This section of the website is focused on benefits, it covers:
What you're entitled to
How you can claim and when you should
What claiming means and how long it will take
Help which is available
Get started below.
Claiming Benefits – What you need to know
Claiming benefits can be difficult and confusing. Here we will try and layout the realities of claiming benefits and give you some hints and tips to make everything a bit easier.
What are they?
Benefits are payments you can receive from your local council or the government to help you financially. Some are for when you're not working at all, some are designed to help improve your income if you're not getting paid much and some are called grants and can help you get things to help you when you move into accommodation.
What's a grant and how is it different?
Basically a grant is a one off payment that you never have to pay back. It's different to other benefits as these are paid over a period of time, not just once.
What benefits are you entitled to?
The government is moving all benefits to just one called Universal Credit, we have written a guide on claiming universal credit. It's a really good idea to read it so you understand how it works, you can access it here.
The idea is it should make everything a lot simpler when it comes to claiming benefits. Moving everyone to this new system has been delayed several times and it may be some time until everybody is on this new system.
This is going to replace three main benefits that you may be entitled to, these are:
Jobseekers Allowance – You’re going to need to be 18 in most cases to receive this. It’s for people looking for a job. You can’t be working full-time which means no more than 16 hours per week.
Housing Benefit – To claim this you need to be in supported, sheltered or temporary housing and you usually won't get this if you’re a full-time student, unless you have a disability.
Income Support – You may be able to claim this but there are lots of rules about who can claim it.
It's worth noting that jobseekers allowance and income support are no longer open for new claims. It will now be a claim for Universal Credit.
To learn more about any of these, click the name above to be taken to the official info on each.
How do you claim benefits?
If you have someone working with you either a social worker or someone who can provide support to you where you live, you should ask them for help. They should be able to support you through the application process and help make things easier for you. Usually you need to be 18 years old to claim for Universal Credit but in certain circumstances you can apply for Universal Credit when you are 16 or 17. This may apply to you if you are a care leaver.
You can apply directly for Universal Credit yourself if you're happy to.
If you can’t apply online you can ring this number 0800 328 5644.
As said before, you should try and get your social worker/support worker (if you have one) to help you. There are dedicated advisers within the Job Centre who work with Care Leavers (these are called Single Points of Contact or SPOCS). Or you can visit Citizens Advice who will give advice (but won't always help you complete the application form). You could visit the local library to get internet access if you need it to complete the form but be aware the library sometimes puts time limits on how long you can use the internet and you will need quite a while to fill in the form online.
You will have to have an interview with someone called a Work Coach who works for the government and will deal with your claim, they are based at local job centres, you can find a list of where these are in Essex by clicking here.
We have a more detailed guide on applying for universal credit, click here to access the guide.
What else do you need to know about claiming benefits?
If you have completed the debt section of this website you will know that you can get in debt when you are claiming benefits. This happens through something called Overpayment and basically means you have been given more money in your benefits then you should have been.
One way to avoid this is to always be completely honest about your circumstances when you are asked, if you're not and you receive too much money you will have to pay it back and this can make a difficult situation even harder.
Claiming benefits can be a difficult and frustrating process and often things won't be as quick as you would like. The average time to receive and deal with a claim for Universal Credit is currently 5 weeks but sometimes it can be a lot longer.
You can ask for an advance payment if you need money sooner but this is a loan and you will have to pay it back through your regular payments once your claim has been dealt with and your payments are set up. If you are approved for an advance payment you should get this in 3 working days.
LET'S RECAP ON WHAT WE HAVE COVERED
CLAIMING BENEFITS CAN BE FRUSTRATING – It can be hard to do anything if you don’t have experience of a system and the time it takes to sort things out can be frustrating.
HELP IS AVAILABLE - Citizens Advice and other organisations can give you help and advice on claiming benefits and so can your social worker or support worker if you have one, click here to get advice.
YOU CAN GET IN DEBT WITH YOUR BENEFITS – If you are paid too much through your benefits you will have to pay it back.
BE AS HONEST AS YOU CAN BE - To avoid getting in debt make sure you are as honest as possible when asked questions about your situation, if you are paid too much and have to pay it back it can make a hard situation even more difficult.