In the United Kingdom this is a benefit that is paid to those people of working age who because of a disability or who are sick due to a long term illness are incapable of working.

Who can claim
Only those who have made a certain amount of National Insurance Contributions are eligible for the benefit. Although this rule may not apply if you are under the age of 20. Having said that you should note that incapacity benefit is in the process of being replaced as of October 2008 by another allowance called the Employment and Support Allowance. This allowance will apply to all new applicants from the said date. However those who have made claims before this date for Incapacity Benefit will continue receiving that and not the new allowance.

To claim this benefit you must have been off work for at least four days in a row due to medical reasons for instance receiving medical treatment for a condition. You should also be under the age of 65 years, under certain circumstances you can claim the benefit even if you have been living abroad. You can also claim if you are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay.

When you make a claim for this benefit you will have to fill in a lengthy questionnaire and following this a Personal Capability Assessment may be carried out on you. This may require you to undergo a medical assessment at a local Medical Examination Centre, or at your home if you prefer. A medical professional or doctor appointed by the DWP will examine you and then submit their findings in a Capability Report to the Department for Work and Pensions who will have the final say on your application. During the examination you will be asked health questions about your ability to walk and if you can lift items or go up stairs etc.

Incapacity benefit is normally paid on a weekly basis and there are three weekly rates. There is the basic rate, the short term lower rate and the long term higher rate. You can claim the long term higher rate only after you have been off work for more than 52 weeks. Be aware that the short term rate and the long term rate are both taxable. Payment is made into a recipients bank account or post office account.

Can you still work in you are in receipt of the benefit?
If your claim is successful you may still be allowed to work in certain areas, this type of work is referred to as Permitted Work.