State Benefits are financial support paid by the Government to people in certain circumstances to meet their day to day living needs. They are also sometimes called allowances, pensions, tax credits or entitlements, but all are designed to make sure no one falls below a minimum standard of living. There are many different Benefits that can be claimed, however when we speak with clients many are unaware of the range of State Benefits that they could be entitled to. For example, Age UK reports that each year £3.5 billion of Pension Credit and Housing benefit goes unclaimed by older people.
This article introduces some of the main Benefits but there are many more available for many different circumstances.
The State Pension
The State Pension is probably the most well-known benefit, and the basic amount currently stands at £168.60 per week, however the amount you are entitled to may be more or less than this, depending on your National Insurance contributions during your workling life. If you have not yet reached your State Pension Age you can obtain a State Pension forecast online at www.yourpension.gov.uk to see how much you are likely to receive and when you will qualify for payments.
The State Pension Age is increasing to age 66 from October 2020 with a further proposed increase to age 67 by 2028.
If you are already receiving your State Pension, you may qualify for Pension Credit, which has two elements:
• Guarantee Credit which tops up your weekly income to a guaranteed minimum level of £167.25 if you’re single or £255.25 if you’re a couple; and/or
• Savings Credit which is only available to people who reached State Pension age before 6 April 2016 and can give you £13.73 extra per week if you’re single or £15.35 if you’re a couple.
You can claim Pension Credit by calling their claim line on 0800 99 1234.
What other benefits are on offer?
There are many other age related State Benefits available such as free prescriptions or free local bus travel for over 60s – and free TV license for over 70s, but this is planned to be means tested from next year.
The Winter Fuel Payment
The Winter Fuel Payment is available to everyone over age 65 who is resident in the UK and it can help with heating costs over the winter. You are entitled to receive a one off payment of £200 if you are under 80 and £300 if you are over 80. This benefit should be automatically paid in November or December. To claim the Winter Fuel Payment, you can call the Winter Payment helpline on 0800 731 0160 with your National Insurance number and your bank or building society details.
It is always important to accept the benefits on offer while they are available.
You can get help paying for childcare if it’s provided by a:
• registered childminder, playscheme, nursery or club
• childminder with an Ofsted-registered childminding agency
• registered school
• home careworker working for a registered home care agency
You can apply for Tax-Free Childcare online at www.gov.uk
Carers Allowance is available for carers and you don’t have to be related to or live with the person you care for. The payment is £66.15 per week (usually paid every four weeks), you have to:
– spend at least 35 hours a week caring for a disabled person
– care for someone who receives either rate of Personal Independence Payment daily living component, or any rate of Attendance Allowance, or the higher-rate or middle-rate care component of Disability Living Allowance
– not earn more than £123 a week (after deductions)
– not be in full-time education.
To apply, please contact the Carer’s Allowance Unit on 0800 731 0297 for a claim form.
State support for long term illnesses and disabilities
Personal Independence Payment is payable to anyone under State Pension Age who has a long-term illness or disability which is affecting their ability to carry out daily activities or their mobility. This benefit is not means tested or dependent on National Insurance contributions you have made and is replacing the Disability Living Allowance. Payments are assessed on two areas, firstly your ability to carry out daily tasks, with the standard weekly payment ranging from £58.70 to £87.65, and secondly your mobility, with weekly payments ranging from £23.20 to £61.20.
If you want to make a claim, please call the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on 0800 917 2222 for a claim form.
Attendance Allowance is the equivalent benefit available after State Pension Age with weekly payments starting at £58.70 if you need help day or night increasing to £87.65 if help is needed day and night.
You can get a claim form by calling the Attendance Allowance helpline on 0800 731 0122 or from www.gov.uk.
There are also many means tested benefits available such as Universal Credit which can support lower earners in retirement and it can also have additional financial benefits such as Council Tax exemption.
Home Improvement Grants
Many people have to adapt their homes to suit their own needs in old age which can be costly or they may face the prospect of leaving their homes. Disabled Facilities Grants are available if you’re disabled and need to make changes to your home, for example to:
• widen doors and install ramps
• improve access to rooms and facilities – e.g. stairlifts or a downstairs bathroom
• provide a heating system suitable for your needs
• adapt heating or lighting controls to make them easier to use
You can apply for a Disabled Facility Grant through your local council who will assess your application.
Bereavement Support is available to anyone in the event of the death of their wife, husband or civil partner. Bereavement Support payment is a tax free initial lump sum payment of £2,500 (or, if you have children, £3,500) and a further 18 monthly tax free instalments of £100 (or, if you’re eligible for Child Benefit, £350) which can provide valuable financial support at a time of personal and financial distress.
If you are looking for support, please contact the Bereavement Service helpline on 0800 731 0469.
How can Origen help
These State Benefits can help you and your loved ones in a time of need and also provide a regular income to support your standard of living. Many benefits are not means tested and so are available to anyone who meets the qualifying criteria. If you are employed you should also check any employer benefits available which often include support with childcare costs, flexible working and travel loans to provide financial support.
To find out more about these benefits or to apply you should contact www.gov.uk. Ask your Origen adviser to find out how they can support you in making sure you receive the support and benefits available to you and to review your financial plans and objectives.