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1 Ninth edition December MS Essentials For people living with MS Benefits and MS Contents see page 2 03 What is happening to the benefits system in the UK? 06 Disability benefits 14 Unable to work 17 Able to work 20 Children 22 Students 23 Pensions and National Insurance credits 26 Home and bills 32 Transport 34 The benefit cap 35 Universal Credit 36 Frequently asked questions 40 Further information 41 Useful organisations This publication is available in large print Call or If you have multiple sclerosis (MS), or care for someone who does, you may be entitled to benefits, tax credits or other financial help. If you already receive benefits, you may want to consider regularly reviewing your entitlement to benefits and tax credits because the rules often change. In addition, if your MS symptoms change, your entitlement may change. This booklet is not a complete list of benefits and tax credits. For example, it does not cover benefits for special situations such as industrial injuries, maternity or bereavement: this is a simplified guide to a very complicated system. But it is a useful first step in discovering which benefits you might be able to claim. Advice agencies can offer bespoke, tailored advice about which benefits you are entitled to and, if there is a choice, which it would be best to claim.

2 Contents What is happening to the benefits system in the UK? Disability benefits Attendance Allowance Carer s Allowance Disability Living Allowance (DLA) Income Support Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Unable to work Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Statutory Sick Pay Able to work Jobseeker s Allowance Working Tax Credit Children Child Benefit Child Tax Credit Students Disabled Students Allowance Pensions and National Insurance credits State Pension Pension Credit National Insurance credits Home and bills Budgeting Loans Council Tax Reduction Disabled Facilities Grants Housing Benefit Payments towards fuel costs TV Licence concessions Transport Blue Badge Concessions on public transport Motability Vehicle Excise Duty exemption The benefit cap Universal Credit Frequently asked questions Further information Useful organisations 2

3 What is happening to the benefits system in the UK? The UK benefits system is currently going through its largest overhaul in 50 years. There will be a crossover period of several years as the government phases in new benefits to replace old ones. This means that, for a few years, the rules about applying for benefits and what you are entitled to will differ depending on where you live, what you need and when you start to claim. These changes include the introduction of: Personal Independence Payment (PIP) to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for people between the ages of 16 and State Pension age (see page 23) Universal Credit (UC) to replace six current benefits (see page 35) a benefit cap, which limits the total amount you can receive in benefits payments (see page 34) Throughout this guide we have tried to make it clear which benefits will be affected by these changes. However, as the timings for these changes differ across the UK, we cannot be specific about what changes will affect you as an individual and when. For more information on when these changes may affect you, you can speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau. If you are receiving one of the benefits that is being phased out, you do not need to do anything until the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) contacts you and lets you know what you need to do. Benefits checker Benefit and tax credit systems are complicated. The chart overleaf can help you decide which benefits you may be able to claim. First, decide which box in the left-hand column most accurately describes your current situation, then look along the row to see the benefits you might be eligible for. You can find out more about each benefit in the following pages. 3

4 Your current situation Benefits you may be able to claim Attendance Allowance (65 yrs+) Carer s Allowance Disability Living Allowance (under 16 years) Income Support Personal Independence Payment (16 to State Pension age) Employment and Support Allowance Statutory Sick Pay Jobseeker s Allowance Working Tax Credit Council Tax Reduction Housing Benefit Universal Credit Page 06 Page 07 Page 09 Page 10 Page 11 Page 14 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 27 Page 29 Page 35 I am too ill to work at all at the moment but I have a job I am too ill to work at all and I do not have a job I am unemployed but available for and actively seeking work I am working fewer than 16 hours a week* I am working 16 hours or more a week* I am too ill to work, but I can do Permitted Work** I am under 16 and live at home I care for someone with MS, which prevents me from working * The amount you work, or the amount you are paid, can affect your entitlement to certain benefits. Always ask for advice if you are unsure how work might affect your benefits ** Permitted Work is work that you are allowed to do for a limited number of hours and still be counted as unable to work for the purpose of claiming Employment and Support Allowance. For more information, see page

5 Disability benefits Attendance Allowance Carer s Allowance Disability Living Allowance (DLA) Income Support Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Attendance Allowance What is it? Who is it for? What can I get? What else do I need to know? Attendance Allowance is a benefit paid to people aged 65 or over who have an illness or disability and, as a result, need help with personal care or supervision, or both. You can claim Attendance Allowance if you are aged 65 or over and have a disability that means you either have difficulty with personal care (for example, getting in and out of bed, bathing, toileting, dressing, eating or dealing with medication) or need supervision to prevent danger to yourself or others. You will not need to switch to Attendance Allowance if you began claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP) before your 65th birthday. Attendance Allowance is paid at two different rates, depending on the level of support you need. To get the higher rate you must need care or supervision both day and night. You do not have to be getting the care or supervision you need to claim, but you must have needed the care or supervision for at least six months before your award can begin. You can get Attendance Allowance even if: you are working you are getting any other benefits, including State Pension or Carer s Allowance your partner or spouse works you have savings you live alone and no-one is providing care for you you already have someone, a partner for example, providing care for you you don t want anyone to provide care for you 6

6 Other Benefits How is it paid? How do I apply for it? Attendance Allowance is tax free, does not depend on how much National Insurance you have paid and is not affected by any earnings or pension you may have. If you receive Attendance Allowance, you may be entitled to higher payments of other benefits, such as Pension Credit (see page 24) or Housing Benefit (see page 29). Usually, payments are made directly into your bank, building society or Post Office account every four weeks. To claim, you need to call the Attendance Allowance helpline on or textphone to ask for a claim form. You can also visit to download a form, or to claim online. Carer s Allowance What is it? Who is it for? Carer s Allowance is a benefit you may be able to get if you look after someone with MS for at least 35 hours a week. To apply, you must: be aged at least 16 (there is no upper age limit) spend at least 35 hours a week providing care for a person receiving one of the following benefits: Attendance Allowance, the daily living component of PIP, or the middle or highest rate of the care component of DLA earn less than 100 a week (net) from employment that is, after deducting tax, National Insurance contributions, half of any payment you make towards an occupational or personal pension and certain allowable care costs not be in full-time education (21 hours or more a week) The person you care for does not have to live with you. What can I get? Although Carer s Allowance is a set amount, it is taxable and, depending on your circumstances, may be subject to the benefit cap (see page 34). So the amount you can get is different for everyone. If you are claiming Carer s Allowance, you may be able to get this topped up by Income Support (see page 10) or Pension Credit (see page 24). 7

7 What else do I need to know? Other benefits Benefit cap If you are a carer for a partner or child under 18, you will not be affected by the benefit cap (see page 34 for more information). However, if you care for someone other than your partner, including other relatives who may live with you, or if you care for an adult child, you may be subject to the benefit cap. The rules are complicated, so you may want to seek specialist benefits advice (see Useful organisations on page 41). Before you claim Carer s Allowance, check to see if the person you care for receives any severe disability premiums (additional money paid from benefits such as Income Support or Housing Benefit). If they do, they may lose this premium if you are awarded Carer s Allowance. Overlapping benefit rule Usually, if you are entitled to two income-replacement benefits, such as Carer s Allowance and State Pension, you won t be paid for both. This is known as the overlapping benefit rule. Instead, you will be paid whichever of the benefits is higher. The money you would miss out on would still be paid to you in the form of premiums on other benefits, such as the extra amount for carers in Pension Credit. So it is worth applying for Carer s Allowance even if you cannot actually be paid it. The rules are complicated, so you may want to seek further advice (see Useful organisations on page 41). How is paid? How do I apply for it? You can choose to be paid either weekly in advance, or every four or 13 weeks. Payments are made directly into your bank, building society or Post Office account. To claim Carer s Allowance, you need to fill out a claim form, which you can get: from your local Jobcentre Plus office or Pension Centre by calling the Carer s Allowance Unit on (or in Northern Ireland) Further information You can also visit to download a form, or to claim online. See the Changes to benefits: your questions answered section of the Carers UK website for a detailed description of what the benefit cap means for carers: 8

8 Disability Living Allowance (DLA) What is it? Who is it for? What can I get? DLA is a tax-free benefit for children (and adults with existing claims; see below) with a disability. It is not paid because you have a disability, but because of the effect your symptoms have on your life, particularly on your mobility and your ability to take care of yourself. DLA used to be available to any child or adult with MS. Now, however, for adults of working age (between the age of 16 and State Pension age), DLA is gradually being replaced with Personal Independence Payment (PIP). If you are of working age and receive DLA, you will be reassessed for PIP at some stage before October The DWP will contact you when you need to apply for PIP. Adults claiming benefits for the first time will be assessed for PIP rather than DLA. From 7 October 2013, if you are claiming DLA and your mobility or care needs change, you will be assessed for PIP rather than DLA. If, on 8 April 2013, you were aged 65 or over and in receipt of DLA, you can continue to receive it for as long as you satisfy the entitlement conditions. You will not be reassessed for PIP. For children under the age of 16 who have a disability, DLA will still be available. There are, currently, no plans to move children onto PIP. There are two separate parts (components) to DLA. The care component is given if your child has care or supervision needs. The mobility component can be claimed if your child s disability means they have difficulty getting around outdoors. What else do I need to know? How is it paid? You can only claim once your child has had problems with care or mobility (or both) for at least three months, and if these problems are expected to continue for at least six more months. DLA is a tax-free benefit and is ignored as income when working out entitlement to means-tested benefits, such as Housing Benefit or Tax Credits. If your child is awarded DLA, you may be able to get higher payments from these benefits as well as access to the Motability scheme (see page 33). Payments are made directly into your bank, building society or Post Office account every four weeks. 9

9 How do I apply for it? Further information To claim DLA, you need to call the Disability Living Allowance helpline on or textphone to ask for a claim form. You can also visit to download a form, or to claim online. Disability Rights UK has a detailed factsheet about DLA. You can download it from or call them for a copy on Income Support What is it? Who is it for? What can I get? What else do I need to know? Income Support is a means-tested benefit paid to people of working age (between 16 and State Pension age) who do not receive enough money to live on. You can apply for Income Support if you have a low income and work fewer than 16 hours a week, or if you are not working but do not claim Jobseeker s Allowance (see page 17). Income Support can also top up Carer s Allowance (see page 7) or other benefits. This will depend on your situation. You can get the basic allowance known as the personal allowance but you may also claim for a premium if you meet certain criteria. For more information on Income Support premiums visit income-support/what-youll-get The rules on who can claim Income Support are very strict. You must be of working age (between the ages of 16 and State Pension age) and either a carer, pregnant, a lone parent with a child under five or, in some cases, unable to work because you re sick or disabled and not eligible to claim Employment and Support Allowance (see page 14) or Jobseeker s Allowance (see page 17). Universal Credit Income Support is one of the benefits that is being replaced by Universal Credit. See page 35 for further information. Benefit cap Income Support may be affected by the benefit cap (see page 34). 10

10 How is it paid? How do I apply for it? Usually, payments are made directly into your bank, building society or Post Office account every two weeks. To claim Income Support, you need to pick up a claim form from your local Jobcentre Plus or call their claim line on or textphone You can also visit to download a form, or to claim online. Personal Independence Payment (PIP) What is it? Who is it for? Personal Independence Payment, also known as PIP, will gradually replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA). It is available for people of working age (between the ages of 16 and State Pension age) who have a long-term health condition or disability, which includes people with MS. Please note this is a large and complicated benefit. It is impossible to include all the details in this summary guide. However, for more detailed guidance on what PIP is and how to claim it, see our guide Claiming Personal Independence Payment. PIP is for anyone who needs help to do everyday tasks or finds it difficult to get around. Children with MS under the age of 16 are still eligible for DLA (see page 9), and people aged 65 or over can claim Attendance Allowance (see page 6). If you receive DLA, you do not need to reapply for PIP until the DWP contacts you. If your DLA award is due to end some time after 24 February 2014, you will be asked to claim PIP when your DLA is up for renewal. If you have an indefinite DLA award you will be asked to claim PIP at some time after October See our website or our factsheet Changing from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for more information. What can I get? PIP has two parts (known as components ): a daily living component for help with everyday life, for example dressing, eating, decision making a mobility component for help with getting around 11

11 Each component is paid at two different levels: a standard rate and an enhanced rate. The rate you get depends on whether your ability to carry out activities is limited or severely limited, as defined by the DWP. Whether you get paid for one or both components will depend on how your MS affects you. The Personal Independence Payment assessment What else do I need to know? The PIP assessment is a points-based assessment, which means you score points depending on how well you can perform different activities. There are 10 activities relating to your daily living needs and two activities relating to your mobility. The number of points you score will determine whether or not you are entitled to either component of PIP and, if you are, at which rate. You can only be awarded PIP once you have had daily living or mobility needs (or both) for at least three months and you expect to continue having these needs for at least another nine months. You can get PIP even if: you are working you have not paid any National Insurance contributions you are getting other benefits, such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) your partner or spouse works you have savings you live alone and no-one is providing care for you you already have someone, a partner for example, providing care for you you don t want anyone to provide care for you Other benefits PIP is a tax-free benefit and does not depend on how much National Insurance you have paid. PIP is also ignored as income when working out entitlement to means-tested benefits, such as ESA or Housing Benefit. If you receive PIP, you may be able to get higher payments from some other benefits as well as access to the Motability scheme (see page 33). 12

12 How is it paid? How do I apply for it? Further information Payments are made directly into your bank, building society or Post Office account every four weeks. You can start your claim by calling or textphone You will be asked for some basic information, such as your personal and contact details. You will then usually be sent a form to fill in: How your disability affects you. The MS Society has produced a guide to the form: Claiming Personal Independence Payment. You might want to get help from an advice agency when completing the application. Your nearest MS Society branch will have details of local sources of support. 13

13 Unable to work Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Statutory Sick Pay Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) What is it? Who is it for? ESA is the benefit paid if your ability to work is limited by ill health or disability. Please note this is a large and complicated benefit. It is impossible to include all the details in this summary guide. However, for more detailed information on what ESA is and how to claim it, see our guide Claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). You can apply for ESA if you are of working age (between the ages of 16 and State Pension age), employed, self-employed, unemployed or a student. You cannot claim if you are receiving Jobseeker s Allowance or Statutory Sick Pay. What can I get? What else do I need to know? There is an assessment phase of 13 weeks for all new ESA applications. During this phase, you will be paid ESA at a reduced rate the basic allowance. There are two elements of ESA, contributory for people who have paid enough National Insurance contributions, and income-related for people who are on a low income and have less than 16,000 in savings. You can receive either or both of these elements, depending on your circumstances. Your rate will also depend on whether you are placed in the support group or the work-related activity group. If you are placed in the support group, you will receive more money and will not be expected to do any work-related activity. If you are placed in the work-related activity group, it will be a lower amount and you will have to meet work-related conditions to keep getting the benefit. For more detailed information on what you may get, see our information booklet Claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or visit what-youll-get Universal Credit Income-related ESA is gradually being replaced by Universal Credit (see page 35). 14

14 The benefit cap The benefit cap will affect you if you are in the work-related activity group, but not if you are in the support group. Other benefits Permitted work If you are awarded income-related ESA, you are entitled to full Housing Benefit (see page 29), subject to the usual rules. If you are only entitled to contributory ESA, you will need to satisfy a means test in order to qualify for Housing Benefit. Income-related ESA may also entitle you to other benefits, for example Winter Fuel Payments (see page 30). If you are awarded income-related ESA, you qualify for automatic assistance with NHS charges such as prescriptions, vouchers for glasses and hospital travel fares. If you are only entitled to contributory ESA, you can apply for help with NHS charges under the low-income scheme, but this is means tested. If you are still receiving Incapacity Benefit or Income Support paid on the grounds of incapacity, at some point before April 2014 you will be reassessed under the Work Capability Assessment. If you are found to have a limited capability for work under this assessment, you will be moved onto ESA. If you are moved on to ESA and your award is less than you were awarded before, you will be receive a top-up, known as a transitional addition, to make sure you are not out of pocket. Be aware that the amount you receive with the top up will be frozen until the ESA rate catches up with it. When completing the forms, you might also want to get help from an advice agency. Your nearest MS Society branch will have details of local sources of support. If you are claiming ESA the general rule is that if you do any work you are treated as capable of work for that week. However, you are allowed to do a certain amount of permitted work without it affecting your ESA. The rules here allow you to: work and earn up to 20 a week work and earn up to a week doing work supervised by someone from a local council or voluntary organisation work less than 16 hours a week, earn up to a week for up to 52 weeks You do not need the support of your doctor to do permitted work, but you should always try to get advice and a benefits check from an advice agency before beginning. It is good practice to tell Jobcentre Plus before you start to ensure that they consider that the work is permitted work. 15

15 How is it paid? How do I apply for it? Usually, payments are made directly into your bank, building society or Post Office account every two weeks. In England, Scotland and Wales You can start your claim by telephoning the Jobcentre Plus claim line on or textphone They should put you through to your nearest Jobcentre Plus contact centre, who will take details of your claim over the phone. You can also download the application form from In Northern Ireland Call the ESA Contact Centre on or textphone You can also download the application form from Statutory Sick Pay What is it? Who is it for? What can I get? What else do I need to know? Statutory Sick Pay is paid by your employer if you are too ill to work. It may be relevant if you have a job but are unable to work because of a relapse. It is for anyone who is classed as an employee (including agency workers), earns a minimum of 109 per week and has been ill for four days in a row. Part-time workers also qualify for Statutory Sick Pay. Statutory Sick Pay is taxable and there are no additions for dependants. You will not be paid for the first three days that you are off sick. After that you will be paid a flat rate for up to 28 weeks. You do not need to have paid National Insurance contributions, but you do need to be earning at least 109 a week. Those without an employer, such as the unemployed and selfemployed, are not covered and should claim ESA instead. How is it paid? How do I apply for it? It should be paid automatically by your employer in the same way as your normal wages. It should be paid automatically to you, if you tell your employer when you are off sick. 16

16 Able to work Jobseeker s Allowance Working Tax Credit Jobseeker s Allowance What is it? Who is it for? Jobseeker s Allowance (JSA) is a benefit paid to someone who is not in full-time work but is actively looking for employment. You must: be unemployed (or working fewer than 16 hours a week) be capable of work be available for work be actively seeking work not be in full-time education You must also be aged at least 16 and under State Pension age. What can I get? There are two types of Jobseeker s Allowance: Contribution-based Jobseeker s Allowance This is a flat-rate payment for people who have worked and paid enough National Insurance contributions (see page 24) in the relevant years. It doesn t matter what savings you have, but your earnings (though not those of your partner or any other family member) are taken into account. Awards are limited to six months (either in a single spell, or in several linked periods of unemployment). Income-based Jobseeker s Allowance This is for people who: have received their six months of contribution-based Jobseeker s Allowance or did not pay enough National Insurance contributions to get contribution-based Jobseeker s Allowance in the first place or are entitled to have their contribution-based Jobseeker s Allowance topped up because, for example, they have a partner who does not work Whether you are entitled to income-based Jobseeker s Allowance, and how much you get, depends on your income and savings (and those of your partner, if you have one). You may also be able to get help with mortgage interest payments. 17

17 What else do I need to know? Other benefits How is it paid? How do I apply for it? Restrictions on availability for work If you have MS you can restrict your availability for work, if it is a reasonable request. For example, your MS symptoms affect the distance you can travel to work. If you decide to place restrictions on your availability that are not related to your MS, you will have to show that you still have a reasonable chance of getting work. Seek advice from your local Jobcentre Plus office before you place any restrictions. If you are awarded income-based Jobseeker s Allowance, you are entitled to full Housing Benefit, subject to the usual rules. If you are only entitled to contribution-based Jobseeker s Allowance, you will need to satisfy a means test in order to qualify for Housing Benefit. Income-based Jobseeker s Allowance may also entitle you to other benefits, for example Winter Fuel Payments (see page 30). If you are awarded income-based Jobseeker s Allowance, you qualify for automatic assistance with NHS charges such as prescriptions, vouchers for glasses and hospital travel fares. If you are only entitled to contribution-based Jobseeker s Allowance, you can apply for help with NHS charges under the low-income scheme, but this will be means tested. Usually, payments are made directly into your bank, building society or Post Office account every two weeks. You need to arrange an appointment with a member of staff at your local Jobcentre Plus. Call the claim line on or textphone to make an appointment. Working Tax Credit What is it? This is extra money paid by HM Revenue and Customs to people who usually work and are on a low income. Who is it for? It is for anyone over the age of 16 who is on a low income and usually works a certain number of hours a week. You may still be able to claim Working Tax Credit for a set period of time if you are inbetween jobs, claiming sick pay or on maternity/ paternity leave. If you have a disability, you may be entitled to additional payments on top of the basic rate. You would qualify for these extra payments if you satisfy the basic conditions and: 18

18 you can show that your MS has put you at a disadvantage in getting a job and you are receiving a qualifying disability benefit, such as DLA or PIP, or have recently been receiving a qualifying benefit, such as ESA or Incapacity Benefit (now replaced by ESA) What can I get? What else do I need to know? The amount you qualify for will depend on your circumstances, such as your income and the severity of your disability. It is advisable to seek advice about your own situation. There are different rules depending on your age and circumstances. As a general rule, when you claim you must be aged 16 or over, working and be expected to continue in work for at least four weeks. It is advisable to seek advice about your own situation. Universal Credit Working Tax Credit is gradually being replaced by Universal Credit (see page 35). How is it paid? How do I apply for it? Usually, payments are made directly into your bank, building society or Post Office account either weekly, or every four weeks. To claim Working Tax Credit, you need to call the Tax Credit helpline on or textphone for a claim form. 19

19 Children Child Benefit Child tax Credit Child Benefit What is it? What can I get? What else do I need to know? How is it paid? How do I apply for it? Child benefit is a flat-rate benefit paid if you are responsible for, and have care of (or contribute to the maintenance of), a child or young person. It is a tax-free payment unless you or your partner has an individual income of more than 50,000. There are two rates for Child Benefit: one for the eldest child and a lower one for any other children. The rate you get will change each year. See for this year s rate. Child benefit does not depend on your National Insurance contribution record and it is paid until your children reach age 16 (or 20 if they stay in full-time, non-advanced education or approved unwaged training). Payments are made directly into your bank, building society or Post Office account every four weeks. Contact the Child Benefit helpline on or textphone for a claim form. This needs posting along with the original birth certificate or adoption certificate of the child or children you are claiming for. You can also download a copy of the form from Child Tax Credit What is it? This is a means-tested benefit paid by HM Revenue and Customs if you have dependent children or young persons. It can be paid whether or not you are in work. Your child is considered a dependant until 31 August following their sixteenth birthday. After that date, you can still get Child Tax Credit for a young person up to the age of 20 if they continue in full-time, nonadvanced education, or approved unwaged training. 20

20 What can I get? What else do I need to know? Child Tax Credit is made up of a basic amount and extra payments (known as elements ). Which elements you qualify for will depend on your circumstances and income. Universal Credit Child Tax Credit is slowly being replaced by Universal Credit (see page 35). The benefit cap Child Tax Credit may be affected by the benefit cap (see page 34). How is it paid? How do I apply for it? Payments are made directly into your bank, building society or Post Office account, either weekly or every four weeks from the date of your claim up to the end of the tax year (5 April). To claim Child Tax Credit, you need to call the Tax Credit helpline on or textphone They will complete the application over the phone or they will send you a claim form to complete at home. 21

21 Students Disabled Students Allowance If you are a student, financial support in higher education depends on your individual circumstances. You may be entitled to a loan or a grant. You can continue to receive DLA or PIP while studying. If you are studying part time, you may be eligible for income-related ESA under the usual rules. If you are studying full time, you may be eligible for income-related ESA, as long as you are also getting DLA or PIP. If you are studying full time, you may be eligible for Housing Benefit in certain circumstances. Students are disregarded for Council Tax purposes. You may also be eligible for hardship funds (such as the Access to Learning Fund in England) if your income is low. Contact the student support officer responsible for financial advice at your college or university for details. If you are studying full time, you are not eligible for Carer s Allowance. Disabled Students Allowance If you are in higher education and your MS means you need extra help and/or equipment, you may be eligible for Disabled Students Allowance. Disabled Students Allowance can pay for a support worker or items like specialised computer equipment. Depending on where you live, you need to apply to: Student Finance (England, Northern Ireland and Wales) or the Student Awards Agency (Scotland). Contact details for each of these organisations can be found in the Useful organisations section on page

22 Pensions and National Insurance credits State Pension Pension Credit National Insurance credits State Pension What is it? State Pension age Who is it for? The State Pension is a regular payment from the government that you may get when you reach State Pension age. State Pension age is the minimum age you have to be to claim a State Pension. In the UK it is rising, so it will depend on the year you were born. Also, the age is rising faster for women to bring it in line with the State Pension age for men. Currently, State Pension age is 60 for women born on or before April 1950, and 65 for men. For women born after April 1950, their State Pension age will depend on their date of birth. For more information on who is eligible for a State Pension and when, see It is for anyone over the State Pension age who has paid enough National Insurance contributions. This could have been paid through employment, voluntary payments or credits (see section on National Insurance credits on page 24). What can I get? How is it paid? This will depend on what National Insurance contributions you have paid, for how many years, and whether you have any private pensions. State Pension is subject to tax so, if you do have a private pension, and it raises your income over the tax threshold, you will be taxed on your State Pension. Your pension may also include an Additional State Pension (a further pension paid depending on your National Insurance contributions and your earnings). This is not a fixed amount of money and will depend, again, on your National Insurance contributions over the years. For more information, contact your local Pension Service. Contact details for the Pension Service can be found on page 46. Payments are made directly into your bank, building society or Post Office account every four weeks. 23

23 How do I apply for it? When you are nearing State Pension age, you should receive a letter telling you what you need to do to claim it. If you are entitled to an Additional State Pension, you do not need to apply for this. It will be calculated and paid automatically with your basic State Pension. Pension Credit What is it? What can I get? How is it paid? How do I apply? Pension Credit is a means-tested benefit for people on a low income who have reached Pension Credit age (State Pension age). There are two parts to Pension Credit: Guarantee Credit this tops up a low income. You (or you and your partner) can have capital (which is money held in any form, including cash, shares, savings etc) of up to 10,000 before it affects the amount of Guarantee Credit you receive. Savings Credit this is intended to provide extra money if you have modest savings and are aged 65 or over. If you have a partner, they can be younger, but only one member of a couple can claim. This will depend on your circumstances. You may get more than the basic rate if you re a carer, severely disabled or have certain housing costs. Payments are made directly into your bank, building society or Post Office account every four weeks. To claim, call The Pension Credit claim line on to apply over the phone or get a form sent to you. You can also download a claim form from National Insurance credits What are they? Paying National Insurance contributions allows you to claim certain state benefits, such as the State Pension, Jobseeker s Allowance and ESA. If you have been unemployed or off work for health reasons, you may be entitled to credits to top up your National Insurance contributions. These credits fill in any gaps in your contributions, so you can still apply for a State Pension and certain other benefits based on your National Insurance contributions. 24

24 Who are they for? What else do I need to know? How do I apply for it? They are for people who are unable to pay their National Insurance contributions due to, for example, ill health, unemployment or caring responsibilities. Some benefits, such as Carer s Allowance or ESA, will pay your credits automatically. Carer s Credit Some carers are unable to pay National Insurance contributions because they are not working and do not receive a benefit such as Carer s Allowance. If you are in this situation, you can protect your rights to a basic State Pension with a credit for parents and carers. You will qualify for this if: you spend at least 20 hours a week looking after someone who gets one of the following: Attendance Allowance the middle or highest rate of the care component of DLA the daily living component of PIP or if the level of care you provide has been certified as appropriate by a GP or nurse You will also qualify if you get Income Support as a carer. To claim Carer s Credit, you need to call the Carer s Allowance Unit on or textphone for a claim form. You can also visit to download a form, or to claim online. 25

25 Home and bills Budgeting Loans Council Tax Reduction Disabled Facilities Grants Housing Benefit Payments towards fuel costs TV Licence concessions Budgeting Loans What are they? Budgeting Loans are short-term, interest free loans available from the government s Social Fund to help people on a low income with specific basic costs, such as furniture, clothing, or rent. Who are they for? You may be able to get a Budgeting Loan if you have been claiming (for at least 26 weeks) any of the following benefits: Income-related ESA Income Support Income-based Jobseeker s Allowance Pension Credit If you claim Universal Credit, you may be eligible to apply for a Budgeting Advance instead. See further information under What else do I need to know?. What can I get? The minimum amount you can borrow is 100, and the maximum is 1,500. The amount you can borrow will depend on your circumstances, such as whether you have savings or if you have a family. 26 What else do I need to know? How is it paid? How do I apply for it? A Budgeting Loan has to be repaid within two years. Budgeting Advances will gradually replace Budgeting Loans for people who are claiming Universal Credit. However, as yet, the rules and amounts have not been set so they may or may not be the same as for Budgeting Loans. Payments are made directly into your bank, building society or Post Office account. To apply, you need to complete the claim form, which is available from your local Jobcentre Plus office or to download from

26 Council Tax Reduction What is it? Each household in England, Scotland or Wales is expected to pay Council Tax to the local authority. The amount of Council Tax you pay depends on how much your property was worth in 1991 (England and Scotland) and 2003 (Wales). Property values are split into bands, which are given letters from A through to H in England and Scotland and A to I in Wales. Band A is for the lowest value properties and Bands H or I are for the highest value. Although the UK governments set the bands for each country, your local authority sets the amount each band is charged in Council Tax. There are some people who will not have to pay Council Tax, including full-time students or those with a severe mental impairment. If you are on a low income or not working, you used to be able to apply for Council Tax Benefit to pay your Council Tax. Now, however, you have to apply for a Council Tax reduction through your local authority instead. There are three types of reduction you can apply for: The Council Tax Reduction schemes Council Tax Reduction schemes have directly replaced the Council Tax Benefit. In England each local authority has its own scheme in place. In Wales each local authority follows a standard scheme with little variation. In Scotland there is a single nationwide system, similar to Housing Benefit. Contact your local authority for details. The Disability Reduction scheme This scheme is designed to help people who need to live in larger homes because of their condition or disability. Your Council Tax bill can be reduced to the amount you would pay for the valuation band below yours. For example, if you live in a house in band C, you would only need to pay the band B amount. Band A properties also receive a reduction under the scheme. Visit gov.uk/council-tax for more information on valuation bands for council tax. 27

27 You can apply for the reduction if you or another resident in your property is substantially and permanently disabled and at least one of the following conditions applies: you have an additional bathroom, kitchen or other room (such as a room for dialysis or to store specialist equipment) for the use of the disabled person you have space in your dwelling for that person to use a wheelchair indoors The person liable for Council Tax needs to make the application for a reduction to their local authority. Some local authorities have a standard form for this. If you should have been given a disability reduction in the past, but were not, it can be fully backdated. The Discount scheme You can get a discount on your Council Tax if you live alone (single person reduction), or if you live with someone who isn t counted for Council Tax purposes, for example a person with a severe mental impairment, some carers and students. Disabled Facilities Grants What are they? Who are they for? Disabled Facilities Grants are available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They may be given by councils to people with a disability to make changes to their home, for example, installing a ramp or widening doors. A grant may be awarded to help you access your property or a room within your property, or with providing extra facilities, for example a suitable central heating system. To be eligible for the grant, you or someone else living with you must have a disability. You can be tenants or home owners, however, you must be intending to live in the property for the length of the grant period (which is currently five years). Disabled Facilities Grants are usually means tested. The means test does not apply when the application is made for the benefit of a disabled child or young person. What can I get? What else do I need to know? It will depend on your situation and what savings and household income you have. The council will make the decision whether the grant is necessary and appropriate for your property. Scotland This scheme is not available in Scotland. However, you can ask your local authority for an assessment of your needs. They may be able to help you pay for adapting your home. 28

28 Contact your local authority or social work department for a community care assessment to check your eligibility. How is it paid? How do I apply for one? Further information You will be paid a Disabled Facilities Grant in instalments or in full once the work is finished and your local authority is happy with it. Your local authority can advise you about the scheme in your area and how to apply. The MS Society booklet Adaptations and your home has more information, or download the Scottish Government guide: Help with adaptations to your home: A guide for disabled people in private housing in Scotland from Housing Benefit What is it? Who is it for? Housing Benefit is paid by local authorities to help people on a low income to pay their rent. You may be able to claim all of your rent or just part of it. You do not have to be unemployed or claiming other benefits to apply for it. To check if you are eligible, your local authority will look at: Income. This includes earnings, some benefits, tax credits, and occupational pensions. If you have a partner, their income will also be looked at. Savings. Again, if you have a partner, their savings will be taken into account You do not have to have worked in the past or be getting other benefits to receive Housing Benefit, and there are no age limits. There are, however, various points that you should be aware of, for example: if you live with a partner, only one of you can get Housing Benefit there are special rules if you are single and aged under 25 you cannot usually get Housing Benefit if you live in a close relative s household you cannot usually get Housing Benefit if you are a full-time student What can I get? There is no set amount for Housing Benefit. How much you are entitled to will be decided by factors such as whether you live in council or private rented property and your (and your partner s) savings, earnings and other income. 29

29 What else do I need to know? If you live in a local authority or housing association property If you live in a property owned by a local authority or housing association, Housing Benefit can cover all of your eligible rent (the rent considered reasonable for the type of property and area where you live), if your income is low enough. Under-occupied rooms The amount of Housing Benefit you can claim may be reduced if you are of working age and you are considered to have one or more spare bedrooms. This is what people are calling the bedroom tax. See for an explanation of what counts as a spare room and what this would mean in terms of the amount of money you can claim. If you have any other adults living with you, for example a grownup son or daughter ( non-dependants ) you may also get a reduced amount. Universal Credit Housing Benefit is slowly being replaced by Universal Credit (see page 35). The benefit cap Housing Benefit may be affected by the benefit cap (see page 34). How is it paid? How do I apply for it? It will depend on whether you are a council tenant or if you rent privately. If you rent from a council or housing association, the rent will be paid directly to the organisation. If you rent privately, the money will be paid into your bank or building society account. If you are claiming benefits such as ESA, Income Support or Pension Credit, you will normally be able to claim Housing Benefit at the same time. Otherwise, you will need to ask your local authority for a claim form for Housing Benefit. Or, you can download the form from and send it to your local authority. What are they? Payments towards fuel costs If you are on certain benefits you may be able to claim money to help with your heating costs. There are two main schemes for this: Cold Weather Payments and Winter Fuel Payments. 30

30 Cold Weather Payment What is it? Who is it for? How do I apply for it? A Cold Weather Payment is given when the temperature in your area is either recorded, or forecast to be, an average of zero degrees Celsius (freezing) or below over seven days in a row. You are eligible in certain circumstances if you claim a qualifying benefit, such as Pension Credit or income-related ESA. You don t need to apply as it is worked out and paid automatically if you are eligible. Winter Fuel Payment What is it? Who is it for? What can I get? How do I apply for it? Further information Winter Fuel Payment is an annual lump sum of between 100 and 300 to help people of State Pension age (see page 24) and over with their heating costs during winter. It is paid once a year, usually in November or December. The Winter Fuel Payment is available for people of State Pension age. How much you get depends on your personal circumstances, such as your age and whether you live alone. You should normally be paid automatically. If you don t, you can claim by calling For information on energy efficiency grants to help with insulation, room heating and water heating, contact: Energy Saving Advice Service in England and Wales ( ) Warm Homes in Northern Ireland ( ) Home Energy Scotland Hotline in Scotland ( ) Many energy companies offer free home insulation to customers on certain benefits. Ask your provider about their scheme. TV Licence concessions A free TV licence is available if you are aged 75 or over, and a 50 per cent discount is available if anyone in the household is registered blind. Call for details. 31

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