Carer’s Allowance: The Basics

Carer’s Allowance is a benefit which is non-means tested and non-contributory. This means that your income is not taken into account and you don’t need have to sufficient NI contributions to claim it.

To be eligible it, people must meet the following criteria:

– Provide care to someone for 35 hours per week.

– The person they care for must get Disability Living Allowance DLA (the middle or highest rate of the care component) or Personal Independence Payment PIP (the Daily Living component).

Only earn a maximum of £120 per week (as at April 2018): this is an absolute earnings limit; however, earnings and savings are disregarded in full and every Carer’s Allowance claimant gets the same rate of benefit.

Income support

Carers may also be able to claim Income Support which is a means-tested benefit that replaces earnings and can top up Carer’s Allowance.

Entitlement to Income Support depends on the carers’ income and savings meeting certain thresholds. Carer’s Allowance counts as income for the calculation of Income Support.

Carer premiums

Once a carer is awarded Carer’s Allowance, they will qualify for a carer premium which will increase their entitlement to other means-tested benefits such as JSA, ESA, Income Support, Housing Benefit.

An important consideration when claiming Carer’s Allowance is the financial impact it will have on the person cared for.

Disabled people often have an extra disability premium added to their benefit when they live alone without any carer: this is known as the severe disability premium.

An award of Carer’s Allowance would mean that the person cared for would stop being entitled to this severe disability premium.

Come and speak to us (0131  442 2100) if you want to discuss how claiming Carer’s Allowance could affect your benefits or those of the person you care for.

Premiums under UC

With Universal Credit, you will get a carer premium if you claim Carer’s Allowance, but there will be no more disability premiums, so the fact that you claim Carer’s Allowance won’t have any impact on the finances of the person you care for.

Case study

Chris is a lone father to his 16-year-old son, Daniel. Daniel suffers from a severe learning disability and autism.  He is concerned financially as he has reduced his working hours to care for Daniel and because Daniel’s Disability Living Allowance (DLA) has recently stopped as he turned 16.

CHAI helped Chris apply for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for Daniel. We helped him request and complete a PIP form and also advocated on behalf of Chris to collect medical records from varying medical specialists to support Daniel’s claim.

The PIP claim was successful, and Daniel was awarded Enhanced Daily living and Standard Mobility equating to an additional £105.10 per week.

CHAI also advised Chris that he was now eligible for Carer’s Allowance as he earned less than £116.00 per week and cared for his son over 35 hours per week.  He was happy to discover he could continue working and the Carers Allowance claim boosted his income by a further £62.70 a week.

Due to Chris’ reduced earnings, he was eligible for further help to cover his rental charge. CHAI contacted the council to update them of Chris’s change in circumstances. His Housing Benefit increased, and he was now also eligible for a Carer’s Premium.

Overall, CHAI successfully maximised Chris’ annual household income by £16,425. Chris now feels more confident about his financial situation.

 

Work-Related Requirements for People with Children

You may have heard or noticed that the Government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are putting more and more demands on people who are responsible for children in terms of what they must do to prepare for work.

Most people are now expected to take some form of action to prepare themselves for work, even if they don’t have to look for work.

How much they are required to do depends on their circumstances (e.g. the age of their child) and whether they claim Income Support or Universal Credit. Some people (such as single parents with a child under one) don’t have to do anything, while other parents are expected to take all reasonable action to obtain full-time work.

Income support

 Income Support is for lone parents who have a child under the age of 5. Although they are not required to look for work, lone parents who claim Income Support must attend work-focused interviews at the Jobcentre if their child is 1 or 2 years old.  These interviews are to discuss their plans for returning to the labour market, and to assess and enhance their job prospects. The number of interviews is at discretion of the work coach.

Once their child is between 3 or 4, they could also be required to prepare for work and undertake mandatory work-related activity such as doing training or work experience, or preparing a CV.

Universal credit

 Things are bit different if you claim Universal Credit as the Government has placed work conditionality at the core of this new benefit. Means-tested benefits such as Income Support will gradually be phased out and replaced by Universal Credit, but there is no set timetable for this yet.

Under Universal Credit, the rules will be broadly similar to the ones we’ve just outlined for Income Support but there will be some important differences:

(1) Lone parents and ‘lead carers’ in a couple (i.e. the one who looks after the children the most) are subject to work preparation requirements as well as work focused interviews if their child is aged 2. Under Income Support, lone parents only have to attend work-focused interviews, not prepare for work.

(2) The other difference is that once their child turns 3, lone parents and lead carers have to start looking for work.

The table below summarises the work-related requirements according to the age of your child, for both benefits: 

  Income
Support
Universal Credit
Pregnant / Just gave birth / Baby under 1 None None
Responsible carer for a child Aged 1 Work focused interviews Work focused interviews
Responsible carer for a child Aged 2 Work focused interviews Work focused interviews & work preparation.
Responsible carer for a child Aged 3+ Work focused interview & work related activity All work related requirements including work search

Employability support

At CHAI, we provide a supportive, and friendly employability service for people whose aim, long or short term, is to improve their work prospects. We do this in a way that suits you, by delivering our service at a number of convenient community locations.

Contact us for more information on 0131 442 2100.

 

Helping Private Rented Sector Tenants

We are delighted to announce a new project aimed at supporting tenants in the private rented sector (PRS).

The new project will work with tenants currently living in the PRS who are at risk of losing accommodation. This may be due to rent arrears, disrepair or harassment by their landlord. They may also have barriers to finding alternative accommodation in the PRS, including lack of deposit, difficulty finding accommodation due to requiring benefits to pay for accommodation and/or suffering from mental health issues. These barriers will be addressed through income maximisation and the use of Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP), grants to secure deposits and rent deposit guarantee schemes.

Tenants will also be supported to remain in their current accommodation through pursuing repairs through the Housing & Property Chamber, income maximisation, negotiation with private landlords, money advice and improving budgeting skills. When it is not possible for the client to remain in their current tenancy or they do not wish to do so, they will be supported to find suitable and sustainable alternative accommodation.

Welcoming the new Project, Fintan Kavanagh (CHAI’s Deputy Service Manager, Housing Advice) said:  “Our Edinburgh Housing Advice Partnership (EHAP) service has a great deal of experience in engaging with tenants in the private rented sector, and that experience has clearly demonstrated the challenges that come with living in that sector.  This new service will enhance our capacity to meet those challenges and bring dedicated advice and support to PRS tenants who need it most.”

CHAI is currently recruiting for a part-time PRS:  Advice & Support Worker to develop the new project.  Details can be found here.

CHAI gratefully acknowledges the support of the Bank of Scotland Foundation in funding the new project.

Financial Inclusion Capability Service to continue thanks to funding from NHS Lothian

Since April 2017, we have run a successful project called the Financial Inclusion and Capability Service which aims to lift people out of financial hardship, through the provision of information and advice at four, locality based, Alcohol & Drug Recovery Hubs in Edinburgh, and at Dalry Primary School. Specifically, the project aims to:

  • Increase and improve people’s budgeting skills through money advice.
  • Raise awareness of illegal money lending such as loan sharks and warn against the dangers of legal but unaffordable forms of credit such as payday loans.
  • Provide information about access to bank accounts and other appropriate financial products such as credit unions.
  • Explore savings opportunities.

The project was initially funded by Trading Standards Scotland but their funding is coming to an end in April 2018. Luckily, we have now received funding from NHS Lothian which enables us to continue our vital work.

Project Outcomes (Between April 2017 and March 2018)

  • 242 individuals engaged with the Service.
  • A total of 763 issues were dealt with.
  • Representation was provided at 35 First-Tier Tribunals to help people with benefit appeals.
  • £628,289 of client financial gain was achieved.
  • A booklet with information on financial capability resources was produced, along with bi-monthly newsletters.

Project Feedback

Here is some of the feedback we have received from key stakeholders:

“It is essential for us to have dedicated Financial Inclusion workers embedded in drug & alcohol services. Our client group is uniquely vulnerable to illegal lending as they are forced to access criminal networks for substances already. Although individuals we work with struggle to engage with mainstream financial help services, CHAI’s embedded Financial Inclusion & Capability Service has had great success engaging and helping our clients.” Team Leader, North-West Recovery Hub

“CHAI provide an invaluable service to our clients. The increasingly complex benefits system is confidently navigated by Joy and Sarah and the service helps to provide stability to the financial situation of our clients that could be exploited by unscrupulous money lenders.” Recovery Co-ordinator, South-East Recovery Hub

“The service provided by Joy and Sarah is second to none and has been an invaluable resource for our patients. They are very approachable and knowledgeable, allowing patients to apply for the correct benefits easily which alleviates high levels of anxiety surrounding benefits issues. It would be a great loss to our patients if funding for this service is lost.” Community Psychiatric Nurse at NHS South East Recovery Hub

 “Having the support from CHAI in our school community is invaluable. Our school is about more than individual pupils; it’s about them and their families. We want our parents to be part of our learning community and support their child’s learning at home. This is difficult to do as a parent, if you are coping with stress and anxiety over adult worries such as housing and finance. CHAI is able to provide that extended family support which will benefit our pupils in the long run.” Family Engagement Worker, Dalry Primary School.

“An amazing service and staff are all helpful, respectful and non judgemental” Service User, Recovery Hub

Help with school meals and school wear

Since September 2017, CHAI has held outreach sessions within 5 schools in Edinburgh as part of our Family Support and Advice Service.

The project aims to provide free and impartial advice on income maximisation, debt and housing issues for families with children and to make access to advice as easy as possible for parents by bringing the advice sessions into the school.

The project operates in Tynecastle High School, Dalry Primary School, Stenhouse Primary School, Rowanfield Special School and Pilrig Park Special School. Contact your local school’s reception for details on how to make an appointment with our adviser.

If you are a teacher or headmaster and would like to find out how your school could get involved, click here for our Project Information Sheet or contact us on 0131 442 2100.

The service has received great feedback so far and has maximised household income by £136,000 since it started in the autumn of 2017.

As we meet more and more families, it has come to our attention that many parents still struggle with the costs of school meals and clothing. In this post, we highlight the various sources of help available to parents in this area.

HELP FROM EDINBURGH COUNCIL

The Scottish Government has made free school meals available to all children from P1 to P3.  Beyond P3, parents can apply for help with school meals and school wear if they receive any of the following welfare benefits:

  •   A means-tested benefit such as Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), income-based JSA; or
  • You receive Child Tax Credits and your annual income is less than £16,105; or
  • You receive both Child Tax Credits and Working Tax Credits and your annual income is under £6,420—in which case you only qualify for help with school meals, but not school clothing; or
  • Universal Credit, where take home pay is less than £610 per month.
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

The application form can be downloaded at: www.edinburgh.gov.uk/schoolgrants or phone them on 0131 469 3471. You will need to provide benefit award letters as proof of income, including your latest tax credits award letter for 2017/18.

The Council’s school wear award is £43 for primary pupils and £50 for secondary pupils. You no longer get vouchers for school wear. Instead, a payment is made directly to your bank account.

 

HELP FROM CHARITIES – SCHOOL WEAR

If you are NOT eligible for help with school meals/school wear because you don’t claim any of the above benefits, you could get help from a charity instead such as the ones listed below.

Contact us if you would like a referral to any of these organisations.

  • Edinburgh Police Fund for Children (EPFC): They provide grants up to £50 for the purchase of school shoes and jackets.
  • Kids Love Clothes helps struggling families with young children by providing much-needed, quality donated kids’ clothing in gift bags.
  • Edinburgh School Uniform Bank: A volunteer-run uniform bank offering new uniforms and pencil cases to families who are struggling to afford school uniform.
  • The Edinburgh Clothing Store. A charity offering free clothing, shoes, bedding, etc for those in genuine need. This includes children’s clothing and can help with interview clothes, etc.
  • The Edinburgh and Lothian Trust Fund can give grants of up to £250 specifically for those experiencing hardship and/or with an illness or disability.
  • The Edinburgh Trust can give grants to people struggling financially living in the City of Edinburgh.

 

BREAKFAST CLUBS

Free places are available in all breakfast clubs run by Edinburgh Council and in some private provider breakfast clubs. These can be allocated at the headteacher’s discretion according to the entitlement criteria for Free School Meals (see above) or if the school is aware a family is having financial or other difficulties. Ask your local school for details.

 

Busting Myths on Debts and Bankruptcy

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

Or click here to download our factsheet on debt myths and our other factsheet on bankruptcy myths (PDF)

For debt advice, call us on 0131 442 2100 to book an appointment.

DEBT MYTHS

1. MYTH: “If I don’t pay my debts, I’ll go to prison.”

>>> TRUTH: Not being able to afford debt repayments is NOT a criminal offence. You won’t go to prison just because you can’t pay your debts although this was the case over a century ago. Some priority debts could result in imprisonment, for example magistrates fines, licences, child maintenance, business rates, but this would be used as a very last resort if you’ve ignored the debt, refused to pay or failed to cooperate with the courts. It would take a long time to get there, as many other debt enforcement methods would be used first.

2. MYTH: “If my bank account gets arrested, I won’t have access to any of my money.”

>>> TRUTH: Creditors can only attach funds from your bank account if you have above £494.01 in your account. This amount is set by law and is periodically revised. If you have various accounts in different banks, £494.01 is protected in each account. You can challenge this bank arrestment through the courts if it is causing you hardship.

3. MYTH: If my wages get arrested, creditors could take most of my wages.”

>>> TRUTH: The amount creditors could deduct from your wages is capped by law, depending on your income. For example, creditors cannot get anything from your wages if you earn less than £113.68 per week. If you earn between £113.68 and £410.9 per week, they can take £4 per week or 19% of any wages exceeding £113.68 per week, whichever is the greater. That’s the total amount creditors can get, so if there are several creditors they would have to share this amount between them.  However, the situation is different if you owe money to the DWP (benefit overpayments), as they could take up to 40% of your net wages (or share this amount with other creditors) and leave you with 60% of net earnings.

4. MYTH: “Sheriff Officers could turn up at my door to intimidate me and can be quite aggressive.”

>>> TRUTH: Recent TV programmes may have shown images of abusive and aggressive ‘bailiffs’ (that’s the name for Sheriff Officers in England and Wales). However this is not the reality of Sheriff Officers’ behaviour in Scotland. If someone comes to your door, beware that they may not be actual Sheriff Officers but debt collectors working for creditors instead. These people don’t have any powers at all. Report any threatening behaviour to the Police.

5. MYTH: “Creditors can send Sheriff Officers to force entry into my property and take things from my house.”

>>> TRUTH: For Sheriff Officers to force entry into your property, there must have been a court order giving creditors permission to do so. Exceptional attachment orders are very, very rare in Scotland. You would be notified of any such visit in writing beforehand. To get to that point, creditors must prove that they have tried other means (e.g. bank arrestment) and that there is something worth getting in the house—which is why they will send someone round your home to try and get invited in. To avoid this, never let anyone in your property unless they have a court order.

6. MYTH: “If I don’t pay my debts, I will be blacklisted.”

>>> TRUTH: There is no such thing as a blacklist. However your debts, and whether or not you have repaid them, are recorded in your credit report. This is what creditors use to decide whether to lend you money. You can request a copy of your credit report and ask for any inaccurate information to be corrected.

7. MYTH: “My debts are written off if I haven’t made a payment in 5 years.”

>>> TRUTH: A debt can become “statute barred” (or “extinguished”) after
5 years if the debtor hasn’t made a payment or admitted the debt AND if the creditor has not taken legal action to enforce the debt. The debt still exists but the creditor can no longer enforce the debt, i.e. they cannot arrest your wages or your bank account or make you bankrupt, although they may still continue to contact you and ask for payments.  However, for some debts such as council tax arrears, court decrees and benefit overpayments, the time limit extends to 20 years before they can become “statute-barred” assuming all other conditions are also met (as explained above).

8. MYTH: “I am liable for my partner’s debts.”

>>> TRUTH: You are not liable for other people’s debts, unless there is a guarantor agreement, or a joint liability for a tenancy, a joint bank account or a joint loan agreement or council tax arrears for example.

BANKRUPTCY MYTHS

1. MYTH: “I cannot be made bankrupt because of council tax arrears.”

>>> TRUTH: You can be sequestrated for council tax arrears, especially if you are a home owner and the council suspects that you have equity in your house which could be used to repay the debt. It is also worth pointing out that 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, or you would risk accruing arrears.

2. MYTH: “If I go bankrupt, I will automatically lose my home.”

>>> TRUTH: If you are a home owner, your house may be repossessed as bankruptcy gives your Trustee (who is in charge of your finances for the duration of the bankruptcy) the right to sell your assets for the benefits of your creditors. However, if you have little or no equity in your home, your Trustee may decide not to sell your property, as long as your mortgage is affordable and comparable to the cost of local rents.

3. MYTH: “If I go bankrupt, I won’t have to repay anything towards my debts.”

>>> TRUTH: To go bankrupt, there is an initial fee, which is between £90 and £200 depending on your financial circumstances. You may have to pay some money towards your debts, known as a Debtor Contribution Order, for up to 4 years if you are assessed as having surplus income. However, if you are assessed as not having any surplus income or if you are on means-tested benefits, you won’t have to pay anything towards your debts once you are sequestrated.

4. MYTH: “If I go bankrupt, my name will appear in the local newspaper.”

>>> TRUTH: There used to be a section in the local newspaper for bankruptcy, to inform creditors. This is no longer the case. If you are sequestrated, your name will go on an online public register which is searchable by name.

For debt advice, call us on 0131 442 2100 to book an appointment.

 

Click here to read our next post on ‘Debunking Harmful Myths about Benefits’

Click here to read our next post on Housing Myths.

 

 

Helping You Find Solutions to The Benefit Cap

The benefit cap came into force in April 2013 but the cap levels were lowered in November 2016 which led to an increasing number of people being affected by it. Read on to find out who is affected and how to avoid it.

Or click here to download our newsletter on the Benefit Cap.

WHO IS AFFECTED?

The benefit cap only affects people aged between 16 to 64 who are claiming Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, if the total amount of benefits they receive is over a certain threshold. If the cap affects them, their Housing Benefit or Universal Credit is reduced to make sure the total they get is not more than the cap amount, which is:

  • £384.62 a week for a couple with or without dependent children.
  • £384.62 a week for a lone parent with dependent children.
  • £257.69 a week for a single person without children.

Families with 3 children and more tend to be the most affected by the benefit cap.

EXEMPTIONS

There are ways to avoid the benefit cap. Going back to work, or increasing your working hours may give you an exemption to the benefit cap, because people who receive Working Tax Credits are not affected by the benefit cap. For lone parents, working as little as 16 hours a week would be sufficient to get Working Tax Credits.

For those who get Universal Credit, there is no benefit cap if your net household’s earnings are over £520 a month.

You will also be exempt from the benefit cap if you, your partner or child receive any of the following benefits:

  • A disability benefit such as DLA or PIP, or the Support Component of ESA or Universal Credit.
  • Carer’s Allowance.
  • Guardian’s Allowance.
  • An Armed Forces payment.

 OTHER SOLUTIONS

For many people, going back to work, or increasing working hours, will be the best solution to the problem of the benefit cap. However, there are other short-term solutions that you may consider such as:

  • Applying for discretionary housing payment (DHP) from the Council, to help you pay your rent shortfall. DHP will cover 100% of the shortfall for 3 months. This is then reduced to 75% and gradually to zero overtime.
  • Moving house to find cheaper rent in a different tenancy.
  • Maximising your income.

Ask us for advice! Book an appointment to see one of our advisers.

SOME STATISTICS ON THE BENEFIT CAP

(Source: www.gov.uk, August 2017)

How many households are affected by the benefit cap?

  • 68,000 in the UK
  • 3,810 in Scotland
  • 653 in Glasgow
  • 605 in Edinburgh

How many children have the capped households?

  • 93% have at least a child
  • 41% have 3 children
  • 15% have 2 children
  • 10% have 5+ children

CASE STUDY ON THE BENEFIT CAP

The Problem

Claire is 40-year-old mother of 4 children aged 4, 8, 12 and 14.  She lives in a 3-bedroom private let costing £675 per month. Claire suffers from poor health and is currently unfit for work and claiming Employment and Support Allowance as well as Child Benefit, Child Tax Credits and the Local Housing Allowance.

Claire is affected by the Benefit Cap as she receives over £364.62 per week on benefits. As a result, she only receives £25 towards her housing costs.  Claire is financially unable to pay her remaining rent shortfall and relies heavily on her ex-partner for financial support.

Her ex-partner is now unable to support her, and Claire is now at risk of homelessness. Claire has come to the CHAI Advice service at her local school for housing options and income maximisation. Claire’s mental health is deteriorating as she is fearful her family may become homeless.

What CHAI did

  1. CHAI assisted Claire by running a Benefit Check to ensure Claire was in receipt of all benefits she was entitled to and confirmed she was affected by the Benefit Cap.
  2. CHAI helped Claire apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) through the Council to help cover her rent shortfall for a short period of time. The application was successful, and Claire’s rent shortfall was paid for 3 months. This stabilised Claire’s housing situation for a few months and ensured she did not accrue rent arrears.
  3. CHAI further advised Claire that claiming certain benefits such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP) makes you exempt from the Benefit Cap and that it would greatly maximise her income. Due to Claire’s poor physical and mental health conditions that challenge her daily, she decided to apply for PIP.
  4. CHAI helped her complete the PIP application form, contacted her health workers for further medical evidence and was successful with the claim. Claire now receives £119.80 per week from PIP and is therefore exempt from the Benefit Cap. She now receives full Local Housing Allowance to cover her full rent charge of £675.

As Claire is a single adult and receives the Daily Living Component of PIP, CHAI was also able to apply for a Severe Disability Premium for her ESA for an additional £62.00 per week.

Overall, CHAI assisted this parent to maintain their current tenancy and maximise their annual income by £17,553. 

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.

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

In this pack, you will find sections on:

  • Maximising your income
  • Accessing free banking
  • Managing your expenditure
  • Saving money
  • How to be credit wise
  • Comparing credit methods to highlight the potential dangers of various ways of borrowing.
  • Credit scoring and how to check your credit report
  • Alternatives to borrowing, including the Scottish Welfare Fund, charity grants and charities for sourcing free or lower price items
  • Affordable credit: budgeting loans and credit unions
  • Dealing with debt problems
  • The dangers of debt consolidation
  • Online resources and e-learning modules

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

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.

 

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