Whatever your income or situation it is important to know if you’re entitled to benefits. Whilst the criteria for the different benefits, credits and bursaries in the UK range wildly, this page aims to set up a summative list of those available to individuals asking the question “Am I entitled to benefits?” This page will give you some clarity over the range of tax credits and benefits available to those in the UK. They relate to a range of needs and situations including how to claim if you are working or unemployed, a parent, a young or older person, separated, sick or disabled. There may also be information on how to claim additional costs such as on housing or as part of compensation claims for mis-sold loans and wayleave payments.
Am I entitled to benefits related to Coronavirus?
- Claims and benefits related to Coronavirus – There is a chance that individuals and families may be able to claim support if they have been adversely affected by the Coronavirus pandemic in the UK. This could include support where your income has been significantly impacted. For example, where an individual is self-employed there is a good chance that earnings will have been significant impacted upon. It could also be because a person has needed to cease self-employment in order to adapt or has been made redundant.
- Claim financial support if you are self-isolating – There are various grants and support benefits you can claim if you have to self-isolate. They apply where you have to cease working in order to self-isolate (ie – not all apply if you’re able to carry on working remotely). Contact your local council as they may have budget allocations to support a payment referred to as a ‘self-isolation payment‘. These payments are for £500 and you’ll have to prove you were unable to work (or have been instructed to isolate by the NHS). You should also be aware of your employer’s sickness and absence policy and how this applies to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). If you’re asked to furlough from your employer they should pay you accordingly and you should not be asked to carry out any work duties during this time. Employment and Support Allowance is also an option to be explored, but it is often the weaker of the two options between SSP and ESA. They cannot be claimed together but can be claimed on top of the self-isolation payment from councils.
- Am I entitled to food support for my family or child? – If you are struggling to make ends meet you may wish to look into your local foodbank and what they can provide to support you. There’s also a large number of parents of school-aged children in the UK who are eligible for free school meals but do not register to claim. Contact your child’s school office and they’ll be able to advise if you’re eligible and how to get set up. You can read more about free school meals on the Citizen’s Advice website.
Am I entitled to benefits as a single parent?
If you’re divorcing or separating from your partner the very first thing to do is try to maintain a positive relationship. Whether it is for your dependents or for peace of mind and comfort when dealing with financial linkage, you need to be able to talk as it makes things easier. However, if your income has dropped, there are some benefits you can claim as a single person. There are also certain benefits you can claim if you’re now a lone parent and you are classed as the main parent (note it’s important to understand that the main parent is referred to as the parent carrying out the majority of tasks for the child, not just where they spend their nights). Sometimes the Child Maintenance Service can be crude in terms to context and if you use the CMS calculator many factors aren’t taken into account.
With this in mind, informal financial agreements are best. They are best because they allow separated parents to adapt what they pay depending on the needs and care of their children. They also have no fees charged whereas the Child Maintenance Service will change both the paying account and the receiving account a fee if their payment services are used. If relationships are bad and your ex-partner is potentially creative with their financial needs and those of your shared dependents (or just a nightmare to deal with) then a final consent order as part of a divorce, or payment via the CMS may be needed. Note that Child Maintenance is not counted as income for the purposes of Universal Credit.
Once separated, you may wish to make the move to Universal Credit claims which covers many of the benefits historically claimed separately such as:
- Income Support (IS)
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit.
- Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) – Note this is a loan
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
Can I claim Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is slowly replacing the various credits and benefits the UK government has provided over the years. Universal Credit payments vary in value depending on the amount you earn and your individual situation. If you already claim furlough payments or payments from the Self-employment Income Support Scheme this may also affect the amounts you may receive. You might be able to get Universal Credit if your situation is familiar to those below:
- You’re looking to claim based on having a low income (including so-called “zero hours” contracts)
- You’re looking to claim based on being a carer of a dependent
- You’re looking to claim based on a disability, illness or recognised condition.
- You’re looking to claim Universal Credit based on not working or being unemployed
In general, it’s best to look to the GOV.uk Universal Credit section and apply for that first if eligible, rather than other specific benefits. You can always apply for others later once set up for UC payments. If you’re unsuccessful in claiming Universal Credit you may be able to claim the following:
- Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) – This can be claimed if you are out of work.
- Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – This can be claimed if you’re out of work or can’t work because of an illness, disability or life-limiting condition.
My child gets DLA, am I entitled to benefits?
If you have a child who has a disability or long-term health condition, there’s a good chance you might be entitled to a Disability Living Allowance (DLA). This payment allowance is designed to support you in providing care and everyday support for the needs of your dependent child. Below are some of the disability benefits, payments and entitlements that your child could qualify for:
This allowance is payable if you are spending at least 35 hours a week caring for a dependent. This would need to be a child in receipt of the middle or higher rate care payment of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA). It is also claimable for the care of a child under the daily living part of a Personal Independent Payment (PIP). This would only apply where the child is over 16 years of age in the UK. The allowance can be claimed by contacting your local JobCentre Plus or benefits office nearby. You may also be able to claim Income Support if you’re unable to work due to the needs of your dependent child.
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) Claims
The Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a payment designed to cover some of the extra costs associated with a disability. It can be used to contribute towards the costs of your child’s daily living or mobility due to a long-term health condition or a life-limiting disability. The most useful thing about DLA is it is not means-tested and therefore not dependent on you having a low income or limited savings.
Parents or carers can access the DLA for children and dependents aged three months to 16 years of age. It currently ranges from around £24 per week to £153 per week and is claimed directly through the GOV.uk website.
Claiming a Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
I’ve referred to a Personal Independence Payment earlier in this article, It’s effectively the same as DLA but used for children and dependents aged over 16 and under the pensionable age. It’s assessed in exactly the same way as the DLA and therefore it will be accessible to most regardless of their financial, housing or employment circumstances.
If your child is aged 16 you can register for PIP help via the PIP claim line on 0800 9172 222. Note this line is separate from the GOV.uk details used to access the DLA above.
Am I entitled to support with housing and mortgage costs?
More often than not the utilities and providers associated with home ownership will want to be seen to be supporting families in need. If you’re trying to cut your energy costs, contact your provider to make them aware of your circumstances. Most will openly discuss ways to manage energy usage (including better smart energy tariffs), initiatives such as smart meter switchouts, payment holidays and payment plans.
Council Tac costs can be partially covered if you have a dependent child with a disability or life-limiting condition. As long as you’re the person responsible for the Council Tax payments, you can contact your local council via their website to find out more about potential discounts or contributions.
You can also look into the Universal Credit housing costs element. This is particularly accessible if a child in your household has a disability or long-term health condition and can be used to pay towards the costs of your home. Note that Universal Credit has replaced Housing Benefit. Therefore if you need support because you’re on a low income, you could claim the housing costs element of Universal Credit to help pay rent or housing costs. Importantly, this is paid as a loan. Contact the JobCentre Plus nearby or your council benefits office to find out more.
If you already have eligibility for certain benefits in place you may also be able to automatically claim cold weather payments. You don’t need to apply for this. If you’re eligible for a Cold Weather Payment, you’ll receive it where the temperature has dropped below freezing for seven days in a row. This applies, in general, to both those of retirement age and those with a disability or mobility need.
What am I entitled to benefits in relation to debt relief, payment holidays or payment breaks?
If you have significant amounts of debt, always look to a FCA regulated Independent Financial Adviser for advice. Whether you need to consolidate loans or manage payment plans, they’ll always put your needs first. There are some things you can begin looking into yourself though, particularly if you’ve taken on short term ‘pay day’ loans.
Am I entitled to benefits and claims for unaffordable mis-sold loans or credit agreements?
You’ve most likely heard of companies like Wonga, Sunny, Payday Advance or The Money Shop? They’re all companies that specialise in profitable short term loans with high APRs. A large number of them supply ill-checked loans that are not affordable. If you have used a company like this it is well worth searching the agreement and putting in a claim if you feel it should never have been sold to you due to your circumstances. Many people have been mis-sold these loans where the loan companies have not asked the right questions or checked a families affordability to pay back the loans easily and without impact.
Because many people are now claiming compensation for mis-sold loans from companies like Moneyshop, the companies are going under it into administration under the strain of the payouts. Whilst it’s good that these companies are vanishing from the high street, it does mean that claims for unaffordability are being missed when the companies fold. It’s vitally important you put in claims for mis-sold, unaffordable loans as soon as you can to stand a good chance of decent compensation, otherwise, you may end up with a few pennies per pound you’re entitled to. If you need help with debts, The PayPlan website is a great place to start.
Can I claim payment holidays or am I entitled to benefits or breaks for my rent or mortgage?
Mortgage holidays related to the Covid 19 pandemic ceased to be available from March 31st 2021. Whilst they may still be available from individual mortgage lenders depending on your terms and conditions, they are vastly different to coronavirus mortgage payment holidays which were essentially compulsory for lenders. A Coronvirus payment holiday on your mortgage also had no effect on your credit file whereas a standard holiday may do as it will show up on your credit file, potentially impacting your credit score.
A standard mortgage payment holiday is an agreement put in place directly with your lender. If you’ve used a mortgage broker, they may be able to assist you with this, but usually going direct to the lender is easy and straight forwards. If your mortgage lender allows you to temporarily reduce or cease your monthly repayments it will add breathing space to form a plan to budget and take stock of expenses and debts.
Depending on your individual circumstances and lender, mortgage payment holidays can be put in place for up to 6 months in duration. Not all mortgage products allow this feature which is why it’s so important to choose a flexible mortgage product right for your needs, even if it’s not the cheapest. If your mortgage product doesn’t change early repayment costs or allows over-payments, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to take payment holidays. For example, when I last checked Nationwide offered any overpayments to be used as a reserve that could be dipped back into in times of need as an artificial buffer zone.
Your eligibility will depend on the terms of the mortgage, your currents financial situation and your previous payment reliability with the lender. If you lose your job or have unexpected temporary changes to your circumstances (like maternity/paternity leave), there may be other payment options like reductions or pausing of account. If you successfully get a mortgage payment reduction of holiday it’s important to note that the debt reduces slower and it may impact future payment amounts.