Arthritis and Disability Benefits - Arthritis Action

This page has been put together as a resource for people looking to find out more about the UK’s Disability benefits process. You can find more information about Work and Arthritis here.


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 knowing f you qualify or with your application form, Citizens Advice can be extremely useful.
  • Disability benefits are based on what you can and cannot do, rather than the condition that you have, so 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?

  1. Personal Independence Payment
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has mostly replaced the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for adults under pension age who have a disability.
  • PIP is a tax-free and non-means-tested benefit which is given to people who have a disability and is based on what you can do, rather than the condition you have. You can still work and receive PIP.
  • Your disability needs to have lasted for at least 3 months and be expected to continue for at least 9 months.
  • To qualify for PIP, you will need to fill in an application form and you will then be assessed by an independent person, usually in an assessment centre or at your home if you can’t travel.
  • PIP has 2 parts – one part related to your mobility- this means how much difficulty to have getting around because of your condition, and the other part is related to your ability to care for yourself on a daily basis, for example whether you need help with dressing or preparing food or looking after your medicines. It doesn’t matter if you already have someone who does these things for you – if you need help, you may be entitled to benefits. Mobility help can be money to help pay for taxis so that you can get out and about, or in some cases a car can be provided if you can drive.
  • PIP is not available to help with things like housework or shopping, only mobility and self-care, although if you qualify, you can, of course, spend the money on whatever you need.
  • The level of PIP that you receive may change with time for example if your disability worsens, and you will need to re-apply every few years.


2. Attendance Allowance

  • Attendance Allowance is a similar benefit to PIP but applies to people over pension age who have a physical or mental disability. It has 2 levels of support depending on how much difficulty you have.
  • To qualify for attendance allowance, you need to have had a disability for at least 6 months or be terminally ill.
  • You can still qualify for attendance allowance if you live in a care home and pay all your costs, but not if the costs are paid for by your local authority.
  • You will need to have an assessment by a healthcare professional to see if you qualify for attendance allowance, but you may not have to go to an assessment centre depending on your circumstances. An assessment may be possible by phone or by a visit by the assessor to your home.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

  • You may qualify for ESA if you have a disability that affects how much you can work and you are under retirement age.
  • You can still apply for ESA if you work for up to 16 hours a week and are paid less that £140 per week. You can work for more than 16 hours a week if your work is voluntary.
  • ESA is a benefit that can help support you to get back to work if you can or can give you help with living costs if you can’t.
  • To qualify for ESA, you need to have worked in the last few years and have paid enough National Insurance Contributions. You will need to check your National Insurance record if you are not sure.
  • Your savings and your partner’s income and savings will not be considered when deciding if you qualify for ESA but if you get a private pension above a certain weekly amount, this might affect how much help you get.
  • If you qualify for ESA, you will be put into 1 of 2 groups according to whether you are expected to try to get back to work (the work-related activity group) or are unable to work (the support group).
  • If you are in the work-related activity group, although you will receive a higher payment, you will be expected to try to find work and go to interviews or to do activities such a training that means that you are more likely to get a job.
  • If you are in the support group, you will get a lower payment but will not be expected to look for a job or go to interviews. You may also be eligible for disability premiums if you are in this group.


Disability Premiums

  • Disability premiums are amounts of money that can be added to other benefits if you are disabled.
  • There are some fairly complicated rules for deciding if you qualify for these benefits depending on who is living with you, the other benefits you receive or whether someone who looks after you is already getting an Attendance Allowance, so seek advice.


Universal Credit

  • Universal Credit is a payment to help with your daily living costs if you are on a low income.
  • You can still be eligible for Universal Credit if you get PIP or DLA.
  • Universal credit is replacing other benefits including housing benefit, child tax credit and income support.
  • You may be able to apply for Universal Credit if you are between 18 and State Pension age and if you are on a low income or out of work and if you and your partner have less than £16000 of savings.