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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.

To arrange a free benefits check, pop into one of the Citizens Advice Bureau’s (CAB) offices or call the CAB advice line on 08444 111 444. They offer free advice and will work with you to see if there are any benefits that you are entitled to. Why not call them today and see if you are missing out on any welfare benefits

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 in 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 in a couple only one of you can claim it.

Cheshire East's online benefits calculator will help you to calculate your housing and council tax benefit entitlement.

Enter your details for an estimate of how much housing benefit and council tax benefit you may be able to get. You can also check to see what will happen if your circumstances change. If you are already claiming, you must still tell us straight away about a change in circumstances

Click here to calculate yours today!


Council Tax Benefit – help with bills

Council Tax Benefit can help you to pay your council tax bill and works in the same way as 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

 
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.

There are two types of JSA:

  1. If you have paid National Insurance contributions in the past you may get contribution-based JSA.
  2. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 they satisfy this assessment they will be out 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.dwp.gov.uk/welfarereform. Those who don’t qualify for ESA can instead apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance

 
Disability Living Allowance - support for people under 65 with a disability

If you have a disability and as a result need help with personal care or getting around you might be able to claim Disability Living Allowance (DLA). You must make a claim before you are 65.

There are two parts to DLA – care and mobility. You could be eligible for both if you have both care and mobility needs. It doesn’t matter if you already get help and support, but you must have needed help for at least three months and need that level of care or mobility for a further six months. If you are terminally ill you can claim straight away.

Children and adults can claim, it doesn’t matter if you work or not. DLA is not means tested and it can be claimed regardless of income or capital.

To find out the current rates and get a claim form call the Disability Benefits Enquiry Line free on 0800 88 22 00, textphone 0800 24 33 55 or visit www.direct.gov.uk/disabledpeople

 
Attendance Allowance – support for those over 65 with a disability

If you are 65 or over and have a health problem affecting your personal care you might be able to claim Attendance Allowance to help. To be eligible you must have a physical or mental disability and need help throughout the day with personal care or supervision to keep you safe.

There are two rates; the lower rate applies if you meet either the day or night criteria.

You must have a long term condition or health need and need that level of care for at least six months. If you are terminally ill you can claim straight away.

Attendance Allowance is not means tested and can be claimed regardless of income or capital.

To find out the current rates and get a claim form call the Disability Benefits Enquiry Line free on 0800 88 22 00, textphone 0800 24 33 55 or visit www.direct.gov.uk/disabledpeople

 
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 top or middle rate care part of Disability
  • Living Allowance or any rate of 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 01772 899 729 or visit www.direct.gov.uk to find out the current rates and get more information. You can also get advice from Age Concern contact details?

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.

 
Pension credit

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 for it. There are two parts of Pension Credit and you may be eligible for one or both of them:


Guarantee Credit

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 £142.70 if you are single or less than £217.90 if you are a couple.


Savings Credit

Provides extra money each week as a reward for having some savings for your retirement or a higher level of income. You should be eligible for this if you are 65 or over and your weekly income is up to £181 if you are single, or up to £266 if you are a couple.

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 a women, you may be bale 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 too.

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). To apply call TV Licensing on 0870 241 6468

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.

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