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Who can claim benefits, and how much

This information is about Housing Benefit (HB) and Council Tax Support (CTS).

Benefits adviser (GOV.UK website) - Check whether you are entitled to benefits and how much you might get.

On this page

Who can claim?

To claim CTS you must be:

  • normally resident in the accommodation for which you are making a claim and
  • liable for council tax.

To claim HB you must be:

  • normally resident in the accommodation for which you are making a claim and
  • liable for rent or council tax or both.
  • not eligible for Universal Credit. Please read the information below for information about this.

Universal Credit

Housing Benefit for working age people in Merton is gradually being replaced by Universal Credit Housing Cost Element.. Whether you claim Universal Credit instead of HB will depend on your postcode and your personal circumstances.

SM4 and CR7 postcodes

Working age residents in these postcodes, who need help with their rent, must claim Universal Credit from the Department of Work and Pensions for help with their housing costs. You are not eligible to claim HB. Please go to the GOV.UK and start a claim for Universal Credit. You can however, still claim CTS from Merton here.

All other postcodes

Single working age residents with no children

If you are a single person with no children you should go to GOV.UK and start a claim for Universal Credit. If you are not eligible they DWP will tell you and then you are eligible to claim Housing Benefit to help with your housing costs. Go to the sections below for more information about this. Eventually you will be migrated to Universal Credit and the DWP will let you know when this is likely to happen.

All other working age residents

If you are not single without a child and do not live in SM4 or CR4, may claim Housing Benefit. Go to the sections below for more information about this. Eventually you will be migrated to Universal Credit and the DWP will let you know when this is likely to happen.

Pension age residents

You are not affected by this and should continue to the sections below.


A couple is defined as two people who are married or are living together as married (this includes co-habiting partners and civil partners). There are no differences in the way claims for same sex couples and couples of different sex are worked out. If you are claiming as a couple and you have made a joint claim for other benefits, you should claim HB or CTS with the same person as the main claimant and the other as the partner.

Restrictions on who can get HB or CTS

There are some circumstances where a person will automatically not be able to get HB or CTS because of their circumstances. If any of the following apply you may not get HB or CTS

Savings over £16,000

If you have more than £16,000 you will not get HB or CTS. See Savings and capital for more details. If you are claiming as a couple we will add both your savings and capital and your partner's.

Living with a close relative

If you live with a close relative that you pay rent to, you will not be able to get HB. By close relative we mean:

  • a parent; step parent or parent in law;or
  • brother or sister (but not step brothers or sisters) or
  • son, son-in-law, daughter, daughter-in-law, step-son, step-daughter or
  • the partner of any of the above people.

Relationship to a landlord

If a person is responsible for the child of their landlord they cannot get HB.

There are other circumstances where a person may not get HB. For further information about who can get HB please contact us.

How much Housing Benefit can I get?

You can get up to 100% of your rent and council tax paid, however the actual amount depends on the amount of rent or council tax you are charged, your income and savings and the other people who live with you.

Benefits adviser (GOV.UK website): find out whether you are entitled to benefits and how much you might get.

The amount of rent we use to calculate entitlement is not necessarily the amount of rent you are charged. The Rent Service set the rates we use. See our Local Housing Allowance (LHA) page for more information. There may also be deductions for non-dependent adults who live with you.

If bills are included in your rent these will be deducted from the calculation as HB does not cover these costs, unless they are for communal or shared areas.

Claiming and working

You and your partner, if you have one, can claim and still work, both full and part time. After deducting income tax, National Insurance and half of any pension, we reduce your earned income using these weekly disregards:

  • £5.00 for a single claimant
  • £10.00 for a couple and
  • £25.00 for a lone parent

An example

A lone parent works 36 hours per week and earns £180.00 per week. They have pay as you earn income tax of £24.00 and National Insurance deductions of £31.00. They also have £20.00 per week deducted for a company pension scheme, of which we will deduct £10.00 per week for benefits purposes. An earned income disregard of £25.00 per week is also deducted.

The starting point for calculating their award is £90.00 net earnings.

Extra help when you start work

If you have been unemployed long term and are starting work, you can get an extended payment of four weeks Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support. These are the rules to qualify:

  1. You must have been on income based Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance for at least 26 weeks and
  2. The above benefits or allowances stopped due to you or your partner starting a new job, increased hours or increased rate of pay and
  3. It is expected to last five weeks or more and
  4. You make your claim for extended payment within four weeks of the above change and
  5. You still have rent and or council tax to pay

Periods of contribution based Jobseekers Allowance can count towards the 26 weeks qualifying period, but you or your partner must be on Income Support or income based Jobseekers Allowance just prior to starting work, increasing hours or pay.

To claim, you can do so by phone, in person at Merton Link or in writing.

Claiming other welfare benefits or tax credits

If you are claiming income support , income based Jobseekers Allowance or Guarantee Pension Credit, you can get maximum housing and council tax benefit.

Certain benefits for disabled people are fully disregarded. These include:

  • attendance allowance
  • disability living allowance care and mobility components and

Other benefits, allowances and tax credits are taken into account in full. These include:

  • child tax credit
  • contribution based job seekers allowance
  • incapacity benefit
  • occupational pensions
  • state retirement pensions
  • working tax credit

The above list is not exhaustive, but there are too many types to list fully.

Working tax credit and child tax credit are paid to couples, lone parents and single people. You may still qualify for some housing or council tax benefit, even if you get these. Furthermore, for those that work on average 16 hours per week or more, there is an earned income disregard of £16.85 per week in addition to your earned income disregard of £10 or £25.


A lone parent with two children works 32 hours per week, receives working tax credit of £81.45 per week. They get a 16 hour earned income disregard worth £16.85 per week in addition to £25.00 normal earned income disregard for a lone parent.

Paying for childcare

If you are claiming as a couple or lone parent and paying for childcare you may be able to get a child care earned income disregard worth:

  • up to £175.00 per week for one child aged 15 or below or
  • up to £300.00 per week for two or more children.

To qualify the care must be provided by one of the following:

  • an Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) registered childminder or
  • a school scheme or playgroup not requiring registration or
  • an out of school hours scheme not requiring registration or
  • childcare providers prescribed in Working Tax Credit regulations or
  • foster carers but not if the child cared for is a foster child or
  • a non related registered domiciliary care worker or
  • a non related person approved under the Home Care Providers scheme.


A lone parent works and pays a registered childminder £75.00 per week for each of her two children, aged four and six. She would have £150.00 per week earned income disregard for childcare costs.

See also

Benefit changes

Contact us

For more details about our opening hours and how to contact us, go to Merton Benefits Service contact page.

This page was last updated on Tuesday 4 October 2016

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