welfare benefits explained
Are you getting everything you are entitled too?
Use StepChange's online benefits check which will look at your situation and tell you what benefits you are entitled to claim.
You can also access an e-mail service by clicking here
Housing Benefit – help with rent
Housing Benefit can help you pay your rent and eligible service charges if you are on a low income. It is run by your local council and even if you can’t get the full amount you might be able to get some help, it’s always worth applying.
Housing benefit is worked out based on your net income – this is what you earn after you’ve paid tax and National Insurance plus half of any private pension you may contribute to.
If you are in receipt of maintenance payments they are ignored when working out how much housing benefit you are entitled to, child benefit and childcare benefits are also largely ignored. However, any tax credits you get will be counted as income.
To be eligible you must have responsibility for paying the rent and if you are a couple only one of you can claim it.
Click here to calculate yours today!
Council Tax Support – help with your Council Tax
Council Tax Support can help you to pay your council tax and works in a similar way to Housing Benefit.
You can also get a 25% discount if you live alone and other discounts are available for eligible students, carers and people who are severely mentally impaired.
The Disability Reduction Scheme can reduce your bill if you are disabled and your home has special adaptations to help you live there.
You might not have to pay at all if your house is empty, perhaps because you have moved to a care home or hospital. To make a claim contact Cheshire East council on 0300 123 5013 and ask for the Housing and Council Tax Benefit department.
Working Tax Credit - extra money for people in work
There are rules about the minimum number of hours you must be working each week to apply for this. You will not qualify for Working Tax Credit if you work less than 16 hours per week and some people will need to work 30 hours per week to qualify The minimum number of hours varies depending on individual circumstances. The application form asks for details about how much you earned in the last year (they ask for the gross figure – this is what you earn before paying tax and National Insurance).
The amount of money you can get will normally be based on last year’s income, but you should ask them to work it out on the basis of this year’s current income if it is less than last year. This should mean you get more Working Tax Credit.
The Tax Credits you get are counted as income for Housing and Council Tax Benefit purposes.
Call the Tax Credit Helpline on 0845 300 3900 or textphone 0845 300 3909 to get a Working Tax Credit application form. If you have the internet click here to visit the website
Child Tax Credit - extra money for people with children
If you have dependent children under the age of 20 still in non-advanced education or approved training you might be eligible for Child Tax Credit.
It is dependent on your household income and can help to pay for child care expenses or a percentage of them, but child care must be provided by a registered provider. Child care charges are paid until the child is fifteen years old (sixteen if disabled)
Call the Tax Credit Helpline on 0845 300 3900 or textphone 0845 300 3909 to get a Working Tax Credit application form. If you have the internet click here to visit the website and get an estimate of your entitlement.
Child Benefit - more money for people with children
If you have dependent children up to the age of 20 who are still completing non-advanced education or approved training, you will be eligible for Child Benefit. Call the Child Benefit Helpline on 0845 302 1444 from 8am-8pm seven days a week.
Jobseeker’s Allowance – extra money while you look for work
Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is the main benefit for people of working age who are unemployed or who work less than 16 hours a week.
To qualify you must be capable of working, available for work, actively looking for work and below the state pension age. You will need to agree to and sign a 'Claimant Commitment'. This is a document which sets out what you have to do to find better, paid work, or more working hours. The steps you have to take are known as your 'work related requirements' and will vary depending upon your individual circumstances.
There are two types of JSA:
- If you have paid National Insurance contributions in the past you may get contribution-based JSA.
- If you haven’t paid enough National Insurance contributions you may get income-based JSA, which is based on your income and savings.
If you think you are eligible visit your local Jobcentre Plus office, call 0800 055 66 88 Monday to Friday 8am-6pm or textphone 0800 023 48 88.
Employment and Support Allowance - support for people who need help to work
ESA was launched in 2008 to replace incapacity benefits for people who have health problems or disabilities.
It is designed to find out what work people can do, and what help they need to return to work.
There are two types of ESA:
- If you have paid National Insurance contributions in the past you may get contribution-based ESA. There is no means test for this but from April 2012 this will be limited to 12 months.
- Income related ESA is means tested and you do not have to satisfy the national insurance contributions.
Everyone claiming ESA has to undergo a work capability assessment. If you satisfy this assessment you will be put either in the work related activity group or the support group.
Those in the work related activity group will need to attend regular work focus interviews; the advisors will be able to give them help and advice on finding suitable employment.
If you are put in the support group taking part in these activities is voluntary.
People with a severe illness or disability are not expected to prepare for a return to work, but they can volunteer to if they want. They will be paid ESA which includes an element to recognise this called a ‘support component’.
Visit your local Jobcentre Plus office or call them on 0800 055 6688 (textphone 0800 023 4888). If you have the internet you can visit www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance Those who don’t qualify for ESA can instead apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance
Personal Independence Payment - support for people under 65 with a disability
Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has started to repalce Disability Living Allowance for those under 65 years old.
PIP is help towards some of the extra costs arising from a health condition or disability. It is based on how a person's condition affects them, not the condition they have.
You can receive PIP whether you are in or out of work and the benefit is not means tested or taxed.
There are two components to PIP - for daily living and mobility needs. Each component is paid at a standard rate, or enhanced rate for those with the greatest needs.
Children under the age of 16 who have a carer or mobility needs will continue to claim Disability Living Allowance.
To claim, contact the DWP on 0800 917 222 or text phone 0800 9177777 or visit www.gov.uk/pip for more information.
Attendance Allowance – support for those over 65 with a disability
Attendence Allowance is paid if you are 65 or over and need help with personal care or watching over to avoid danger to yourself or others. There is no help with mobility probelms that start from the age of 65. You can also claim if you are 65 or over and terminally ill.
Attendance Allowance is not means tested and is paid on top of all the other benefits. It entitles you to extra amounts of means-tested benefits and tax credits and is ignored as income.
To claim you must need frequent/ repeated attention throughout the day and/or night with your 'bodily functions' or need watching over to avoid substantial danger to yourself or others. You must have met these conditions for at least six months.
To claim contact the Disability and Carers Benefit Advice Line on 0845 712 3456 or textphone 0845 7224433. You can also claim online at www.gov.uk/attendance-allowance
Carer’s Allowance – financial help for people who look after someone
If you are unable to work full-time because you are caring for someone you might be able to claim Carer’s Allowance.
- You need to be caring for someone who gets the high or middle rate component part of Disability Living Allowance, either rate of the daily living componant of PIP or Attendance Allowance
- The person you look after can be a close family member or friend. It doesn’t matter if you don’t live with them, but you must spend at least 35 hours a week caring for them
- You must not be in full-time education
- You must earn no more than £100 a week after tax
- You might not get it if you already receive a state pension or other benefits, but it is still worth applying because you might be able to get extra Pension Credit and/or Council Tax/Housing Benefit instead.
- Please note that if you get Carer’s Allowance it might affect benefits that the person you care for gets, so ask for advice.
Speak to the Carer’s Allowance Unit on 0345 608 4321 or visit www.direct.gov.uk/carers-allowance to find out the current rates and get more information. You can also get advice from Age Concern UK call 08001696565 or visit www.ageuk.org.uk
If you are close to retiring, or have already retired, there are benefits you might be able to get that will top up your state or company pension.
Nearly half of all pensioners are entitled to this benefit, which tops up your weekly income, but many people are missing out because they are not claiming it. There are two parts of Pension Credit and you may be eligible for one or both of them:
Tops up your weekly income to a guaranteed level set by the Government. You should be eligible for this if you have reached, or are over, the state pension age for a women and your weekly income is less than £148.35 if you are single or less than £226.50 if you are a couple (2014/15 rates).
Provides extra money each week as a reward for having some savings for your retirement or a higher level of income.
If you are claiming Pension Credit you can now claim for Housing Benefit and Council Tax benefit at the same time.You might also be eligible for even higher levels of Pension Credit if you are severely disabled or a carer.
There is no savings limit for Pension Credit but if you currently have more than £10,000 it could reduce the amount you get.
For more details about these and how to apply you can call the Pension Credit helpline on 0800 99 1234 or textphone 0800 169 0133 Mon to Fri 8am-8pm. You can also visit the Pension Service website at www.thepensionservice.gov.uk
Winter fuel payments and cold winter payments
If you have reached, or are over the state pension age for women, you may be able to get a payment to help with fuel bills.
You will be paid the money automatically if you are eligible and are receiving Pension Credit, but men aged 60-64 will need to make a claim as they are not pensioners.
Call the Winter Fuel Helpline on 08459 151 515 or textphone 0845 601 5613 to find out more.
During periods of very cold weather, you may also be eligible for a one-off Cold Weather Payment to help with extra heating costs. This is an extra £25 per week when the average temperature has been, or is expected to be, 0°C or colder for seven days in a row.
Veteran’s benefits and pensions
Anyone who has served in the UK armed forces, including widows, widowers and their dependants, may be entitled to help with pensions, health, employment and other payments.
Under The War Pensions Scheme you could get a War Disablement Pension (plus allowances) or a War Widows’ or Widowers’ Pension.
To claim for these, or get information about other help and services available, call the Service
Personnel and Veterans Agency helpline on 0800 169 22 77 (free from BT landlines), textphone 0800 169 3458 or visit www.veterans-uk.info
Healthy, wealthy and wise
Working in partnership with Cheshire East Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), Wulvern’s Healthy, Wealthy and Wise programme provides advice and support to help you maximize your income.
The CAB offers a free confidential benefits check to anyone over 60, to see if they are entitled to benefits such as pension credit, housing benefit, attendance allowance or even a free TV License!
We will visit you at home and help assess what benefits you may be entitled to, fill in the necessary forms and assist you with any appeals.
So far we have helped local people reclaim over £4 million in unclaimed benefits which they were unaware that they were entitled to.
Call us today on 01270 503564 and see if you could benefit!
Other help for pensioners
If you are 60 or over, or have a disability, your local authority will offer you free off-peak bus travel. Contact your local council or visit the Post Office for more information
If you are over 75 you can get a free TV licence (you can get 50% off the licence if you are registered blind). For more information visit www.tvlicensing.co.uk
If you are over 60 you are entitled to free NHS prescription and sight tests. NHS hearing aids can also be borrowed for free and you might be able to get free chiropody if you have a clinical need
If you get the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit or you are over 60 and have less than £16,000 in savings you should be able to get help with other NHS costs, such as free NHS dental treatment, vouchers to buy glasses and money for travelling to and from hospital. Speak to your doctor for more information about free NHS services and treatments.