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How to start claiming benefits

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In a previous article, we looked at what to do if you are faced with redundancy or have already been made redundant. One of the areas we mentioned in that article was benefits.

If you are in the situation of having to access benefits for the first time, it can all seem very daunting. You can feel at a loss as to what benefits might be available to you, and where to go for more information or to start claiming benefits.

But don’t be put off. You are entitled to financial help if you need it, and once you understand how everything works it will not be so overwhelming.

In this article we take a closer look at what benefits might be available to you, and how to go about claiming them.

What benefits are available in the UK?

There are a wide range of benefits available for people in different circumstances. Some of the most frequently accessed benefits include:

  • Universal Credit
  • New Style Jobseeker's Allowance
  • New Style Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Support with Mortgage Interest
  • Council Tax Support
  • Personal Independence payment
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Carers Allowance

For a complete list of UK benefits, see the Gov UK website.

In our last article we referred to two of the above benefits that may be of particular relevance if you are faced with redundancy or have recently been made redundant. These are:

New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

JSA can be claimed for up to six months (irrespective of either your savings or your partner’s income) if you are unemployed or work less than 16 hours a week, and have paid sufficient National Insurance contributions for the previous 2 tax years. It pays £74.35 a week if you are over 25; £58.90 a week if you are under 25.

Universal Credit

You can apply for Universal Credit if you and your partner have £16,000 or less in savings between you. The amount of money you will get under Universal Credit depends on your age and circumstances. There is a standard allowance which ranges from £342.72 to £594.04 per month depending on your age and whether you are a single or joint claimant.

On top of the standard allowance, you may also be eligible for additional allowances such as children, childcare, carer, limited capability for work-related activity and housing costs.

Be aware that if you are already receiving any legacy benefits that Universal Credit replaced - for example income support, housing benefit, child tax credit or working tax credit - these payments will come to and end if you make a claim for Universal Credit. So make sure that you look at the whole picture when applying for benefits. Read on for further advice.

How do I know if I am eligible for any benefits?

The best thing to do is to use an independent benefits calculator. This will provide you with impartial advice as to whether you are receiving all the benefits to which you are entitled. .

Fair Finance has a free online benefits calculator which enables you to check all the benefits and grants you are eligible for. It is quick and easy to use. All you need to do is answer some simple questions about your circumstances, your household and your finances.

The calculator will then search for information about all the possible benefits and grants you could claim. It will calculate how much money you are entitled to and advise what you have to do to claim your benefits.

The Fair Finance benefits calculator will also provide information about organisations that offer free and independent money advice. They can help to answer all your queries regarding your benefit claims and make sure that your applications are correct.

When using one of the above benefits calculators, make sure you have all your financial information to hand, including:

  • Your current income;
  • Your partner’s current income;
  • Any savings;
  • Any existing benefits or pensions for anyone in your household;
  • Financial commitments eg rent, mortgage, childcare payments;
  • Your Council Tax bill.

These details will enable the benefits calculator to provide you with accurate information about what you are entitled to.

How do I go about claiming benefits?

Once you have a clearer idea about the benefits you may be eligible for, there are details on the Gov UK website of how to apply. This can usually be done online, but there is also a phone number to contact as well/instead.

To ensure that you have the most up to date information, the best thing to do is to check the Gov UK website benefits page and navigate through to the benefit that you want to claim.

The current contact details for the two benefits we referred to earlier are:

New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

Apply online on the Gov UK website or
Phone Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688

Universal Credit

Apply online on the Gov UK website or
Phone the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 (choose option 3)

Note that if you live with a partner - whether or not you are married - you will need to make a joint application for Universal Credit.

The Citizens Advice Bureau also has dedicated phone helplines for those applying for Universal Credit for the first time. The numbers are:
England - 0800 144 8444
Wales - 0800 024 1220
Scotland - 0800 023 2581

We hope the information above is helpful if you are in the position of needing to access benefits, perhaps for the first time.

You may also be concerned about the impact of claiming benefits on the rest of your finances, for example if you want to take out a loan. Just to put your mind at rest, at Fair Finance we offer loans for people on benefits, so your change of financial circumstances will not count against you in this respect.

If you need any additional financial assistance during this transition time, do not hesitate to get in touch with us at Fair Finance to see how we may be able to help.

Check back here soon for more financial and lifestyle tips from Fair Finance.

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