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9 Welfare benefits

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1. Introduction

2. Who can claim benefits?

3. If you have a low income
If you have a low income, you can claim several benefits that can give you a basic amount to live on. To get them, you will need to pass a 'means test', so you will have to give details of all your income and savings. If you live with a partner, a civil partner or your husband or wife, their income and savings are also taken into account when deciding if you can get these benefits.

Income Support
This is available to people on a low income who do not have to look for work before they can receive benefit, such as:

  • carers of disabled people;
  • lone parents with children (currently children under 16, but changing to children under 12 from November 2008); and
  • people who are sick or disabled (if you are claiming for the first time, from November 2008 you will get income-related Employment and Support Allowance instead of Income Support)..

To claim, you must be under 60 years old and not working, or working less than 16 hours a week. If you have a partner who lives with you, you can get Income Support only if they too are not working or work less than 24 hours a week.

If you claim Income Support and you are the parent of a child who lives with you, but whose other parent lives elsewhere, for now you will be treated as having applied to the Child Support Agency (CSA). You will have to give information about the child's other parent, unless this would put you or your children at risk. If you keep back this information without a good reason for doing so, your Income Support may be reduced. The Government plans to end the rule that treats people on Income Support as having applied to the CSA, by the end of 2008.

Jobseeker's Allowance
You may get this if you are looking for work - see 'If you are unemployed'.

Working Tax Credit
This is to help top up low earnings. You may qualify if:

  • you have a child or are disabled, and you or someone you live with as your partner works for 16 hours or more a week;
  • you are over 50, have been on benefits and then start working for 16 hours or more a week; or
  • you (or your partner) are over 25 and work for at least 30 hours a week.

The Social Fund
This is a system of loans and grants to help cover unexpected costs or payments for certain events, such as funeral or maternity expenses, or furniture and household equipment. Most Social Fund payments are for people who are already on one of the means-tested benefits.

Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit
These are paid by your local authority (council) and can help pay your rent or council tax if you have a low income, whether or not you are working.

Mortgage interest costs
Some or all of the interest on your mortgage may be paid for you if you have a mortgage on your home and you qualify for Income Support, Pension Credit or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance. The mortgage interest costs will normally be paid direct to the bank or building society you have your mortgage with. You may not get these costs paid when you first receive benefit, because there is usually a waiting period. It may be several months before you get the full amount, and even then it may not cover all your mortgage payments.

You may be able to get other types of help if you are on a low income and have children to support. See 'If you have children to look after'.

4. If you are having a baby or adopting a child

5. If you have children to look after

6. If you are unemployed

7. If you are ill and can´t work

8. If you have a disability

9. If you are just starting work

10. If you have retired or are about to retire

11. If your husband, wife or civil partner dies

12. Where do I claim?

13. What must I do when I claim?

14. What if I disagree with a decision about my claim?

15. What if I´ve been badly treated?

16. The Human Rights Act

17. Further help

18. About this leaflet

This leaflet is published by the Gurkha Free Legal Advice (LSC). It was written in association with Rachel Hadwen, a specialist in welfare rights.

Leaflet Version: June 2008

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