Below is a brief guide to the benefits which are available, to find out if you are eligible for any benefits you should speak to a specialist adviser.
Benefits can be means tested and non-means tested. They can be awarded for low income, in employment, unemployment, illness, disability being responsible for a child or children, education and retirement.
The means test includes income and most capital e.g. money in your bank but not for example your home. If you have a partner, their income and capital will also usually be taken in account.
Non-means tested benefits may depend on your National Insurance Contribution e.g. Contribution Based Jobseeker’s Allowance.
Benefits will depend on your specific circumstances. The best way to ensure that you are receiving the benefits you are entitled to is by having a check at a specialist welfare benefit agency for example your local Citizens Advice Bureau, Age UK or any other reputable independent advice agency. You can find details of the ones closest to you online, in the phone book or at your local library. If you have difficulty completing the forms these agencies can help you with them. It is advisable to seek support and assistance when claiming benefits such as Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and Attendance Allowance.
If you are a student, your college, university or students' union will usually have an adviser who can check your entitlement.
If you apply to us for support, and provide full details of your circumstances and supporting documents we will be able to check your welfare benefits entitlement.
Some of issues we normally check and advise on are:
- Unemployment - Jobseeker’s Allowance
The amount received will depend on the financial circumstances and makeup of the household.
It is advisable to claim this allowance as soon as you become unemployed.
If you are eligible for the means tested version you may for example become entitled to financial assistance with the payment of the interest on your mortgage and other housing related items.
- Illness - Employment and Support Allowance (replacing Incapacity Benefit)
If you become ill or disabled you may qualify for Employment and Support Allowance.
Employment and Support Allowance also come in the form of means and non-means tested and similar assistance to means tested Jobseeker’s Allowance is available.
Disability Living Allowance (Currently in transition to Personal Independence Payment PIP) and Attendance Allowance.
These benefits relate to a person having care and or mobility issues, they are not means tested and can, in in right circumstances, enhance or increase your entitlement to means tested welfare benefits.
Disability Living Allowance/Personal Independence Payments can be claimed if you are below the age of 65. Once claimed, and providing you are still eligible, it will continue to be paid beyond the age of 65.
Attendance Allowance can be claimed from the age of 65 onwards.
You cannot claim and be paid Disability Living Allowance/Personal Independence Payments and Attendance Allowance at the same time.
To assess if you may be entitled to any of these benefits, compare yourself with someone who is totally fit and make no allowance for age. If you have difficulty with any aspect of your daily life that may be due to physical and/or mental health issues you may be eligible.
- Pension Credit
This comes in two parts and is a mix of means test to check if you meet a minimum weekly income. If below you will receive payment. There is the possibility of an additional or alternative award for having a higher level of income e.g. could relate to income from a private pension.
Conditions include meeting specific conditions regarding your retirement age.
- Carers Allowance
Awarded if you are caring for a person with the relevant award of Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payments or Attendance Allowance. Conditions depend on, for example the amount of income from work and time spent caring. If you are not employed it may be topped up by Income Support. However, you need to ensure that both parties situation is assessed as the benefits that each receives may have an impact on the outcome.
- Council Tax
Discounts may apply depending on the circumstances and make-up of your household e.g. if you live alone, have mental health issues etc.
- Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit/Council Tax Reduction
Housing Benefit (assistance with rent) and Council Tax Reduction / Council Tax Benefit (assistance with the payment of Council Tax).
For private rentals Housing Benefit is assessed on what is called the Local Housing Allowance. This is based on a fair rent for the accommodation it is adjudged you need for your circumstances e.g. if you live on your own or not. So any rent higher than the Local Housing Allowance will not be used the calculation.
- Working Tax Credit/Child Tax Credit
Working Tax Credit is paid if you are in employment and satisfy specific conditions e.g. gross income.
It is paid in addition to your earnings.
Child Tax Credit can be paid in and out of employment depending on your circumstances.
- Other benefits and assistance
If you are in receipt of benefits you may be eligible for support with the payment of prescriptions, glasses etc.
Universal Credit is gradually being introduced across the UK.
The basic principles are not altered. However, what it does introduce is a benefit cap for certain people i.e. limits the total amount of welfare benefit you can receive. If you are in an area were Universal Credit is being trialled then you may already be affected.
Universal Credit (UC) will eventually replace the following benefits and tax credits:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Budgeting loans - an advance payment of UC will replace these.