Mental health and benefits


Benefits – Not for all

Lately we have found that we are receiving more and more enquiries from people who have mental health problems seeking help in regards to benefits.

There have been some major changes to the benefits system over the last couple of years with the introduction of Universal Credit and tighter restrictions on Personal Independence Payment (PiP), which has now replaced Disability Living Allowance

The issue

The main problem with these changes are that the assessment procedures and entitlement checks do not fully take in account for people who are diagnosed with a mental health condition, leaving many without money and vulnerable to debt. 

The below video, produced by Tyneside Mind shows how Work Capability Assessments are not designed to assess people based on their mental health and instead focuses on people’s physical health. 

Another problem faced by many of our callers is the lack of support for the application process, with may people unable to complete their claim online or not being able to make a claim at all. As well as this, there are many people who are being denied the money they are entitled to and are stuck with nowhere to turn during the appeals process.

What benefits are you entitled to? 

There are several different types of benefits that you may be entitled to depending on your circumstances 

  • ESA
  • PiP
  • JSA
  • Universal Credit


ESA is a benefit that could give you some money if you have an illness or disability that affects your ability to work.

There are two types of ESA:

  • contribution-based ESA – you can get this if you’ve paid enough National Insurance contributions
  • income-related ESA – you can get this if you’re on a low-income, either on its own or in addition to contribution-based ESA

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a new means-tested benefit. It’s gradually being introduced nationally and will eventually replace these benefits:

  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit

If you currently receive these benefits, you will continue to receive payments as normal for the time being. Your local Jobcentre Plus or Tax Credits office will let you know when your benefit will be replaced by Universal Credit.

Personal Independence Payment

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a benefit for people who may need help with daily activities or getting around because of a long-term illness or disability.

PIP has two parts – a daily living component and a mobility component.

PIP has replaced Disability Living Allowance for anyone making a new claim.

Job Seekers Allowance

Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is a benefit for people who are actively looking for work.

There are two types of JSA:

  • Contribution-based JSA – this is based on your National Insurance (NI) contributions; you can receive contribution-based JSA if you’ve paid enough NI contributions over the last 2 years.
  • Income-based JSA – this is based on your income and savings and you can receive it if you haven’t paid enough NI contributions.
    You may get either of these types of JSA, or a combination of both.

If you’re eligible for Universal Credit, you may also be able to claim another type of contribution-based JSA, called ‘new style JSA’. New style JSA works in the same way as contribution-based JSA.

The type of JSA you can claim will be worked out by the Jobcentre Plus office.

If you receive income-based JSA, you’re automatically eligible to claim other benefits including Housing Benefit (if you rent your home), help with health costs and possibly Council Tax Support (also known as Council Tax Reduction).

What benefits you are entitled to and how much you will receive will depend on your eligibility and circumstances. To find out what benefits you are entitled to you can use the Turn2Us online calculator:

Once you know which benefits you are entitled to, your next step will be to make a claim. You are able to apply for most benefits either online or by phone. You may also need to visit your local Jobcentre or fill out an application form by post.

To make a claim for Universal Credit:

To make a claim for ESA, you firstly need to check which of the three types of ESA you are entitled to. You can do this by using the Turn2Us calculator posted above or the one on the website:

To make a claim for Personal Independence Payment:

To make a claim for Job Seekers Allowance:

Help and support 

Support for helping people complete benefit applications is in high demand. Unfortunately, due to funding cuts, the number of people who able to provide this services is getting smaller.

For help finding someone who can help you with your application you can

  • Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau to see if they are aware of anyone in your area who can help.
  • Search to see if there are any Rethink Mental Illness services or groups in your area that might be able to help you or point you in th right direction.
  • Contact your nearest Local Mind to see if they can help or if they know of any one else who can
  • Look for voluntary advocacy services in your area who might be able provide you with an advocate to help you with your application

If you have been denied benefits and need to make an appeal 

Due to the way people are currently assessed, many people are being denied benefits for their mental health problems. If you have recently applied for benefits and have been unsuccessful you have the right to make an appeal within 30 days.

It is important that you provide as much supporting evidence for your appeal as possible. If you are undergoing treatment from the NHS, ask them to write you a letter. Your GP, psychiatrist, councilor, support group leader or any provider of services you are currently taking part in will also be able to provide you with a letter of evidence to support your claim.

If you are able to find an advocacy service, they may also be able to help you with your appeals process. As with the help and support section above, search for services and groups in your local area that may be able to help you in the event of an appeal.

Further reading and resources

Below are a number of links to various websites that provide more help and advice on claiming benefits, what you are entitled to and other general information that you may find useful.

Mental Health & Money Advice

Rethink Mental Illness