Millions of pounds worth of benefits go unclaimed in the UK each and every year by working-age people, available but not requested by the people who are eligible for this assistance.
Are you among the potential recipients of these payments? Charitable Turn2Us have a helpful benefits calculator that will help you understand whether or not you are missing out on payments that you are entitled to. The rest of this guide will explain the difference between the many and varied government-sanctioned benefits in operation throughout the country.
Please note – this article refers only individuals below pensionable age. For guidance on general benefits available to OAPs in the UK, click here.
The benefit system in the UK has undergone an overhaul, with a catchall term of Universal Credit amalgamating six previously separate benefits and tax credits: Jobseekers Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit.
- Universal Credit is paid monthly directly into your bank account. How much money you are entitled to on Universal Credit depends on your circumstances such as marital status, number of dependents, monthly earnings, savings and health concerns.
- The Citizens Advice Bureau can offer further advice if required.
Benefits for Job Seekers
Job Seekers Allowance is one of the most commonly applied for benefits. Anybody who finds themselves out of work is welcome to apply.
- Job Seekers Allowance is paid fortnightly (£57.90 per week if you are aged between 18 and 24, £73.10 if you are 25 or over), for as long as you are eligible for the benefit. You will be asked to attend an interview at your closest Job Centre, where you will be assigned a Work Coach and a plan to find work will be devised. You will be expected to attend weekly or fortnightly update meetings with your work coach and provide evidence of your search for work.
- Income Support is also available for anybody working less than 16 hours per week, or earning a very low rate of pay, as part of Universal Credit. This cannot be claimed in addition to JSA. How much you will receive depends on your marital status. For single people with no dependents the weekly rate is the same as JSA (£57.90 or £73.10), with a sliding pay scale for couples and parents.
Sickness and Disability Benefits
If you find yourself too sick to work, there are certain benefit packages that you can apply for.
- Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is a rate of £88.45 per week, payable to any employed person who is unable to attend work due to ill health for up to 28 weeks. You may have a discretionary number of sick days within your employment contract that can be taken with full pay; these will not affect SSP.
- Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) has replaced previous benefits such as Incapacity Benefit within the Universal Credit programme, providing financial assistance for anybody unable to work through illness and disability. Anybody wishing to claim ESA will need to attend an eligibility interview. If the claim is then accepted, one of two types of ESA will be paid.
- Personal Independent Payments (PIP) are available to anybody aged over 16 and below retirement age living with a disability or a chronic, long-term illness. You will be assessed by an independent professional, and if your PIP claim is accepted you will receive a weekly rate of £55.10 or £82.30 as a Daily Living Component, alongside a further £21.80 or £57.45 if you require assistance with mobility. If you are awarded the higher rate of the mobility component, you may be eligible to use the Motability Scheme that provides vehicles and powered wheelchairs.
- Carer’s Allowance is payable to anybody who needs to provide assistance to an individual who is unable to fully meet their own needs – you do not need to live with them full-time. This payment is a standard rate of £62.10 per week, and can be paid weekly, monthly or quarterly.
Child and Family Benefits
Child Benefit is not to be confused with Child Tax Credit, which has been absorbed into Universal Credit.
- Child Benefit is payable to parents of anybody in full-time education, under the age of 20. £20.70 is payable weekly for your first child, and £13.70 for each additional child until the benefits cap is reached. You must register for this benefit before the child’s third birthday on each occasion.
- National Insurance credits are available to anybody who decides against claiming the monetary value of Child Benefit, which can be placed against your future state pension. Child Benefit is not payable to anybody who earns over £50,000 PA, but such individuals are still eligible for National Insurance credits.
- Maternity Leave and Paternity Leave are government-sanctioned policies with sliding scales of pay based on the time spent away from work. Individuals not eligible for Maternity Leave can apply for Maternity Allowance Maternity leave pays 90% of your pre-tax salary for the first six weeks, then caps the payment at £139.58 for the remaining 33 weeks.
- Bereavement Allowance applies to anybody that has lost their spouse or civil partner. As with all benefits, the amount to which an individual is entitled varies depending on circumstances.
Housing Benefit and Social Housing
You may be eligible for Housing Benefit to assist with making rent payments, or in some cases the full amount, if you are on a very low income. Housing Benefit applies to both privately rented properties and social housing.
- Housing Benefit is for rent payments; homeowners are not eligible for this benefit, and nor is any individual with savings over £16,000. Single people under the age of 35 are also not eligible for Housing Benefit unless they are living within a bedsit or shared accommodation (or their rent is equivalent). How much you receive depends on your location and the size of the property. This calculator will give you an idea if how much you can receive on housing benefit based on your individual circumstances.
- Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) could be an option for homeowners. If you are claiming any other kind of benefit or credit you may qualify for SMI, which will be paid directly to your mortgage lender to reduce outstanding amounts of interest. This will leave you able to concentrate on making payments towards the value of your home.
- Energy Grants are a way of helping you pay your utility bills if you are eligible for this assistance.
- Discretionary Housing Benefit may be available from your local council if you face a short-term cash flow crisis and are unable to pay rent.
- Social Housing is managed by your local council. You can apply online, and you will most likely be placed on a waiting list due to the vast number of individuals and families seeking this kind of accommodation. Your council will contact you as and when properties that fit your criteria become available.
Hardship Loan Benefits
It can sometimes be hard to stretch benefits across all payments that are required. In these cases, you may be able to apply for emergency assistance.
- The Citizens Advice Bureau provides a detailed list of options on such an occasion, and should always be consulted.
- Turn2Us, the charity that specialises in helping those in financial hardship, can also offer support and advice.
With so many different websites and subjects being covered by this article, you may have struggled to keep track of the links that you need to investigate. Below you’ll find a summary of all sites that will furnish you with the information that you need.
Citizens Advice Bureau – www.citizensadvice.org.uk
Entitled To – www.entitledto.co.uk
The Money Advice Service – www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk
NHS – www.nhs.uk
The Pensions Regular – www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk
Turn2Us – www.turn2us.org.uk
UK Government – www.gov.uk