It's important to make sure that you get all the help that you're entitled to. (CAB) Citizens Advice can help Their website will give you information on benefits and tax credits if you are working or unemployed, sick or disabled, a parent, a young person, an older person or a veteran. There is also information about council tax and housing costs, national insurance, payment of benefits and problems with benefits.
The benefits system is complex and many changes have come in over the past few years - with more still to come. Generally benefits can depend on several things including:
- if you are working full time, part time or not at all
- if you have a disability or a health condition
- your age
- who lives with you
- if you are caring for somebody
Some benefits are based on whether you have paid enough National Insurance - these are called 'contribution-based' benefits. Others are paid because you are entitled to a basic level of income whether or not you have paid enough contributions, these means-tested benefits are also referred to as 'income-based' benefits.
Some benefits do not depend on either of these things, but are paid because you have additional needs such as a disability.
Some benefits are given because of your care needs. This means that you need help with looking after yourself or you need supervision because you are a danger to yourself or others. If you have a terminal illness you are automatically treated as having care needs.
For many benefits you need to be resident in the UK and have been here for a certain period before claiming. You may not be able to claim if you are subject to certain immigration controls. In these situations seek further advice before making a claim.
Useful links to information
If you're sick or disabled, you might be able to claim benefits like Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Citizens Advice can help (CAB).
Details of other organisations who can help can be found in our Community Directory.
Applying for benefits
You can apply for benefits online or over the telephone.
Benefits calculators allow you (or someone on your behalf) to enter information about yourself online and find which benefits are available to you. Here are two on-line benefit calculators for your use:
There are many more benefits available to consider, below are some examples, but there are more to choose from:
- Attendance Allowance
- Incapacity Benefit
- Jobseeker's Allowance
- Pension Credit
- Severe Disablement Allowance
- Retirement Allowance
- Carer's Allowance
Contact your Citizens Advice for advice and help.
The state pension age is under review and may change again in the future. To keep up to date check Government advice.
Housing Benefit is to help pay your rent if you're on a low income or you claim benefits. If you own your own home you can get help to pay your mortgage interest instead if you qualify.
Housing Benefit is being replaced for some people by Universal Credit.
To check if you are eligible to claim contact Dorset Council Housing Benefits section or seek advice.
For some of the income-related means-tested benefits, including Universal Credit, you may be able to get some help with your mortgage interest payments. It is a good idea to speak to a Citizens Advice Bureau or a financial advisor.
There are two elements to Pension Credit: the 'guarantee' element tops up your income to a set level. The 'savings' pension credit element may mean you can get a top-up even if you have a modest level of savings; this element can only be claimed from the age of 65. You can get both types of pension credit and other benefits at the same time.
If you will reach State Pension Age on or after 6 April 2016, you can only get the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit.
If you are able to claim Pension Credit and do not live in a care home you are also likely to be eligible for help with fuel costs in the winter, including Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments.
Pension Credit claim line: 0800 99 1234
Jobseeker's Allowance is payable if you are not working, or working under 16 hours a week, and you are seeking work. There were two types, one based on your National Insurance contributions, and the other based on your income.
If you are seeking work and living on a low income you will now need to claim Universal Credit instead, but you should check any entitlement to contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance as well.
You can call Jobcentre Plus claim line 0800 055 6688 for advice about Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA).
Keeping warm in winter
Winter Fuel Payment
The Winter Fuel Payment is an annual one-off payment to help you pay for heating during the winter. Anyone born on or before 5 April 1954 can get it, if you live in the UK or another eligible country.
Cold Weather Payment
Cold Weather Payments are one-off payments to help you pay for extra heating costs when it's very cold. You'll get a payment each time the temperature drops below a specific temperature for a set period of time.
You'll only be eligible if you already get:
- pension credit
- income support
- income-based jobseeker's allowance
- income-related employment and support allowance
- universal credit
Warm Homes Discount
You might be able to get £140 off your electricity bill under the Warm Home Discount Scheme if you either:
- get the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit
- are on a low income
Check with your supplier to see if they offer the Warm Home Discount - not all suppliers are part of the scheme.
If you've applied for the Warm Home Discount but you switch supplier before you get the payment, you have to apply again with your new supplier. Your new supplier might have different rules about who gets the discount. This doesn't affect you if you get the discount automatically, without having to apply.
More information and advice
Your local Citizens Advice can provide advice and help.