Benefits and mental health

This information applies to England and Wales.

If your mental health means you find it hard to work or do daily tasks, you could claim benefits. These will depend on the criteria, but can include depression or anxiety.

The benefit process can be stressful. There are things you can do if it’s affecting your mental health. These can include:

  • accessing mental health support
  • talking to a mental health charity about how you are feeling
  • talking to other disabled people on our online community

Online community

Support if claiming benefits affects your mental health

Warning If you need to speak to someone now

If you are in danger, call 999.

Ring the Samaritans for free on 116 123. They're always open. You can talk to them about anything. You do not have to wait until you feel in crisis.

If you want to talk to someone about how to get professional help, you can:

Benefits if your mental health means you need support

There are 3 main benefits that you can claim if you regularly need support to manage your mental health:

  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for people over 16 to State Pension age
  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for people under 16
  • Attendance Allowance (AA) for people at State Pension age

You can claim only 1 of these benefits for yourself. If you are unsure about other benefits, use a benefits calculator.

Benefits calculator (Turn2Us)

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

If you struggle with everyday tasks or getting out and about, you could claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

The assessment looks at activities. Your mental health may affect your ability to do tasks, such as:

  • planning and following journeys
  • engaging with other people
  • making budgeting decisions

But look at all the activities when applying for PIP.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

If your child is under 16 and needs more support, they could get Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

The assessment will compare the level of support your child needs with that needed by a non-disabled child of the same age. This could include:

  • extra supervision when leaving the house
  • being able to socialise with people of the same age
  • emotional support during the day or night

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

Filling out the PIP or DLA form

When filling out the PIP or DLA form, think about:

  • Does the task cause you distress?
  • How reliably can you complete this task?
  • What impact does it have on your mental health?
  • Does it take you longer to complete this task?
  • Do you need someone with you?
  • Do you need to use an aid?
  • Is a lack of motivation or tiredness affecting you?

If you need longer to complete your application, ask DWP for an extension. You will need evidence to go with your application. This should explain how your mental health affects you.

Evidence can come from:

  • a psychiatrist, GP or community nurse
  • a social worker
  • care plans
  • a diary explaining your day
  • family or friends who support you

Completing your PIP claim form

How to fill in the PIP form (Mental Health and Money Advice)

Help with filling in the DLA form (Citizens Advice)

Attendance Allowance (AA)

You could get Attendance Allowance for your mental health if you:

  • are over State Pension age
  • need support, such as keeping yourself safe, during the day or night

Attendance Allowance (AA)

Benefits if your mental health means you cannot work

There are 2 benefits you can claim if you cannot work because of your mental health condition:

  • Universal Credit (UC)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

If you are unsure about what benefits to claim, ask for support.

Find a benefits adviser (Turn2us)

Find a local benefits adviser (advicelocal)

Contact the Scope helpline.

Universal Credit (UC)

If you have less than £16,000 in savings, you might be able to claim Universal Credit.

Claiming Universal Credit when you are unable to work has 4 stages:

  • submitting a claim for Universal Credit
  • sending 4 weeks of fit notes showing you cannot work
  • filling out the work capability form (UC50)
  • having a Work Capability Assessment (WCA)

When you start claiming Universal Credit, your Work Coach might ask you to:

  • attend meetings
  • go on training courses
  • look for work
  • apply for work

This is called your claimant commitment. When you have been placed into a group, your commitments might change.

Universal Credit has 3 groups for disabled people:

  • Fit for work: you’re entitled to the standard amount of Universal Credit. You may also be required to look for work and apply for jobs.
  • Limited Capability for Work (LCW): you’re entitled to the standard amount of Universal Credit. But you do not have to look for work. You can be required to attend appointments with your Work Coach and go on training courses.
  • Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity (LCWRA): you’re entitled to an additional payment in Universal Credit. You have no work requirements.

Universal Credit (UC)

Your Work Coach has a duty to ensure that anything they ask you is reasonable, taking into account your impairment or condition. If you are being asked to do too much, ask to change your claimant commitment.

Changing your claimant commitment (Citizens Advice)

Universal Credit: Mental Health (Claimant Commitments Public Law Project)

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

You could get New Style ESA if you’ve paid enough National Insurance contributions in the last 2 or 3 years. This is sometimes called contribution-based ESA.

Claiming New Style ESA has 3 stages:

  • submitting a claim for ESA
  • filling out the work capability form (ESA50)
  • Work Capability Assessment (WCA)

New Style ESA is assessed the same way as Universal Credit. But New Style ESA does not look at:

  • your savings
  • your partner’s savings
  • household income (except pensions)

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

What can I claim: New Style ESA or UC (GOV.UK)

Work Capability Assessment (WCA)

A WCA will assess if you can work. Some criteria will be more relevant to mental health. For example:

  • risk of harm from working or preparing for work
  • coping with change
  • coping with social engagement

Look at all the criteria when applying for UC or ESA.

Work Capability Assessment

WCA limited capability for work assessment descriptors (Disability Rights UK)

Fill in the ESA capability for work form (Citizens Advice)

Warning Make copies

When you have completed a benefits application, make a copy of the form and evidence.

The DWP will not send your application and evidence back.

A copy of the form can be helpful:

  • to remind you what to say in an assessment
  • if your form gets lost in the post
  • for when you have to reapply at the end of your award

If possible, ask your post office for proof of postage.

Preparing for a benefits assessment

It can be hard to talk about how your mental health affects your life. Knowing what to expect might help you prepare for the assessment.

You can request adjustments to make things easier. These can include:

  • an assessment over the phone or at home
  • being in a quieter room
  • having an afternoon appointment to avoid travelling in rush hour

If you know what adjustments you will need, ask as soon as possible.

Attending your assessment

When you attend an assessment, you can:

  • take someone with you
  • bring a copy of your claim form
  • read from your claim form
  • ask for a break

You will have to talk about your mental health condition and how it affects you. This can include talking about self-harm or suicide. If you have someone with you, they can answer questions and support you.

If talking about your mental health causes you extreme distress, write what you want to say. Show this to your assessor.

Support if claiming benefits affects your mental health

It’s important to look after your wellbeing. If anxiety starts to affect other areas of your life, seek advice from your GP or a mental health organisation.

Get help with anxiety, fear or panic (NHS)

Managing mental health

If you need to talk to someone

If you need to talk to someone, you could try these helplines and befriending services:

Scope’s online community is a supportive space for disabled people, parents and carers. You can get disability advice and talk to people with similar experiences.

The Mix supports adults under 25. They have a helpline, email and live chat service. You can talk to an adviser about anything you're worried about.

CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) runs a confidential information service. You can call or use webchat. Staff are trained to listen, support and give information. Open from 5pm to midnight.

The Silver Line is a free and confidential helpline for older people. They provide information, friendship and advice to older people. It's open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

SupportLine is a charity for people at risk or in abusive situations.

Nextdoor is an organisation that can help you to meet people in your local community.

The Befriending Network has a directory of local befriending services.

Mind's Peer Support Service links you with local people to share your experiences of mental health.

Last reviewed by Scope on: 14/08/2023

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