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
Look below to see if any of these situations
apply to you.
with rent and Council Tax If you 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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:
Job Seeker's Allowance.
If a child has a long-term illness or disability
you may be able to claim DisabilityLiving 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
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
Statutory Sick Pay can last for up to six months, at the end
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
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
If you are over 65 and you need care from someone
you can claim Attendance Allowance.
These Benefits also open the door to extra
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
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
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
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
about to join the army
caring for someone
a single parent
a care leaver.
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
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:
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
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.
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.