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State Benefits

State Benefits are sums of money paid by the Government to people in certain circumstances to meet their day to day living needs. They exist to make sure no one falls below a minimum standard of living.

State Benefits are also sometimes called allowances, pensions, tax credits or entitlements.

There are many different Benefits that can be claimed. It is important to get advice from an advice centre, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, to be sure that you are claiming every benefit that you are entitled to. You can also find out about different Benefits at the website of the Department for Work and Pensions. This section introduces some of the main Benefits but cannot cover all of them.

If you have been told in the past that you don’t qualify for Benefits it is worth checking again. You can have capital (savings and property) adding up to £16,000 and still qualify for some Benefits.

Look below to see if any of these situations apply to you.

Help with rent and Council Tax
If yo
u do not have much money coming in and you are responsible for paying rent, Council Tax or both then you may be able to claim Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit or both. To claim these contact your local council.

If you are worried about being behind with your rent then you can ask for interim payments of housing benefit. These should be paid within two weeks of providing all of the evidence needed to support your claim. You do not have to tell your landlord that you are claiming Benefits - some private landlords do not like people to be on benefit. You will have to prove how much rent you have to pay. If you are worried about this ask an advice centre (the Citizens Advice Bureau for example) to help you claim.

If the council is taking action against you for being behind with your Council Tax then you should let them know that you are claiming benefit and ask them to put a hold on any further recovery action. This may save you from further costs. Remember that the benefit may not cover the whole amount you have to pay.

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In work
In April 2003 the Working Tax Credit was introduced. It is administered by the HM Revenue & Customs and has replaced Working Families Tax Credit and Disabled Person's Tax Credit.

To find out more about this benefit you can phone the Tax Credit help-line (0845 300 3900 or textphone 0845 300 3909). You can also look on the HMRC web site.
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Having a baby
If you or your partner are having a baby, you could be eligible for some form of maternity or paternity benefit to help you take time off work and contribute to the added costs that a baby will bring.

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)
You are eligible for SMP if you have worked for the same employer without a break for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before your baby is due – your doctor or midwife can help you work this out.
SMP entitles you to 90% of your average weekly earnings for the first six weeks of maternity leave. For the next 33 weeks, you will receive either £123.06 a week or 90% of your salary if it is less than £123.06 a week.
If you don’t plan to return to work after you’ve had your baby, you are still entitled to SMP.

Maternity Allowance
If you don’t qualify for SMP from your employer or you are self-employed, you may be eligible for Maternity Allowance, which pays you £123.06 a week or 90% of your salary if it is less than £123.06. You can claim this for up to 39 weeks.

Statutory Paternity Pay
If your wife or partner gives birth or adopts a child, you may be eligible for Statutory Paternity Pay so that you can take time off work to help with the baby. You must have worked for the same employer without a break for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before the baby is due and you must continue working for that employer without a break up until the baby is born. You must also earn at least £90 a week before tax.

Statutory Paternity Pay is paid for one or two consecutive weeks at £123.06 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings if they are less.

To find out more information or to check if you’re eligible, please visit the Directgov website. You can also find out about a number of other Benefits such as free milk, fresh fruit and vegetables and Sure Start Maternity Grants.Back to previous page

Looking after children
If you are looking after children you can claim Child Benefit for them. If someone else gets the Child Benefit but the child lives with you and not them then you should go to an advice centre such as theCitizens Advice Bureau. Child Benefit can be extended until after a child is 18 if they stay at school or go to college. For more information on Child Benefit, please take a look at the HMRC web site.

If you are in paid work (as an employee or self employed) you may be eligible for
Working Tax Credit

If you have one or more children then you may be eligible for the Child Tax Credit.

If you are a single parent, or if the other parent is unable to work, you can claim Income Support. To get Income Support you must be working less than 16 hours a week, not have too much money saved up and not have too large an income.

If you claim Income Support you will be asked to go for an interview to ask you about work that you could do. Your claim may not be accepted if you do not attend. If you do not think you can go you must contact the Benefits Agency (Department of Work and Pensions).

Extra amounts of money to look after children are also paid with:

  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Carers Allowance
  • Job Seeker's Allowance.

If a child has a long-term illness or disability you may be able to claim Disability Living Allowance. To get a claim pack phone the disability Benefits help-line on 0800 88 22 00 or textphone 0800 24 33 55. You will need to show that the child needs more looking after than another child the same age would do. It is therefore important to fill the form in as carefully as possible.

To find out more about the Benefits available if you are expecting or bringing up children, have a look at the Directgov website
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Sickness and disability
If you are off work due to sickness or ill health you should get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from your employer. If you do not get Statutory Sick Pay you can claim Incapacity Benefit. Statutory Sick Pay can last for up to six months, at the end of which you will be given a form to claim Incapacity Benefit.

Not everyone can get Incapacity Benefit - it depends on how much National Insurance that you have paid. It is a good idea to claim Income Support. Do not wait for a decision because Income Support is not normally backdated.

If you are sick or disabled because of work or through being in the armed services go to a Citizens Advice Bureau as other Benefits and pensions may apply.

If you:

  • have difficulty walking
  • need guidance or supervision outdoors
  • are unable to cook
  • need care from someone else
  • need watching over

then you should be able to claim Disability Living Allowance.

If you are over 65 and you need care from someone you can claim Attendance Allowance.

These Benefits also open the door to extra money on:

  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Council Tax Benefit
  • Extra help with road tax and parking.

Someone may also be able to claim Carers Allowance to look after you, though if you are on Income Support you may get less money if they do.

Because of the complexity of these Benefits we recommend that you go to an advice centre for expert help. An advice centre such as the
Citizens Advice Bureau will help you free of charge.
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Unemployed but able to work
If you are out of work then you can claim Job Seeker's Allowance. This is paid to people who are available for and actively seeking work. You will have to sign a jobseeker's agreement to say what you are going to do to find work. It is important not to place too many restrictions on what jobs you would take.

If you are 'sanctioned' while you are on Job Seeker's Allowance you may not receive any benefit for a time. You can claim hardship payments - you will need to ask about these. If you are sanctioned for any reason it is best to go to an advice centre such as the
Citizens Advice Bureau for further help.
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Under 18
If you are under 18 years of age you will usually have to register with a careers centre and make yourself available for youth training in order to be able to get an allowance.

There may be other money and help that you can get if you are:

  • sick or disabled
  • pregnant
  • about to join the army
  • caring for someone
  • a single parent
  • a care leaver.

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Over 60
If you are over 60 then you do not have to be available to work, even if you have not reached the age when you can get your pension. You can claim Income Support under the Pension Credit. This is designed to top up any money that you have to a minimum level.

You may also receive a State Retirement Pension when you reach retirement age in addition to any works pensions and personal pensions that you have paid for.

You should receive a pension forecast before you reach retirement age that will tell you how much State Retirement Pension you will get. If you have not had one phone your local Benefits Agency (Department of Work and Pensions) and ask about this.

Retirement age is still different for men and women. Women should receive a pension from age 60, men from age 65.

You can put off getting your pension by having it deferred. We recommend that you take further advice before doing this to see whether you will be better off claiming your pension later.

There is further financial support available to you if:

  • you are a pensioner: You will receive a £250 winter fuel payment every winter. This will increase to £400 if you are over 80.
  • you are over 60: You are also be entitled to free bus travel during off-peak travel times.

General note - Rules about Benefits are very complicated. The section is meant as a rough guide only. We recommend that you go to an advice centre, such as a Citizens Advice Bureau, to find out more.

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Making an appeal for Benefits
Many people are turned down for Benefits that they should be able to get, particularly disability Benefits such as Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance. You can appeal against a decision but you have to do this within one month. Appeals after more than a month are only accepted in special circumstances.

You will stand much more chance of winning an appeal if you have help. You can get free help from any Citizens Advice Bureau and also from law centres and money advice centres.

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