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What benefits can I claim?

If you’re living with a terminal illness, or caring for someone who is, you might be able to claim benefits. These benefits can help with the extra costs of having a disability or health condition, or caring for someone that does.

On this page:

What benefits are there for people who are terminally ill and their carers?

The main benefits you might be able to claim are:

  • Attendance Allowance if you’re aged 65 or over, have a disability, and need help caring for yourself
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP) if you’re aged between 16 and 64, have a disability or health condition, and need help with daily living or getting around
  • Disability Living Allowance for children under 16 who have a disability or difficulty walking
  • Carer’s Allowance if you regularly spend at least 35 hours a week caring for someone with substantial caring needs and don’t earn more than £116 a week.

Each benefit has different rules about who is able to get it. These benefits aren’t based on your National Insurance contribution record and are not normally affected by any other income you have.

Are there special rules for people with a terminal illness?

If you’re living with a terminal illness, your claim for certain benefits might be fast-tracked and paid at the highest rate. You might qualify if your death ‘can reasonably be expected’ within the next six months. Read more about the special benefit rules for people living with a terminal illness.

How do I know if I’m getting all the benefits I’m entitled to?

  • Speak to a benefits adviser about your individual circumstances. They can help you understand which benefits you’re entitled to
  • Use a benefits calculator to see which benefits you might be entitled to. The charity Turn2us has a benefits calculator
  • Regularly review your benefits and entitlements as you may be able to get more benefits if your circumstances change or if the rules change.

If you’ve been turned down for a benefit in the past, you could consider claiming again. You might now be eligible because your situation has changed or the rules for getting the benefit have changed.

If you’ve been turned down and you don’t agree with the decision, you can ask for a benefits decision to be looked at again.

What is benefit passporting?

Sometimes, if you are entitled to one benefit, you can qualify for other benefits or services. This is called passporting. For example, being on a means-tested benefit can help you get free NHS prescriptions. For more information, see our individual pages on each benefit or ask a benefits adviser

Who do I contact about benefits in England, Scotland and Wales?

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)

The DWP deals with most of the benefits available to ill and disabled people. These include Attendance AllowancePersonal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance and Carer’s Allowance.

The DWP administers some employment-related benefits through Jobcentre Plus and pension-related benefits through the Pension Service.

Jobcentre Plus

Contact Jobcentre Plus for queries about benefits for people who are on a low income or out of work, including Employment and Support AllowanceIncome Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, and Universal Credit.

Pension Service

Contact the Pension Service for queries about pension-related benefits, including State Pension and Pension Credit, and Winter Fuel Payments. It’s mainly a phone-based service.

HM Revenue & Customs

HM Revenue & Customs is the government department that oversees tax and VAT, and administers tax credits and Child Benefit.

Local councils

You need to contact your council about any issues to do with Housing Benefit (help with rent), Council Tax Reduction and Discretionary Housing Payments.

Who do I contact about benefits in Northern Ireland?

The Department for Communities is responsible for social security matters. Disability and carers’ benefits are dealt with by the Disability and Carers Service.

Tax Credits in Northern Ireland are dealt with by HM Revenue & Customs, as in the rest of the UK.

Benefits are dealt with differently in Northern Ireland and the nation has its own laws. While the structure and organisation of the system are different from the rest of the UK, the rates of benefits and their qualifying conditions are similar.

What are the recent changes to benefits?

The UK benefits system is currently going through its largest overhaul in 50 years. Over the next few years, the government is bringing in new benefits to replace some of the old ones. During this time, the rules for claiming benefits and what you’re entitled to will vary depending on where you live and when you start claiming benefits.

The changes include:

  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)  is replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for people between the ages of 16 and 64. All people who are receiving DLA who were under 65 years old on 8 April 2013 (or 20 June 2016 in Northern Ireland) will be invited to claim PIP in the next few years
  • Universal Credit is a single payment for people who are looking for work or who are on a low income. It will replace six current benefits: Income Support, Housing Benefit, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit
  • The benefit cap is the total amount of benefits that you are allowed to get
  • The bedroom tax is a benefit limit for people with too many bedrooms
  • Local Welfare Assistance makes some support available through your local council rather than a government department
  • Council Tax Reduction (or Council Tax Support) helps people on low incomes to pay their Council Tax bill. 

When will these changes affect me?

If you’re getting one of the benefits that’s being phased out, you don’t need to do anything until the Department for Work and Pensions, or Department for Communities in Northern Ireland, contacts you and lets you know what you need to do.

As the timings for these changes differ across the UK, we cannot be specific about what changes will affect you as an individual and when.

What is the benefit cap?

The benefit cap only applies to people getting Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. The benefit cap is the total amount that you (and your husband, wife or civil partner and/or dependent children) are allowed to get from the main out-of-work benefits and children’s benefits.

If the benefits add up to more than your cap level, your Housing Benefit will be reduced. If you’re on Universal Credit, a similar cap applies. This is a complicated area because not all benefits are taken into account and the benefit cap also doesn’t apply to everyone (see below). 

The cap is set at different levels, depending on your circumstances and whether you live in Greater London.     

The benefit cap is:

  • £442.31 a week or £1916.67 a month for couples (with or without children) and single parents in Greater London
  • £296.35 a week or £1,284.17 a month for single people in Greater London
  • £384.62 a week or £1,666.67 a month for couples (with or without children) and single parents outside Greater London
  • £257.69 a week or £1,116.67 a month for single people outside Greater London.

These limits are worked out weekly for Housing Benefit and monthly for Universal Credit.

You may be able to get Discretionary Housing Payment if your Housing Benefit is restricted due to the benefit cap.

Who is exempt from the benefit cap?           

Some people with a terminal illness or caring for someone with a terminal illness won’t be affected by the benefit cap. You might hear this called being ‘exempt from the benefit cap’. It depends on what type of benefits you or your family are getting and how old you are. The benefit cap doesn’t apply if you have reached Pension Credit age, unless you or your husband, wife or civil partner is continuing to claim income support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).

It also doesn’t apply if you were previously working for 50 weeks out of the last 52 weeks, were not claiming income support, ESA or JSA while you were working and you lost your job through no fault of your own. This is known as the grace period and it lasts for 39 weeks.

You’re also exempt from the cap if you or anyone in your household (a husband, wife or civil partner or dependent child) is getting any of the benefits listed below. This exemption also applies if you’re in hospital and would otherwise be getting one of these benefits.

  • Attendance Allowance
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • Guardian’s Allowance
  • Housing Benefit if you’re living in supported accommodation (sometimes called ‘specified’ accommodation)
  • Industrial Injuries Benefit
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • War Disablement Pension or War Widow's or Widower’s Pension
  • Armed Forces Compensation Scheme Guaranteed Income Payment
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment.

You’re also exempt from the cap if you or your husband, wife or civil partner is getting:

  • the support component of ESA 
  • Working Tax Credit (or they qualify for it but don’t get it because your total annual household income is too high)
  • Universal Credit, and your (or their) earnings are at least £520 a month, after tax and National Insurance contributions.

If you live in a certain type of supported or sheltered accommodation, your Housing Benefit doesn’t count towards the benefit cap. Exempt supported accommodation is housing provided by organisations like a county council, housing association, a charity or other voluntary organisation. It combines housing with support services and aims to help people, including those with mental health problems, to live as independently as possible.

Where can I get more information about the benefit cap?

For more information, see the GOV.UK online calculator or the Disability Rights UK factsheet.

What is the Bedroom Tax?

This is a benefit restriction for people who rent from a council or housing association. It applies to people under Pension Credit age who are considered to have too many bedrooms and claim Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. If this applies to you, the financial help you get with your rent will be reduced. If someone can’t share a bedroom because of their disability, the government takes this into account.

See the GOV.UK website for an explanation of what counts as a spare bedroom and how this would affect the amount of money you can claim.

You may be able to get Discretionary Housing Payments if your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit is restricted due to the bedroom tax.

What is Local Welfare Assistance?

The government has made some assistance available at local level (through councils) instead of nationally (through the Department for Work and Pensions). This covers help for some types of emergencies or if you need help setting up a home or staying in your home. It varies depending on where you live:

  • In England, the assistance schemes have different names in different areas. Contact your local council for more information about the help available in your area. In some counties, this help comes from the county council, rather than the district or borough council
  • In Wales, the scheme is called the Discretionary Assistance Fund. The Welsh Government website has more information about this
  • In Scotland, the scheme is called the Scottish Welfare Fund. The Scottish Government has more information about this.
  • In Northern Ireland,the scheme is called Discretionary Support. nidirect has more information about this. 

What is Council Tax Reduction (or Council Tax Support)?

This helps people on low incomes to pay their Council Tax bills. This is one of the welfare reforms designed to make assistance available at a more local level. The amount of help you get varies in different areas because the rules are made by local councils. 

External websites

About this information

Marie Curie's Information and Support team has produced this information with help from:

  • Director of Corporate Services, Marie Curie
  • Disability Rights UK
  • Our Readers Panel volunteers.

This information is not intended to replace any advice from health or social care professionals. We suggest that you consult with a qualified professional about your individual circumstances. Read more about how our information is created and how it's used.

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