Incapacity Benefit

Since 31 January 2011 no new Incapacity Benefit claims have been accepted. You should claim Employment and Support Allowance instead.

Incapacity Benefit - introduction

If you couldn’t work because of illness or disability before 31 January 2011, you may be receiving Incapacity Benefit. Since 31 January 2011 no new Incapacity Benefit claims have been accepted. You should claim Employment and Support Allowance instead.

Changes to benefits if you are ill or disabled

Since 31 January 2011 people can no longer make new claims for Incapacity Benefit. You should claim Employment and Support Allowance instead.

Changes for people already claiming incapacity benefits

Your claim will be reviewed if you are getting one of the following benefits:

  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support paid because of an illness or disability
  • Severe Disablement Allowance

Until your claim is reviewed you will continue to get your current benefit, as long as you still meet the conditions for that benefit.

This change will not affect you if you:

  • claim Employment and Support Allowance already
  • are due to reach State Pension age before 6 April 2014
  • are already over State Pension age and get Severe Disablement Allowance

Customers who reach State Pension age between 6 April 2014 and the end of September 2014 will only be exempt if they commence reassessment after 31 December 2013.

Use the following link to find out more about how your claim will be reviewed.

  • see 'Incapacity Benefit - forthcoming changes' section below.

How it works

Incapacity Benefit is paid at three weekly rates:

  • short-term (lower) IB is paid for the first 28 weeks
  • short-term (higher) IB is paid from weeks 29 to 52
  • long-term IB is paid from week 53

How much do you get?

Current weekly amounts

Weekly rate  Amount  Amount if you're over State Pension age
short-term (lower rate)  £78.50 £99.90
short-term (higher rate)  £92.95  £104.10
long-term basic rate £104.10  You're not eligible for long-term basic rate IB

You may be able to get an 'age addition' with your long-term Incapacity Benefit if you were under 45 when you became too ill or disabled to work.

You may be able to get extra benefit for your spouse or civil partner or the person who looks after your children.

Pension income rules

If you have a gross pension income of more than £85 a week, the amount of benefit will be reduced by half of the excess.

The excess is the difference between £85 and the actual pension income. For example, for a pension income of £100, the excess is £15. The amount of Incapacity Benefit payable is reduced by half of that, which is £7.50.


This rule does not apply if:

  • you were in receipt of Incapacity Benefit before 6 April 2001
  • your claim is made under the linking rules for Incapacity Benefit and links back to before 6 April 2001
  • you receive the highest rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance

How it's paid

Incapacity Benefit is paid into your bank, building society, Post Office® or National Savings account that accepts Direct Payment.

Your payment can be sent by cheque and cashed at the Post Office® if:

Working while claiming Incapacity Benefit - 'Permitted Work'

If you're getting Incapacity Benefit you may be able to do some types of work - within limits. This is called 'Permitted Work'. But if you get Incapacity Benefit and a wage, this could affect any income-related benefits you receive, like:

  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit
  • see 'Permitted Work' - working while claiming Incapacity Benefit' section below.

What to do if your circumstances change

It's important you contact Incapacity Benefits Branch if your circumstances change - for example if:

  • you do any work including voluntary work
  • you start training and get a training allowance
  • you change your address
  • you have been in hospital for 52 weeks and part of your benefit is paid for another adult or child
  • you go abroad

For more information, contact Incapacity Benefits Branch.

How to appeal

You can ask the office that dealt with your claim to look at their benefit decision again if:

  • your claim for Incapacity Benefit is refused
  • you have questions about your payment

If you're still unhappy with the outcome, you can appeal.

How to appeal against a benefits decision (money, tax and benefits section)

Tax credits and other support

You may be able to get Child Tax Credit if you're responsible for at least one child. If you're working, and on a low income, you may be able to get Working Tax Credit.

You can order a claim pack over the phone by calling the Tax Credit Helpline.

'Permitted Work' - working while claiming Incapacity Benefit

You can do some limited work while claiming Incapacity Benefit. There are rules about what work you can do and how many hours you can work. You may have to pay Income Tax on your earnings.

About 'Permitted Work'

Generally, you are not allowed to work while you are getting Incapacity Benefit. You may be able to do some types of work and within certain limits. This is called 'Permitted Work' and it allows you to test your own capacity for doing some work and perhaps gain new skills.

You don’t need permission to do Permitted Work, but you must check that the work you want to do is allowed under the rules. You should discuss this with your personal adviser in your local Social Security/Jobs & Benefits office before you start. Or, you can contact the 'Permitted Work/New Deal Team' on:

  • 028 9560 5024 (for Northern Ireland customers only)

Permitted Work is a benefit arrangement - employers do not offer 'Permitted Work'.

You do not need approval from your doctor or have to have a medical test just because you are doing 'Permitted Work'. However, if a medical test is due as part of your ongoing benefits-related review, it will go ahead as planned.

The 'Permitted Work' rules also apply to people in receipt of Severe Disablement Allowance. This benefit was abolished from 6 April 2001. People who were receiving it before that date can carry on receiving it, providing they satisfy the conditions of entitlement.

The Permitted Work rules

Under the 'Permitted Work' rules you can:

  • work for less than 16 hours a week, on average, with earnings up to and including £97.50 a week for a 52 week period
  • work for less than 16 hours a week, on average, and earn up to and including £97.50 a week for as long as your illness or disability is considered sufficiently severe that you are treated as meeting the threshold of incapacity without undergoing a medical assessment
  • work for earnings of up to and including £20.00 a week for an unlimited period, or
  • do Supported Permitted Work and earn up to £97.50 a week so long as you are receiving Incapacity Benefit

Supported Permitted Work is work that is supervised by someone who is employed by a public or local authority, or a voluntary organisation whose job it is to arrange work for people with disabilities. It includes work done in the community or in a sheltered workshop. It also includes work done under medical supervision or as part of a hospital treatment programme.

Income Tax

If you start 'Permitted Work', you may be liable to pay tax on your extra income. You must notify HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) as soon as you start work.

Effect on other benefits

If you get Income Support, Housing Benefit or Rates Relief and you do 'Permitted Work', any earnings will be taken into account when assessing these benefits.

Find out more about 'Permitted Work'

For more information contact a personal adviser at your local Social Security/Jobs & Benefits office or the 'Permitted Work/New Deal Team' in Castle Court, Belfast on:

Background to the reform of Incapacity Benefit

Here you can find out about reforms of Incapacity Benefits. These were brought into law under the Welfare Reform Act (NI) 2007.

Reform of Incapacity Benefits

The Welfare Reform Act (NI) 2007 brought into law a number of measures, including reform of Incapacity Benefits by:

  • the introduction of a new Employment and Support Allowance in October 2008 to replace Incapacity Benefit and Income Support paid on incapacity grounds for new customers
  • the introduction of a new Work Capability Assessment to assess an individual’s entitlement to Employment and Support Allowance and the possible support needed to get back into the workplace
  • the requirement for people to attend work-focused interviews and develop, with their advisers, a plan of action to help them prepare to get into or re-enter the workplace.

It also laid the ground for the transfer of existing incapacity benefits customers to Employment and Support Allowance, as appropriate.

Incapacity Benefit reassessment

The key purposes of the Incapacity Benefit reassessment are as follows:

  • to focus on what people can do, rather than on what they cannot do and the belief that generally appropriate work is good for most people’s physical and mental health, and well-being
  • to prevent people being trapped on benefits, but to ensure people get the benefits and support they are entitled to
  • to expect those with the potential to work to do so - those who cannot work will continue (and rightly so) to receive unconditional support
  • to address the issue of the thousands on old style incapacity benefits who are being written off - this is wrong
  • to move people onto Employment and Support Allowance and Jobseeker’s Allowance so that they get the right help and support to find work
  • to offer support and protection to the most vulnerable and disabled people
  • to provide opportunities and support to people with disabilities and those with health conditions who want to move into sustained employment

Why is Incapacity Benefit reassessment happening in the first place?

Incapacity Benefit is seen to be an inactive benefit. This means customers are not required to regularly justify their eligibility for the benefit and can therefore remain on the benefit for years without reassessment of their capabilities.

Incapacity Benefit reassessment - what is it?

If you are are currently in receipt of Incapacity Benefit, as well as Severe Disablement Allowance or Income Support (paid on the grounds of incapacity) you will be required to take part in a reassessment of your eligibility to benefit.

Reassessing your eligibility to benefit

The method by which your eligibility to benefit will be reassessed is via a process called the Work Capability Assessment. This will involve a number of steps, possibly including a face-to-face examination.

The aim of the reassessment is to determine a person’s ability to engage in work or in work-related activity. This is to ensure that everyone who is able to work is given assistance to help them back into employment, so that no-one is 'written off’.

If you are are capable of work you will move on to Jobseekers’ Allowance if you meet the criteria for that benefit.

If you have limited capability for work you will receive the Employment Support Allowance benefit. And, you will also be passed onto the Department for the Economy  (DfE) where you will receive additional support to help you prepare for work.

The most disabled or terminally ill will not be expected to look for work and will get a higher rate of Employment Support Allowance.

If you receive Incapacity Benefit/Income Support (paid on grounds of incapacity) and reached State Pension age during the three year reassessment period, (ending on 5 April 2014), you will be automatically exempt from the reassessment process.

If you reached State Pension age between 6 April 2014 and the end of September 2014 you are only exempt if you commenced reassessment after 31 December 2013.

What is the Work Capability Assessment?

The Work Capability Assessment is the process by which your eligibility for benefit is determined. It includes a questionnaire, an examination of your medical evidence by a healthcare professional, and potentially a face-to-face medical assessment.

The findings from this process help Department for Communities (DfC) decision-makers to determine what benefit you can qualify for.

The Work Capability Assessment concentrates on what you can do, rather than what you can’t.

If it is clear from the medical evidence the Department for Communities (DfC) holds that you are unlikely to be capable of work, you will not be required to attend a face-to-face assessment. This will also be the case for people who are known to be terminally ill.

If a face-to-face assessment is required, an approved healthcare professional will meet with you and assess how well you can do things like walk, sit and stand up, use your hands, see and hear.

If you have a mental health condition, they will assess how it affects things like your mood, how you behave, the way you relate to the world around you, and how you cope with things from day to day.

The healthcare professional who conducted the Work Capability Assessment will then complete a report and send it to the Department for Communities (DfC) where a decision will be made on what benefit you will qualify for.

The Department for Communities (DfC)will conduct a review of the Work Capability Assessment in Northern Ireland this year.

How do the rates of benefit differ?

All benefit payments are subject to variation due to an individual’s circumstances. For more information on the rate you may be entitled to receive, please see the following pages.

What happens if you don't qualify for Employment & Support Allowance?

You will be taken through all the options available to you by the Customer Advice and Support team. This may result in you:

  • claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance
  • claiming Income Support under another condition of entitlement (if you are a carer or a lone parent)
  • moving off benefits
  • Income Support 

Why is Incapacity Benefit reassessment happening?

Incapacity Benefit is seen to be an inactive benefit. This means customers are not required to regularly justify their eligibility for the benefit and can therefore remain on the benefit for years without reassessment of their capabilities.

Research has shown that work increases confidence, health, well-being, and self-esteem while at the same time benefiting the economy.

What type of support will the Department for the Economy provide?

The Department for the Economy (DfE) has been working closely with the Department for Communities (DfC) to ensure that there will be appropriate advice, support and guidance to assist you at every stage of this process.

Following your Work Capability Assessment, if you were found to have either a:

Limited capability for work related activity

  • you will have moved to Employment and Support Allowance and joined the Support Group (SG), where you will receive increased support.
  • you will not be required to undertake work focused activity, but you will be able to access DEL services on a voluntary basis, or

Limited capability for work

  • you will have moved to Employment and Support Allowance and joined the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG).
  • you will be required to undertake three Work Focused Interviews (WfIs).

If you were found fit for work you may be eligible to make a claim for Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) and should seek advice from your local Jobs & Benefits Office if you need assistance.

The DfE's Employment Service is committed to ensuring that if you have been out of work for a long time you are helped to prepare for, and move into, work.

What happens next?

The support that the DfE can provide will include help with confidence building, motivation and personalised support, training, job search skills, work experience placements, and supported job opportunities.

After your first appointment you will be allocated a personal Employment Service Adviser in order to identify the most appropriate programmes to move you towards and into work.

What work programmes are available?

Disability Employment Service provides a full range of support for those with health related conditions to find and stay in work. This includes help to manage your health condition, adaptations to employer’s premises, trial job periods, and occupational psychologist support.

Work schemes and programmes

Steps 2 Success

Steps 2 Success is an employment programme to help you build the skills and experience you need to find and keep a job. The programme provides a personalised service and is tailored to meet your needs to help you into work.

What are the benefits of these programmes?

  • help to find and remain in work
  • opportunities for work experience
  • opportunities to improve existing skills
  • opportunities to gain recognised qualifications
  • personalised advice and guidance to help you make
  • the right choices
  • you can re-train while remaining on benefit plus receive a weekly Training Bonus
  • ongoing support and encouragement

Reassessment - how does it affect me?

Find out how reforms to Incapacity Benefit may affect you and what to expect if you are currently in receipt of Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance or Income Support (paid on the grounds of incapacity)

Is my Incapacity Benefit going to be cut?

There will be no change to your Incapacity Benefit entitlement because of reassessment until after you have been through the Work Capability Assessment and a decision has been taken on your benefit entitlement. Included in your Employment and Support Allowance is a 'top-up' payment which ensures you won’t see a reduction in the level of your benefit entitlement as a result of the change to Employment and Support Allowance.

  • see also 'What is Incapacity Benefit reassessment?' section above

Will I be forced into work?

No - reassessment is designed to transfer long-term benefit customers from an inactive benefit system - as currently seen in Incapacity Benefit or Income Support (paid on the grounds of incapacity) - to a personalised system of support.

What is a work-focused interview?

This is a face-to-face interview with a personal adviser from the Department for the Economy. The purpose of the interview is to help you identify what work you could do and the steps you could take to find work.

What if I have children?

Employment and Support Allowance does not include payment for children. If you currently get extra money in your Income Support for a child or children, you will need to be assessed for Child Tax Credit. This is a payment to support customers bringing up children.

Income Support customers, claiming on the grounds of incapacity and in receipt of Income-related Child Dependency Allowances will be transferred to the HM Revenue and Customs, Child Tax Credits system prior to their move to Employment and Support Allowance.

This means that the existing financial support for children will be transferred to Child Tax Credit. HM Revenue and Customs has a target of dealing with these claims within 28 days of receipt. 

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