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Benefits Check-up

Take 10 mins to calculate what you're entitled to

It's not just the unemployed who get benefits & tax credits. In rare cases families in 2014/2015 with £72,000 income can qualify. Whether you're 18 or 80, this checker will see if you're entitled to claim.

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Benefits Calculator 10-min check to get what you're due

Family Benefits ChecklistUnsurprisingly, the social security system is a nightmare of complexity, so it's impossible to easily summarise exactly who's eligible for payments. It is easy to say who should check though, using our Benefits Calculator above.

The main thing to remember is that benefits are NOT just for the unemployed. Plus, as rules constantly change, it's worth doing an annual check-up to see if your entitlement's altered.

Many families are entitled to cash from the Government but are unaware of their eligibility. In some rare cases, even those earning up to £72,000 in 2014/15 may get help. Sadly, over a million low income pensioners are failing to collect their pension credit.

What benefits am I entitled to?

Cash may be available for anyone in one or more of the following groups:

  • Those with dependent children, especially if you have a disabled child, a large family or you spend a lot on childcare. See the list of family benefits below.
  • Those who are out of work. See the list of work benefits below.
  • Anyone with an illness or disability. See the list of health benefits below. It's also worth reading our Debt and Mental Health guide.
  • Carers, guardians, pregnant women, recent parents, the widowed and the over-60s.
  • Those over 25 without children, working more than 30 hours a week and earning less than around £13,000 if single, or £18,000 in a couple.

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Benefits checklist

If you don't know your Jobseeker's Allowance from your Employment Support Allowance, or Council Tax Benefit from Child Tax Credit, scan our quick checklist to find out more. Thanks to MoneySavers in the forum for help with this list, especially alwaysonthego.

The list is split into four sections, so you can jump straight to families, work, health/elderly or low income. Or just do this full Benefits Calculator ten minute check-up.

Of course, many benefits for working age people will eventually be merged into a single payment called the Universal Credit. This is being introduced in stages but is currently planned to be fully in place by the end of 2017. This short government video explains what the Universal Credit is and how it will work.

Families

A raft of benefits are available if you have children. Some of the benefits in the low income section are also available for families, so check that list too.

Also see the Family MoneySaving guide for other MoneySaving tips.

Child Benefit

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More info For parents with dependent children. It's paid until the 31 Aug following your child's 16th birthday, or until the age of 20 if they're in full-time education or approved training.

Child Tax Credit

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More info Tax credits are payouts from the state to support those with children. They are also available for those in work with a low income - see the Work section for more details.

Guardian's Allowance

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More info Guardian's Allowance is for those bringing up a child because one or both of their parents have died. You must be receiving Child Benefit for the child.

Statutory Maternity/Paternity/Adoption Pay

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More info If you've worked for the same firm for longer than six months, and take time off work when a baby is born, your employer will help.

The statutory level is the minimum that should be provided, but your individual contract may provide more.

Maternity Grant

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More info A one-off payment if you've had a baby, or adopted in the last three months, to help pay for baby equipment.

Maternity Allowance

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More info If you're on maternity leave but are not entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay - perhaps you were self-employed - then you get Maternity Allowance for 39 weeks.

Widowed Parent's Allowance

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More info A special allowance for widowed parents bringing up a child(ren) or expecting their late husband's baby.

Work

If you're in work (on a low income or paying for childcare) or looking for work, one of the following may be available.

If you're applying for one of these benefits and need help before the first payment is made, ask your Jobcenter about getting a Short-term Advance. This is where money you'll be due is paid early (but obviously you don’t then get it again later).

Working Tax Credit

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More info Tax credits are payouts from the state to support those in work but with a low income. They're also available for those with kids, see the Family section for more details.

Contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance

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More info This is the benefit given to those who are looking for work. It's only paid for six months, but savings are not taken into consideration.

Low income

These are benefits if you are on a low income (your household income determines if you're eligible), to help pay for day-to-day costs if you do not have money from elsewhere. Most are not paid if you have savings above £16,000.

If you're applying for one of these benefits and need help before the first payment is made, ask your Jobcenter about getting a Short-term Advance. This is where money you'll be due is paid early (but obviously you don’t then get it again later).

Also see the Low Income Grants guide for other free cash you may be eligible for.

Income Support

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More info This is paid to people who are not expected to look for work, for example, carers or lone parents with children under the age of five.

Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance

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More info Given to those looking for work and their household is on a low income. It's paid for as long as you show you are trying to find a job.

Income-based Employment Support Allowance

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More info This is paid if you are sick/disabled, your household is on a low income and you are unable to work, or have limited capacity to work. You will need to pass a capability for work assessment.

Pension Credit

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More info Pension Credit is an extra payment that guarantees most people over 60 a minimum income, yet many don't realise they're missing out on cash they're entitled to.

Housing Benefit

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More info Housing Benefit is help for those on a low income who struggle to pay their rent.

Council Tax Support

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More info Provides help to pay your council tax if you're on a low income.

From April 2013 the national Council Tax Benefit has been replaced with localised council tax support, where each local authority decides how much help to give.

Free school meals, milk or uniforms and healthcare

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More info Sometimes referred to as 'passported benefits'. Households earning under £16,190, or on income-related benefits, could get cash to help with sending their kids to school as well as free prescriptions, eye tests and dentist fees.

Support for Mortgage Interest

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More info If you’re struggling to pay your mortgage, the Support for Mortgage Interest scheme could pay the mortgage interest for you.

Budgeting Loans and Advances

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More info This is a government scheme providing interest free loans to help if you need essential items for your home or other things that you cannot pay for in a lump sum, such as clothes and furnishings.

Funeral Payment

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More info Help towards paying for a funeral - including burial or cremation fees - if you have no other way of paying.

Local council support schemes

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More info From April 2013 each local authority is responsible for providing help to its residents struggling with an emergency,

Cold Weather Payments

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More info Cold Weather Payments are made to those receiving certain benefits to help with gas and electricity costs during cold weather.

Health / Elderly

There are a few specific benefits to help those who are ill, disabled or elderly. They can be claimed on top of some of the benefits above.

Also see the Over 50s guide for other MoneySaving tips or for specific help if you, or a friend or family member, have been diagnosed with cancer try the Macmillan Support Line.

Attendance Allowance

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More info If you're over 65 and need frequent help with personal care, or someone to supervise you, Attendance Allowance can help.

Disability Living Allowance

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More info For those under 65 (including children) who need help to care for themselves or get around.

Carer's Allowance

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More info Available if you're caring for someone for more than 35 hours a week, and they receive Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Allowance care component at either middle or higher rate.

Contribution-based Employment Support Allowance

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More info This is paid if you are sick/disabled and unable, or have limited capacity, to work, although you will need to pass a 'capability for work' assessment.

Statutory Sick Pay

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More info This is paid to employees if they are off sick from work for more than four days, for a period of up to 28 weeks.

State Pension

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More info The Basic State Pension is a Government-administered scheme, funded by National Insurance contributions, to give those who have reached the Government-defined retirement age a guaranteed weekly income.

Bereavement Allowance

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More info Widows/widowers over the age of 45 but not yet at the State Pension age can claim for help for up to a year after the death of a spouse or civil partner.

Bereavement Payment

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More info If you are under pensionable age and lose a partner, a one-off Bereavement Payment is available if your partner has been paying National Insurance contributions, or if their death was caused by their job.

Winter Fuel Payments

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More info These are one-off payments made each winter to those over 60, regardless of the temperature.

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Where to get free help

If you're struggling for cash go to a Citizens Advice Bureau or one of the network of Independent Advice Centres for a one-on-one detailed benefits check-up.

Further resources not to miss

A further huge info resource is the Benefits and Tax Credits section in our forum where a number of Citizens Advice-trained people and others voluntarily help out answering people's questions.

It's become a great database of questions and answers on everything to do with benefits. Special thanks to Fran, Alwaysonthego, Fermi and Kimitatsu for organising it. A good place to start is the Useful Links thread.

You could also check the Low Income Grants guide to see if there are other sources of income you could be eligible for.

For those on a low income with money worries

This site lists lots of ways to help you try to cut costs, but the first place to start is the Debt Problems guide. No debt problems are unsolvable and this guide will help you find out what to do, depending on your level of debt, and where you can get free help.

If you've also got mental health problems, some special solutions apply. For a full guide to handling debts when stressed, working with banks, getting free one-to-one debt counselling and specific tips for bipolar and depression sufferers, read our free Mental Health & Debt Help PDF booklet.

In the current economic climes it's also sensible for everyone to take a moment to think how they'd be impacted by redundancy and, if possible, put a contingency plan in place. See the full Redundancy Guide for hints and tips.

A final thought... should benefits be claimed?

There's still a stigma to claiming benefits in the UK, even with Government attempts to rebrand them. Yet for those who shy away from claiming their entitlement, commonly those who worked much of their life, a simple statistic is rather persuasive.

Someone with a typical 40-year working lifespan, earning the roughly average £27,500 salary, would in today's prices pay almost exactly a quarter of a million pounds in tax and National Insurance.

So rather than seeing social security as a favour from the Government, perhaps understand it's an entitlement contributed to in the good times, and repaid when you've less cash. Of course, many have political views that there should be a different benefits system, or even none at all. Yet having that belief doesn't prevent you from paying taxes, so it shouldn't stop you claiming the reciprocal benefit.

The most disturbing group who fail to claim are pensioners, many of whom are entitled to claim Pension Credit. Of course any pensioner reading this should be sorted, but some, especially older pensioners, are disenfranchised from information due to lack of web access. If you know someone where that's the case, why not ask them if they've checked out their benefits? If not, do the simple five-minute process for them to check they're not missing out.


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