Here’s our guide to what you might be eligible for, although the actual amount you could get will depend on your individual circumstances. To find out your potential entitlement, log on to the website www.turn2us.org.uk and use the Benefits Calculator. This will let you know which benefits and tax credits you might qualify for, as well as how you can make a claim.
Alternatively, check out www.entitledto.co.uk.
Families on low incomes may be eligible for the new Universal Credit, which is a single benefit payment designed to replace six existing benefits. The new system is being rolled out across the whole of England, Scotland and Wales in stages from October 2013 until 2017.
The benefits that Universal Credit will eventually replace throughout the UK are Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit.
You must be aged at least 18 to make a claim, but you will only qualify if you have a low income and minimal savings. Universal Credit will offer a basic allowance, as well as several other elements, including a child element, which you are entitled to if you are responsible for a child who lives with you. There is also childcare element, for people who have to pay for childcare while they go out to work.
If Universal Credit hasn’t yet been rolled out where you live, then you may qualify for benefits under the existing Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit system.
If you have children and you and your partner are both working, but each of you earns less than £50,000 a year, then you will also be entitled to receive Child Benefit. This is worth £20.30 a week for the first child and £13.40 for each child after that, which adds up to £1,752 a year for families with two children.
If one or each of you earns between £50,000 and £60,000 you will receive some Child Benefit, but if one of you earns £60,000 or more, you aren’t entitled to receive any Child Benefit at all.
If you are out of work, and have minimal savings, then you should be entitled to receive benefits.
Previously, the main benefit for those on low incomes would have been Income Support, but this is now being replaced by Universal Credit. Income Support is paid to people who aren’t able to look for work, for example, single parents with children aged five or under, or people caring for someone else.
You may be eligible for Jobseekers’ Allowance and Housing Benefit too, which are also being replaced by Universal Credit. Housing Benefit is paid to people who cannot afford to pay their rent because they are on a low income, while Jobseeker’s Allowance is paid to those who are trying to find a job.
If you are working but are on a very low wage, you may be able to get help from the Working Tax Credit. People on low incomes could also be eligible for Council Tax Reduction – the most you can get is a 100% reduction so you don’t have to pay any Council Tax at all.
Older people and those suffering from ill-health
Certain benefits are designed specifically for older people or those suffering from ill-health.
Pension Credit is one of the most important benefits for older people, as it guarantees a minimum income for those aged 60 or over.
If you are aged 65 or over and need help with your care, you might also qualify for Attendance Allowance. You’ll need to show you aren’t able to perform certain activities such as dressing or washing without help.
Remember too that all people over the age of 60 are eligible for help with their energy bills from the Winter Fuel Allowance. In 2013/14, this is £200 if you are aged up to 79, or £300 if you live in a household with someone aged 80 or above.
If you are aged 65 or under and need help looking after yourself, you may be eligible for financial help from the Disability Living Allowance, which is gradually being replaced by what is known as the Personal Independence Payment. There are two components to Disability Living Allowance, one for care, which can be as much as £79.15 a week, and one for support with mobility, which can be up to £55.25 a week. These are the weekly amounts for the 2013/14 tax year.
If you aren’t certain whether or not you are eligible to receive benefits, you should check as soon as possible, otherwise you could end up missing out on cash which could really help.
As well as Turn2Us, another useful source of information is the government’s Benefits Adviser, which explains what you can claim and what happens if your circumstances change. Find out more here: https://www.gov.uk/benefits-adviser.
Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.