Benefit Must-Know Facts

 

Here are key facts to maximise your income and avoid benefit overpayments. These facts are very much worth knowing about. You can download our factsheet (PDF) here.

 

What To Do If You Urgently Need Money

 

  • If you have no money due to a crisis or emergency, apply to the Council’s Scottish Welfare Fund for a Crisis Grant which you won’t need to pay back. You’ll find a list of all contact details in this document.

 

  • If you are waiting for your new benefit claim to start, you can apply to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for a Benefit
    Advance.

 

Changes in Circumstances

 

  • Report all changes in your circumstances to the Council, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HMRC’s Tax Credits Office. Don’t assume that these three bodies share information. It is your duty to report any changes, for example when: you stop work or start another job; you increase your hours at work; your wages or benefits go up or down, e.g. you get an annual pay increase; someone moves in or out; you start a new relationship, get married or break up with someone; you have a baby; your child stops full-time education; or your childcare costs go up or down.

 

  • Ask for a receipt when you hand in evidence to the Council or the JobCentre, and take note of the date, time and the name of the person you speak to, if you report a change over the phone.

 

Changes in Circumstances – Housing Benefit 

 

  • You must contact the ‘Revenues and Benefits’ section of the Council to notify your changes in circumstances, and not rely on your housing officer to pass on the information for you, even if you are a Council tenant.

 

  • For any change in circumstances related to jobs, the Council will need to see your P45 (if you’ve stopped a job) and your last 2 monthly payslips, 5 weekly payslips or 3 fortnightly payslips for any new job.

 

  • Inform the Council when your child reaches their 16th or 18th birthday or when you stop getting Child Benefit for them, as this will affect your Housing Benefit.

 

Housing Benefit Issues

 

  • You may have to pay some rent even if you are on means-tested benefits, for example due to a non-dependant deduction if you have adult relatives living with you (even when they are neither working nor claiming benefits), or due to a Housing Benefit overpayment. Check your rent charge with the Council.

 

  • If you are affected by the Benefit Cap or by the Bedroom Tax because you have a spare bedroom, go to the Council and apply for Discretionary Housing Payments.

 

  • If you are struggling to pay your rent despite getting Housing Benefit, you may also qualify for extra help from Discretionary Housing Payments. Ask your local Council for an application form.

 

  • To avoid overpayments, check your Housing Benefit award letter to make sure the Council have the right income details for you—these are shown on the left bottom corner of the letter. If in doubt, phone them and ask what income details they have on records.

 

Tax Credits

 

  • Renew your Tax Credits before 31 July by completing and returning your review form.

 

  • Children who turn 16 are automatically removed from your Tax Credits claim at the end of August following their 16th birthday. You must contact the Tax Credits Office to advise if your 16-year old child is continuing in education or not.

 

Benefit Sanctions

 

  • If your JSA, Universal Credit or ESA has been sanctioned, apply to your local JobCentre for Hardship Payments. If you have no money at all while you wait for Hardship Payments, apply to the Council’s Scottish Welfare Fund for a Crisis Grant. You can challenge/appeal any sanction. Ask us for help.

 

  • Your Housing Benefit will be stopped or ‘suspended’ during the sanction. It does not mean you stop being entitled to Housing Benefit; it’s just that the Council must re-assess your income. Write to the Council to let them know you have no other income or savings, and give them a bank statement for the period of the sanction, so they can reinstate your Housing Benefit.

 

You can download our factsheet (PDF) here.

 

A Handy List of Phone Numbers

Click here to download a list of useful phone numbers to reach DWP’s various benefit departments and some other numbers for The City of Edinburgh Council such as Revenues and Benefits, EdIndex, Social Care Direct etc. Contact us if you would like a hard copy of this document.

Debunking Harmful Benefit Myths

There is a lot of false information or ‘myths’ out there about benefits and council tax, which we have found to be harmful to people, causing them unnecessary stress and worry and leading to benefit problems. Read on and let’s debunk those myths!

 

Benefits

 

1. MYTH: “The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), HMRC (the ‘taxman’/tax credits office) and the Council Housing Benefit Department all communicate so if you tell one of them about a change in your circumstances (e.g. that you’ve stopped signing on, started or stopped a job, or had a pay increase), they’ll tell the others.”
>>> TRUTHThe DWP, the Council and HMRC don’t share information. It is your duty to report any change in circumstances to each of them.

 

2. MYTH: “If you are a Council tenant, you can report your changes in circumstances to your Housing Officer for your Housing Benefit to be updated.”
>>> TRUTHYou must contact the Revenues and Benefits section of the Council to notify your changes in circumstances. Don’t just speak to the receptionist of the local Council Office either. Hand in a letter to Revenues and Benefits and ask for a receipt, or email them at incomeandbenefits@edinburgh.gov.uk, or phone them on 0131 608 1111.

 

3. MYTH: “You can’t claim Housing Benefit if you have rent arrears.”
>>> TRUTH: You can claim Housing Benefit even if you have rent arrears, if you qualify based on your income. What you cannot get is Discretionary Housing Payment to pay off your rent arrears. If you are in arrears, seek help to appeal any gaps in your housing benefit and arrange an affordable repayment plan to repay your arrears.

 

4. MYTH: “You can’t claim Housing Benefit if you are working.”
>>> TRUTH: You may be able to get some Housing Benefit even if you are working depending on your wages. How much Housing Benefit you’ll get is determined by your earnings.

 

5. MYTH: “Non-dependant charges won’t be applied to your Housing Benefit if your adult children are not working.”
>>> TRUTH: Non-dependant deductions will apply even if your adult children or other non-dependants who live with you (excluding your partner) have no benefit income and no earnings. There are exemptions: if your non-dependant is in full time education or if they are under 25 and on means-tested benefits such as JSA.

 

Benefit Sanctions

 

6. MYTH: “You cannot challenge a benefit sanction.”
>>> TRUTHYou can appeal any sanction—the first stage is to ask the DWP to reconsider their decision and give reasons why. Ask us for help. While the appeal is being processed, apply to your local JobCentre for Hardship Payments and to the Council’s Scottish Welfare Fund for a Crisis Grant.

 

7. MYTH: “When you’re sanctioned you stop being eligible for housing benefit.”
>>> TRUTH: Your Housing Benefit will be stopped or ‘suspended’ during the sanction. It does not mean you stop being entitled to Housing Benefit; it’s just that the Council must re-assess your income. Write to the Council to let them know you have no other income or savings, and give them a bank statement for the period of the sanction, so they reinstate your Housing Benefit.

 

Council Tax

 

8. MYTH: “You don’t have to pay any council tax if you are on benefits such as JSA, ESA, Income Support.”
>>> TRUTH: In Scotland, water and sewerage charges are collected through council tax. Even if you get the maximum council tax reduction, you will still need to pay some money to the council every month for these water charges.

 

Click here to download our Myth Busting factsheet (PDF).

Click here to read our next post ‘Busting Myths about Debts and Bankruptcy’.

Click here to read our next post on Housing Myths.

New Family Support & Advice Service

CHAI Advice is coming to your local School!

CHAI are now providing free, impartial and confidential advice directly to families across Edinburgh whose children attend the following schools –

  • Castlebrae High School
  • Castle View Primary
  • Craigour Park Primary
  • Dalry Primary
  • Gilmerton Primary
  • Gracemount Primary School
  • Liberton High School
  • Liberton Primary
  • Niddrie Mills Primary
  • Oxgangs Primary
  • Pilrig Park School
  • Prestonfield Primary
  • Rowanfield School
  • Stenhouse Primary
  • Tynecastle High School

The appointments are based within each school to make the service more accessible for parents/ guardians who may be struggling with:

  • Housing Issues
  • Debt Problems
  • Income Maximisation
  • Welfare Rights

Book an Appointment Today

We believe everyone should have the same opportunity to accessing advice services so if you’re in need of help or wish to refer a client for an appointment, please contact the relevant school above for further details.

Newsletters

We issue bi-monthly newsletters to keep parents updated on welfare rights issues that are relevant to them.

For example, in our first issue, we cover help with school meals and school uniforms, disability benefits for children over 16 transitioning from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payment (PIP), and how to avoid tax credits pitfalls.

Use the comment box if you wish to suggest ideas for articles in future newsletters.

To subscribe to our bi-monthly newsletters, send us an email with your email address through our Contact Page.

Further Information

Please contact CHAI on 0131 442 2100

Edinburgh Legal Walk

2017 EdiLW Fundraising Banner

A CHAI/EHAP Team successfully completed the Edinburgh Legal Walk on Monday 9th of October – a 10 Km walk around the centre of Edinburgh.

Why we walked?

The need for free legal advice and representation has grown in the past few years. The recession has increased poverty and reduced support services. Meanwhile funding for the advice centres themselves has reduced.The work our Edinburgh Housing Advice Partnership (EHAP) service does:
  • Prevents families being made homeless
  • Prevents destitution
  • Helps people gain the support to which they are entitled

EHAP

If you want to help us continue to provide an effective and free Court Representation Service for those facing eviction/repossession for rent or mortgage arrears, you can still donate here

Thanks!

New Financial Inclusion Project at CHAI

CHAI has been commissioned by Trading Standards Scotland to deliver a new ‘Financial Inclusion & Capability Service’ (FICS), aimed at promoting improved financial capacity for those who may be at particular risk of having to turn to illegal money-lenders.

The new Project works with the four Recovery Hubs in Edinburgh, focusing on income maximisation, debt management and financial education.

Newsletters

As part of the project, we issue bi-monthly newsletters on money advice issues. So far, our newsletters have focused on budgeting, access to free banking, the costs of borrowing, the dangers of illegal lending, and alternative forms of affordable credit.

FICS Newsletter Issue 1 July 2017

FICS Newsletter Issue 2 September 2017

FICS Newsletter Issue 3 November 2017

FICS Newsletter Issue 4 January 2018 – Special Myth Busting

Use the comment box if you wish to suggest ideas for articles in future newsletters.

To subscribe to our bi-monthly newsletters, send us an email with your email address through our Contact Page.

Financial Capability Resources 

We have produced a handy booklet with lots of budgeting and money management tips to help you take control of your money. You can download it here:

Financial Capability Resources Pack

You can also download our budget planner to record your income and regular expenditure items and come up with your own budget.

Twitter

You can follow FICS on Twitter at:  @CHAI_FICS

 

ORT, Recovery and Me

ORT

National Meetings List

 

Glasgow:  Tuesday 6pm-7pm

Drug Crisis Centre, 123 West Street, G5 8BA

Telephone: 0141 420 6969

Glasgow:  Wednesday  1.00-2.00pm

PARC, Church of the Nazarene, 12-15 Burgher Street, G31 4TB

Telephone: 0141 550 1044

Glasgow: Wednesday 5.30-6.30pm

SERAG Offices’, Adelphi Centre, 12 Commercial Road, G5 0PQ

Telephone 0141 429 6006

Glasgow: Thursday 1.00pm-2.00pm

CREW, Jenniburn Centre, Castlemilk, G45 0HE

Telephone: 07470372375

Glasgow:  Friday  5.00 – 6.00pm

RAFT, Adelphi Centre, 12 Commercial Road, G5 0PQ

Telephone: 0141 429 6006

Glasgow: Thursday 3.30-4.30pm

Second Chance Project, 402 Sauchiehall Street G2 3JD

Telephone: 0141 336 7272

Dundee: Tuesday 2.30-3.30pm

Children First, 47 Bunshall Street, DD1 5DF

Telephone: 07950703742 (Crèche Facilities Available)

Falkirk: Thursday 4.30pm-5.30pm

Pop Up Recovery, Dawson Centre, Davids Loan, Bainsford, FK2 7RG

Edinburgh:  Friday   3.00 – 4.00pm

Serenity Cafe Edinburgh, 8 Jackson Entry, Edinburgh, EH18 8PJ

Telephone: 0131 556 8765

West Lothian: Tuesday  4.00pm-5.00pm

Pre-Sync, 27 George Street, Bathgate.

Linlithgow: Thursday 2.00pm-3.00pm,

The LYPP Lounge, 29 The Vennel, Linlithgow, EH49 7EX

Telephone: 01506 670433

Ayr:  Friday  12.00 – 1.00pm

Ayr Baptist Church, 9 Mews Lane, KA7 1DL

All the world’s a Courtroom …

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Young Solicitor makes telling legal point!

Today’s Guest Blog is from Nellie Allen-Logan, an Intern who is on placement with our Edinburgh Housing Advice Partnership (EHAP) Service.  Nellie is in the final year of a Law Degree at Arizona Summit University, and we asked her to reflect on her experience of the civil legal system in Scotland compared with ‘back home’ …


 

Even though it was in the middle of winter when I arrived in Scotland from sunny Arizona, my shock did not come from the weather, but from the vast differences in law. The United States (U.S.) brought their common law from England through the Magna Carta. However, Scotland does not follow English law, but Roman law. Their common law is an ancient set of rules that are not written down, but govern by word of mouth. Common law in the U.S. follows old English law (which for the U.S. is only a few hundred years old). Scottish common law goes back centuries to the time of Roman occupation and the general laws that citizens would follow. These ancient ways are still used today even though there is no binding legislation. One similarity that I have observed is the U.S. has state and federal governments, and here in Scotland, it is comparable to Scotland and the United Kingdom. Certain rights in the U.S. are divested to the states, and some to the federal government. This is similar here in Scotland, where Scotland maintains certain powers within its parliament as compared to the United Kingdom parliament.

In the U.S., every person that represents another person in a court of law, must be an attorney that has had a legal education and passed the state bar exam for the state they wish to practice in. On the other hand, Scotland allows lay representation in sheriff’s court for certain issues and amounts of money. A lay representative usually has a certain amount of experience and training so that they are competent when presenting a case in court. As a law student, I found this to be a bit of a challenge, but one I accepted with vitality. I was determined to learn Scottish laws and be able to represent persons in court as soon as I could. I was successful in my first court calling, and ensured that I was prepared for any situation that the pursuer or sheriff may present.

Sheriff Court

Edinburgh Sheriff Court on a typically Scottish sunny day …

One vast difference is the comparison of Sheriff’s court to Municipal court (city court) in the U.S. Even though Sheriff’s court is not as formal as high court, it still is full of tradition. Each representative or solicitor must bow to the seal upon exiting the court room. All solicitors wear robes, and the Sheriff usually wears a wig and robe. Additionally, the Sheriff is referred to as my lady or my lord. In the U.S., generally, judges (as they are referred to) are the only ones to wear robes, and they do not wear wigs. All attorneys usually wear a nice dress suit and no robes, and there is no bowing upon exiting the court.

I have noticed that Scotland is extremely generous with their welfare benefits and ensure that their citizens are well taken care of. In the U.S. welfare benefits are not as generous and generally, can be difficult to obtain. The idea of advice agencies is immensely charitable, especially when citizens of Scotland are not able to obtain the benefits they need, or are unaware of the benefits they should be receiving. In the U.S., usually, there are no agencies to give advice, but merely a place where the people can make claims. If a claim is denied, it is up to the person to figure out how to appeal the decision on their own. Here in Scotland, the government ensures that there are advice agencies to assist people with obtaining the advice they need to obtain benefits.

This has been an immensely eye opening experience for me regarding the legal field. To be able to go to another country and completely immerse myself in a new legal system has shown where the U.S. could improve, and these are ideas that I will take with me.

Nellie Allen-Logan

The Bedroom Tax – Say No to Evictions

Housing Benefit EvictionWe’re now only a few short weeks away from the introduction of one of the more contentious elements of the UK Government’s Welfare Reform agenda.  Perhaps appropriately, All Fools Day sees the start of the Under Occupancy Charge or ‘Bedroom Tax’ – as it is increasingly known.

The Bedroom Tax is targeted on working age Social Sector tenants (those in Council and Housing Association properties) who are deemed to be under-occupying their accommodation by one or more bedrooms.  Those who are affected, and who are in receipt of Housing Benefit, will have that Benefit reduced by between £13 – £24 per week depending on their rent costs and the number of ‘extra’ bedrooms they have. Continue reading

Food for Thought

This morning’s report by Citizens Advice Scotland that increasing numbers of Scottish families are being forced to rely on charities to provide basic items of food is depressing but, sadly, comes as no great surprise to those of us who are working on a daily basis with individuals and families impacted by the economic recession and the Government’s Welfare Reform agenda. Continue reading

“A Visit to CHAI – An Invaluable Local Service”

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Sarah Boyack MSP

This month we were delighted that Edinburgh MSP, Sarah Boyack, took time out of her busy schedule to pay us a visit and hear more about what we do.  During her visit we shared some of our concerns around the UK Government’s Welfare Reform agenda, and she heard directly from one of our service users of the difficulties that often flow from ill health issues.

You can see what Sarah made of her visit on her own blog:

 http://www.sarahboyack.com/?p=1730