Applying for benefits takes time, energy and staying power. But seeing it through can be worth it, if it means you can cover some of the costs that multiple sclerosis brings. A successful claim may boost your quality of life and help ease some of those money worries too.
What are benefits?
Benefits are paid by the government to help people on low pay or with certain needs. They help boost your income and your ability to live well. Yet many are missing out.
We know this from EntitledTo's estimate that billions of pounds worth of benefits go unclaimed each year. And that’s just those on low incomes. What about those with long-term health conditions like MS?
Benefits can make a huge difference to lives making it easier for you to get around, cope with everyday activities or stay in work longer with schemes like Access to Work, and much more.
So don’t remain a statistic for not claiming when it may be your right.
Can I apply?
Having MS does not automatically mean you can claim – it is how your MS impacts on your life that counts. Things like your income, age, and household, can play their part in the decision-making process. But not all benefits are tied to your financial situation.
If you are caring for someone with MS (or another health condition or disability) and they receive a qualifying benefit, you may find that you can claim as well. Factors like your age, the number of hours, and whether you share your carer duties with someone can affect the final decision.
Where do I start?
Get a benefits check
A benefits check can give you a useful starting point. This is easy to do with an online benefits calculator and takes about 10 minutes. You’ll need to answer some questions about your financial situation. It’s worth having an idea of your income, savings, investments, and any benefits you and your partner receive before you begin. You may also be asked about your rent, mortgage or council tax.
Once you’ve filled in all the questions, the calculator explains which benefits you may be able to claim based on your answers.
You have a few options:
Don't have online access? You can call Turn2us on 0808 802 2000 and ask for help filling out the calculator on your behalf. They can also send you the results.
What can I claim?
Benefits vary across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. They change often, so do check back for updates. Note, that this is not an exhaustive list below – you will find detailed benefits information on gov.uk.
Children and teen benefits
Working age benefits (older teenagers to state pension age)
State pension age benefits
Doubts about claiming?
You may think that benefits are not for you. But a study carried out by the United Kingdom Multiple Sclerosis Register in 2018 gives food for thought. It showed that just by having MS, your pocket is hit harder.
Everyone’s situation is different, and benefits vary too, so it is worth getting an idea of what’s available before ruling them out. You may be surprised to discover what you are missing out on right now.
Feel stressed about claiming? We know it is not straightforward. Uncertainty brings stress, and this can make your MS symptoms worse. The thought of justifying how your MS affects daily life, may feel exhausting.
Try to keep the long game in mind and pace yourself. There are advice organisations ready to share the load and who have your best interests at heart. And remember, a successful claim may give you fewer money worries in the future too.
Claim rejected, what next?
Persevere, if you can.
You may not get accepted the first time around. It is a decision you can appeal within a certain time frame. People often find they are rejected initially, only to get approval a few months later.
Just keep in mind that if you are awarded a benefit but are unhappy with the amount, there is some risk attached to appealing. Your current award could end up being reduced further on appeal, so it is worth speaking to a benefits advisor about your options. Do this early so you don’t miss the appeal deadline.
According to government figures published in June 2022, seven in every 10 people successfully appeal their Personal Independence Payment decision at tribunal. And others found success when challenging Disability Living Allowance, Employment Support Allowance and Universal Credit decisions.
Is it worth revisiting benefits?
Keep in mind that your circumstances may change over time, and you may find yourself eligible for more help. Perhaps your MS has progressed, or you are working fewer hours? Or your claim was rejected before, but you now qualify for help.
It may pay to look again at what benefits suit your needs right now. Speak to an advice organisation about your options. This is important because switching can mean you lose certain benefits that you’re currently on.
It is worth checking whether the benefits cap affects your situation. For example disability benefits are not impacted, but other benefits like Carer’s Allowance are.
Who can help?
We are not financial advisors, but we can point you in the right direction. These organisations either have experience of helping people claim benefits or list local advice organisations, so do reach out.
Advice Local gives you the option to search for local organisations that advise on benefits.
Advice NI is an independent advice network covering Northern Ireland and has information on a range of topics including benefits, cost of living and debt. You can also call their helpline or search their website for local advice contacts.
Benefits and Work offers independent information on claiming benefits, including tips for filling in application forms, although some of the benefits covered are not relevant for Scotland.
Citizens Advice gives confidential, impartial advice to help you solve problems you are facing in daily life, including getting the right financial help. If you live in Northern Ireland, you can find other local advice organisations listed here – these are separate from Citizens Advice.
MoneyHelper is an independent organisation offering money guidance by phone or online.
MS Society provides a confidential MS benefits advice service tailored to your needs. They have an MS and Benefits booklet available for download.
Turn2us is a national charity helping people access the financial help they need – be it online, by phone, or face-to-face advice from other organisations. They also have a confidential online benefits calculator and a searchable list of local organisations that can help with benefits advice.