Shall I / can I give up work?

Hi all, I am at a bit of a loss as to what my options are, so would be truly grateful for any help or advice. I am 29, live alone and have been diagnosed with MS for 4 years. I’m currently working reduced hours - 32 per week - to try to cope with my MS symptoms of fatigue, weakness and tremoring and lack of coordination that gets worse as the day progresses. I am lucky that I have a very understanding employer who allows me flexi time and I can work from home (usually I do 1-2 days at home). However, my symptoms have been getting worse and i am now approaching the 3rd wk of sick leave, which I probably should have taken before. I have been declining for a while, so I am scared I will not be able to get back to work and I know I need to reduce my hours even more, in the best case. Does anyone know about benefits and what your income has to be below for them to kick in? - I love working and ideally, if I do get any better, I might manage 15-20 hours a week, but I don’t know if this is financially viable as I do not have a partner. I share a flat with a friend which costs me £400 in rent a month (the cheapest I could find with good insulation for winter as MS gets worse otherwise, space for myself and a friend to park close by which I need because of mobility, etc etc.) and I’m scared that once I’ve paid for that,I won’t have much else for getting out of the house etc. I am feeling scared and miserable because I don’t have a partner so the only thing I can see that I can do because of finances is to stop being independent and instead go back to my village to live with my parents - given that my symptoms are not so obvious and vary during the day, I doubt Atos would put me into the support group even if I have to stop working completely. Sorry for the long message, any advice would reall really help me. Best Wishes Melly

Hi Melly,

I will try and give you some benefit answers but it’s only broad strokes based on the assumption that you don’t have savings over £6000.

If you are too ill to work the benefit is as you know ESA. You need not worry too much about getting into the support group. For the first 12 months you would get contribution based ESA (based on your NI contributions) After 12 months you would be eligible for income based ESA. As you don’t have a partner you would continue to get paid. (many people on the boards loose benefit after 12 months because they have a working partner or a private pension)

You could apply for help with your rent and council tax. It is possible that you wouldn’t get all £400.00 paid. It depends on the local area and what the rent officer sets for a single person. (This is through the local council not DWP) If you are getting ESA you might not be eligible for full help as it is higher than Income Support and JSA.

You were wondering about reducing your hours. Working more than 16 hours will take you right outside the benefit system. Working Tax Credits are there to help people on low incomes but as a person without a child you would need to work much more than 16-20 hours to access them.

If you worked less than 16 hours you could get Job Seekers Allowance but not ESA. This would only be a short term, not very suitable solution because you would be supposed to be actively looking for work.

Do you claim DLA? You could apply for this whatever your decision about work.

To get an idea of what you might be entitled to you can do calculations at


Many thanks for your reply Jane and for the detail, that is exactly what I needed to know.

Quite a sobering thought really - so unfortunately, as I had feared, the system does not support working as many hours as you can - I’d be much better off quitting work completely :frowning:

I’m going to put off a decision, as its always recommended to not rush into one on this forum, but it’s really good to know where I stand with this.

Thank you again, best wishes,