If you meet the eligibility conditions for Income Support and income-related Employment and Support Allowance you should consider carefully which benefit you would be better off claiming.
If you are in a situation where you can choose between benefits we strongly advise you to seek further advice from a recognised adviser to work out which benefit you would be better off claiming.
If you claim Income Support and also receive a disability-related benefit, such as Disability Living Allowance, you may be entitled to a disability premium. This increases the amount you could get in benefits. For more information see disability premiums in means-tested benefits.
However, if you claim Employment and Support Allowance you do not qualify for a disability premium, as this premium is replaced by an additional component payable in ‘main phase’ Employment and Support Allowance. This means that, in some cases, you may be temporarily better off claiming Income Support while you or your partner are in the Employment and Support Allowance assessment phase but be better off claiming Employment and Support Allowance once that person moves onto main phase, if they are put in the support group. If you claim main-phase Employment and Support Allowance and receive the support component you qualify for an enhanced disability premium even if you are not claiming Disability Living Allowance higher rate care component.
In couples only one person may claim a means-tested out-of-work benefit (Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or income-based JobSeeker's Allowance). More information is available on how the benefits system defines couples.
In couples you should consider whether your partner meets the eligibility conditions for Income Support and income-related Employment and Support Allowance. Members of a couple are free to choose which of them is the claimant if they both qualify. You should also consider who should claim Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. You might be better off with your partner claiming these benefits.
We have calculated entitlement on the basis that the individual claiming out-of-work benefits (Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance or JobSeeker's Allowance) also claims Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Benefit. However, if you get less than maximum Housing/Council Tax Benefit you might be better-off if the individual who does not claim out-of-work benefit enters the claim for Housing/Council Tax Benefit. If you are in this situation we strongly advise you to seek further advice.
When a claim for Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit is made your local authority should automatically check whether switching claimants is a 'better buy'. You can also check entitlement for Housing/Council Tax Benefit by switching client and partner in the calculator.
A partner who gets ESA with a support component should switch to be the HB/CTB claimant to get an enhanced disability premium.
For instance, Dermot is a HB claimant. He and his partner, Emma, both get ESA. His ESA includes a work-related activity component. Her ESA includes a support component. Dermot's HB includes a work-related activity component (£29.05). They decide to switch claimants. Emma is now the HB claimant. HB now includes a support component (£37.65) and an enhanced disability premium at the couple rate (£23.55).
If one partner claims ESA and the couple also qualifies for a disability premium, the partner who does not get ESA should be the HB/CTB claimant to get a disability premium at the couple rate. Switch claimants as soon as possible as entitlement to the disability premium stops as soon as ESA is claimed.
For instance, Bron is a HB claimant. She claimed ESA in November and gets a work-related activity component from February. Her partner, Casey, gets DLA. The disability premium stops from November and HB includes a work-related activity component from February. They switch so that Casey is the HB claimant. Her HB now includes a disability premium at the couple rate (£47.80).
A support component with an enhanced disability premium is worth more than a couple rate of disability premium. A couple who can satisfy conditions for both can maximise entitlement by getting the disability premium included during the assessment phase and the support component/enhanced disability premium included thereafter. Switch HB/CTB claimants from week 14 of the ESA claim when the ESA claimant has been awarded a support component.