Benefit jargon

Fed up looking at letters from the council’s housing benefit department and not knowing what they mean? This page can help you understand the jargon.


If you are not happy with a decision about your Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction then you may be able to appeal. A tribunal, independent from the council’s benefit department, will review the decision. This is called an appeal hearing.

Applicable amount

The Government works out how much money they think that you need to live on each week. This is called your applicable amount. Your applicable amount is calculated taking the following things into account:

  • the number of people who live with you as part of your family
  • your age and their ages
  • whether someone has a long-term illness or disability
  • whether you have been recently bereaved, and
  • whether you care for someone for more than 35 hours a week.


Capital can be:

  • spare cash
  • money in bank or building society accounts
  • unit trusts
  • stocks and shares
  • income or capital bonds
  • premium bonds, or
  • lump sum redundancy payments.

The amount of capital you have will be taken into account as income when calculating how much benefit you may be entitled to.


To meet the definition of a carer, you should be looking after someone for an average of 35 hours per week. The person you look after should be getting:

  • Attendance Allowance
  • Disability Living Allowance (high or middle rate of the care component),
  • Personal Independence Payment (daily living component), or
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment.

You should have received Carer’s Allowance or have been told that you would be entitled to Carer’s Allowance if it were not for your income. Find out more on the website.

Eligible rent

Your eligible rent is the rent that your landlord charges you minus any service charges that Housing Benefit cannot pay for, such as cooking or personal laundry.

The Housing Benefit department will work out how much you can afford to pay towards the eligible rent before deciding how much Housing Benefit you should be entitled to.


This refers to any money you have coming in. For example, it can include any benefits, wages or pensions.


A non-dependant is someone who lives with you

  • who is not your husband, wife, civil partner or partner (including same-sex partners), and
  • who you do not claim Child Benefit for, and
  • who is over the age of 18.

The council’s benefit department will assume that if you have a non-dependant living with you, that person can make a contribution to your rent. The amount of money taken off your benefit will be decided on the basis of the non-dependant’s gross income.


If you ask the council’s benefit department to look at their decision again, then this is called a revision. Someone different from the person who made the original decision should look at it. If you are still not happy then you can appeal.

Severely disabled

The council’s benefit department should class you as severely disabled if:

  • you receive Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance (middle or high rate care), Personal Independence Payment (daily living component) or an Armed Forces Independence Payment,
  • you do not have any non-dependants living with you (see above), and
  • no one gets Carer’s Allowance for looking after you.


If you appeal against a decision made by the council’s benefit department, it can be looked at again by someone who does not work for the department. You can be present when the decision is looked at again to put forward your side of the story. Someone from the council’s benefit department can go too. This is called a tribunal or an appeal hearing.

Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
08000 495 495

Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an advisor
email us

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.

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This page was last updated on: May 11, 2023

Shelter Cymru acknowledges the support of Shelter in allowing us to adapt their content. The information contained on this site is updated and maintained by Shelter Cymru and only gives general guidance on the law in Wales. It should not be regarded or relied upon as a complete or authoritative statement of the law.