State benefits and tax credits are governmental payments assigned to aid specific groups of society to meet certain financial needs and are usually intended to assist those on low incomes.
However, it can be difficult to understand and unpick the different types of state benefits, and it can often feel like a minefield of information and form-filling that you need to go through in order just to understand which benefits you are or aren’t entitled to.
In this guide we take you through the process of checking which benefits you’re entitled to, and how you can go about claiming them.
The best way to work out what benefits you are entitled to is to use an independent benefits calculator. These tools can show you what benefits are available to you, how you can claim these benefits and how these benefits will be affected if you find work in the future. They're completely free to use and we think that three of the best calculator available today include:
For information on tax credits, contribution-based and income related benefits, council tax reduction, carer’s allowance and universal credit, plus details on how starting work will affect these benefits. You can find the Entitledto benefits calculator here.
Policy in Practice
We really like this tool for information on contribution-based benefits, Council Tax Reduction, Carer’s Allowance, Universal Credit and more, plus how these are calculated and how your benefits will be affected if you start work or change your working hours. You can find the Policy in Practice benefits calculator here.
Finally, this calculator is another great resource for information on income-related benefits, tax credits, Council Tax Reduction, as well as Carer’s Allowance, Universal Credit and how all these benefits will be affected if you change your working hours or start to work. The Turn2us benefits calculator can be found here.
In order to get the most use out of these tools and to complete these benefits calculators accurately, you’ll need the latest, up to date information on you and (if applicable) your partner’s income, your savings, your council tax bill (if applicable), any existing benefits, pensions and any outgoing costs; for example, things like rent, childcare and mortgage payments.
You also won’t be able to use these benefits calculators if; you’re a student, are living outside the UK, aren’t currently a British or Irish citizen, are currently living permanently in a care home, are currently in prison, or if you’re on strike from any form of paid employment.
For more information on these benefits calculators and how to use them effectively you can visit GOV.UK here.
The benefit cap is a limit on the total amount of benefits you are entitled to receive, and it applies to most people aged 16 or over who have not yet reached the State Pension age. The amount that your household gets from some benefits may be reduced at different times to ensure that you do not get more than the allowable cap limit for your household. The benefit cap takes into consideration and impacts the following types of state benefits:
- Bereavement Allowance
- Child Benefits
- Child Tax Credits
- Employment & Support Allowance
- Housing Benefit
- Incapacity Benefit
- Income Support
- Jobseekers Allowance
- Maternity Allowance
- Severe Disablement Allowance
- Widowed Parent's Allowance
- Universal Credit
The amount of money that you can receive before you are deemed to have reached the benefit cap is dependent on a variety of different factors, for example, if you live inside of Greater London or not, whether you’re single or in a couple (this refers to whether you live together or not; if you’re in a couple but live separately, you’ll still get the applicable benefit amounts of a single person), and if your children live with you and you’re single.
How to make a Claim
To claim a benefit, the process is dependent upon what the actual benefit is, as each benefit has its own individual claiming process.
What’s certain in each case is that you will have to fill out a form, or make a telephone call while providing evidence to support your claim; typically you will be required to provide your National Insurance number, as well as evidence of your identity, current income and any applicable savings.
You can follow the links below for detailed instructions on ho you can claim each of these different state benefits:
- Claim Bereavement Allowance
- Claim Child Benefits
- Claim Child Tax Credits
- Claim Employment & Support Allowance
- Claim Housing Benefit
- Claim Incapacity Benefit
- Claim Income Support
- Claim Jobseekers Allowance
- Claim Maternity Allowance
- Claim Severe Disablement Allowance
- Claim Widowed Parent's Allowance
- Claim Universal Credit
Once your claim for a particular benefit is approved, you will receive this in the form of a direct payment to your bank, building society or post office account of choice; with a few notable exceptions.
- Council tax support will usually be paid straight into your Council Tax account, and will be taken straight of your Council Tax liability on your bill;
- Housing benefits may be paid directly to your landlord if you are renting a property;
- If you have any difficulties opening or managing a bank or building society account of your own, you may have your payments paid through the Payment Exception Service; which is a way to pay benefits to people who do not have access to personal financial accounts. You can also nominate a person to receive payments on your behalf if you’re unable to receive them directly to an account of your own.
The date(s) that you receive your benefit payment(s) will depend on the benefit(s) that you have successfully claimed. Some benefits are paid weekly, every four weeks and others are monthly. Some are paid in advance, while some are paid in arrears.
If you find that you’re unhappy with the way a particular benefit claim of yours has been handled, you can contact your local authority for a statement of the standards of the service, and you can make a formal benefit complaint regardless of whether or not you have actually made a claim for a specific benefit – although of course such complaints are rare and under usual circumstances a complaint will relate specifically to a benefit claim made or a benefit which has been altered or withdrawn.
Although it’s an undoubtedly confusing topic at times, we hope that his overview now helps you to both understand whether or not you are entitled to certain benefits, including how much you can claim, and if so how you can go about making such a claim.
For even more detail on the processes around claiming different state benefits, you can visit the GOV.UK web-page covering all of this topic here.