’ ESA if you:
- claim Jobseekers Allowance
- claim statutory sick pay
Working while you claim
You can usually work while you are claiming ESA if:
- you work less than 16 hours a week
- you earn less than a certain amount (£152 weekly as of 1st August 2022)
You can do as many hours of voluntary work as you like.
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
PIP can help with extra living costs if you have BOTH:
- a long-term physical or mental health condition or disability, and
- difficulty doing certain everyday tasks or getting around because of your condition
You can get Personal Independence Payment (PIP) if all of the following apply to you:
- you’re 16 or over
- you have a long-term physical or mental health condition or disability
- you have difficulty doing certain everyday tasks or getting around
- you expect the difficulties to last for at least 12 months from when they started
You can also get PIP even if you’re working, have savings, or are getting other benefits. You must also be under State Pension Age if you’ve not received PIP before.
If you’re over State Pension age, you can apply for Attendance Allowance instead. Or if you’ve received PIP before, you can still make a new claim if you were eligible for it in the year before you reached State Pension age.
There are 2 parts to PIP:
- a daily living – if you need help with everyday tasks
- a mobility – if you need help with getting around
Whether you get one or both parts, and how much you will get, depends on your level of difficulty.
You might get the daily living part of PIP if you need help with:
- eating, drinking, or preparing food
- washing, bathing, and using the toilet
- dressing and undressing
- reading and communicating
- managing your medicines or treatments
- making decisions about money
- socialising and being around other people
You might get the mobility part of PIP if you need help with:
- physically moving around
- leaving your home
- working out a route and following it
You do not have to have a physical disability to get the mobility part. You might also be eligible if you have difficulty getting around because of a cognitive or mental health condition, like anxiety.
How difficulty with tasks is assessed
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will assess how difficult you find daily living and mobility tasks. For each task they’ll look at:
- whether you can do it safely
- how long it takes you
- how often your condition affects this activity
- whether you need help to do it, from a person or using extra equipment
Attendance Allowance helps with extra costs if you have a disability severe enough that you need someone to help look after you.
You do not have to have someone caring for you in order to claim.
If you do have a carer, they could get Carer’s Allowance if you have substantial caring needs.
Attendance Allowance is not means-tested – what you earn or how much you have in savings will not affect what you get.
You can get Attendance Allowance if you’ve reached State Pension age and the following apply:
- you have a physical disability (including sensory disability, for example blindness), a mental disability (including learning difficulties), or both
- your disability is severe enough for you to need help caring for yourself or someone to supervise you, for your own or someone else’s safety
- you have needed that help for at least 6 months (unless you might have 6 months or less to live)
Attendance Allowance is paid at 2 different rates depending on how much care you need because of your disability.
It does not cover mobility needs.
The other benefits you get can increase if you get Attendance Allowance.
You could get extra Pension Credit, Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction if you get Attendance Allowance
Universal Credit is a payment to help with your living costs.
You may be able to get it if you’re on a low income, out of work, or you cannot work.
The eligibility rules for Universal Credit can be complicated. How much you will get depends on your circumstances, including whether you or your partner are also getting Pension Credit, or if your partner is working, and how much savings you both have.
You may be able to get Universal Credit if you’re on a low income or need help with your living costs. You could be:
- out of work
- working (including self-employed or part time)
- unable to work, for example because of a health condition
To claim Universal Credit, you must:
- live in the UK
- usually be aged 18 or over
- be under State Pension age
- have £16,000 or less in money, savings and investments
If someone helps to care for you, they may be able to get Carer’s Allowance or Carer’s Credit.
You can be paid a weekly Carer’s Allowance if you spend at least 35 hours a week caring for someone. This can include:
- helping with washing and cooking
- taking the person you care for to a doctor’s appointment
- helping with household tasks, like managing bills and shopping
To be paid a weekly Carer’s Allowance, the person you care for must also receive one of the following benefits:
- Personal Independence Payment – daily living component
- Disability Living Allowance – the middle or highest care rate
- Attendance Allowance
- Constant Attendance Allowance at or above the normal maximum rate with an Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
- Constant Attendance Allowance at the basic (full day) rate with a War Disablement Pension
- Armed Forces Independence Payment
- Child Disability Payment – the middle or highest care rate
- Adult Disability Payment – daily living component
You do not have to be related to, or live with, the person you care for.
You do not get paid extra if you care for more than one person.
If someone else also cares for the same person as you, only one of you can claim Carer’s Allowance.
Carer’s Allowance can affect the other benefits that you and the person you care for get. The eligibility rules can be complicated depending on how much you earn and what benefits you and the disabled person you care for already get, so check for details by visiting the Carer’s Allowance page here.
You will have to pay tax on Carer’s Allowance if your income is over the Personal Allowance.
Disabled Students’ Allowance
Disabled Students’ Allowance is support to cover any study-related costs you have because of a condition like arthritis or other mental health problem, long-term illness or disability. This type of support and how much you get depends on your individual needs, not your household income.
More information about Disabled Students’ Allowance, including what is covered and how to apply, can be found on the Government website here.
Disability Living Allowance for Children
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for Children may help with the extra costs of looking after a child who has difficulties walking.
Usually, to qualify for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for Children, the child must:
- be under 16 – anyone over 16 must apply for PIP (see above)
- need extra looking after or have walking difﬁculties
- have had these difficulties for at least 3 months and expect them to last for at least 6 months.
You might qualify for Carer’s Allowance if you spend at least 35 hours a week caring for a child who gets the middle or highest care rate of DLA.
The level of DLA depends on the level of help the child needs. DLA for Children has 2 parts, similar to PIP – the care component, and the mobility component.
The rate the child gets depends on the level of looking after they need, for example:
- lowest rate – help for some of the day
- middle rate – frequent help or constant supervision during the day, supervision at night or someone to help while they’re on dialysis
- highest rate – help or supervision throughout both day and night, or a medical professional has said they might have 6 months or less to live
The rate the child gets depends on the level of help they need getting about, for example:
- lowest rate – they can walk but need help and or supervision when outdoors
- highest rate – they cannot walk, can only walk a short distance without severe discomfort, could become very ill if they try to walk or they’re blind or severely sight impaired
There are also age limits to receiving the mobility component:
- lowest rate – the child must be 5 years or over
- highest rate – the child must be 3 years or over
For more information on DLA for Children, visit the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for Children page on the Government website.
If you are eligible for the mobility part of PIP, you may also be entitled to:
- A Blue Badge: https://www.gov.uk/apply-blue-badge
- Vehicle tax discount or exemption: https://www.gov.uk/financial-help-disabled/vehicles-and-transport
- Motability Scheme to lease a car, WAV, scooter, or wheelchair: https://www.motability.co.uk/
- If you get either the daily living or mobility part of PIP, you are eligible for a Disabled Person’s Railcard: https://www.disabledpersons-railcard.co.uk/
- A discount on Council Tax and local bus travel (contact your local council for details available in your area)
Disability Benefits Calculator
The UK charity Turn2us has a helpful Disability Benefits Calculator that helps you check if you are entitled to benefits and how you can claim them. Visit the Turn2us website and input your details to learn more.
Read more about how arthritis might affect your work or your ability to work by visiting our Work and Arthritis page here.