Members are often approached by constituents asking what benefits they may be able to claim. Establishing what a person or family may be eligible for can be far from straightforward, given complicated individual circumstances, the number of benefits available and the complexity of the benefits rules.
The best advice may be to signpost the person to a free advice agency or local welfare rights group which has staff who specialise in undertaking “benefit checks”, for example a Citizens Advice Bureau or local Age UK office.
Members and their staff will however find it helpful to have a basic knowledge of the benefits available for people in different circumstances, and of online and other sources where people can get further information on the support available to meet different needs.
There are a number of free online benefits calculators people can use to find out what benefits they may be able to claim, by inputting their details. GOV.UK recommends the following calculators maintained by other organisations:
- Policy in Practice – for information on income-related benefits, tax credits, contribution-based benefits, Council Tax Reduction, Carer’s Allowance, Universal Credit, how these are calculated and how your benefits will be affected if you start work or change your working hours
- entitledto – for information on income-related benefits, tax credits, contribution-based benefits, Council Tax Reduction, Carer’s Allowance, Universal Credit and how your benefits will be affected if you start work
- Turn2us – for information on income-related benefits, tax credits, Council Tax Reduction, Carer’s Allowance, Universal Credit and how your benefits will be affected if you start work or change your working hours
Age UK also has an online benefits calculator.
Benefits calculators may not however always give accurate results for certain groups, e.g. students, people who have recently arrived in the UK, or people in hospitals or care homes.
Other online resources
A number of other organisations provide information on the benefits and tax credits which may be available for people in different situations.
The Citizens Advice website gives information on benefits for people who are working or unemployed, sick or disabled, a parent, a young person, an older person or a veteran; tailored to reflect the situation in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Disability Rights UK has a comprehensive collection of factsheets and guides, covering not only benefits for disabled people. It also has an interactive factsheet – What you can claim – that allows a person, by selecting the situations that apply to them, to get an idea of the help and support they may be able to get by way of benefits, tax credits, housing grants, independent living, education and other help, including help provided by local authorities.
Age UK’s website includes links to various information guides and factsheets covering a variety of topics including benefits and entitlements. Age UK also has general guide to benefits for older people, More money in your pocket.
Many other organisations provide information and advice on benefits for specific groups of people, such as single parents, carers, people with particular health conditions or disabilities, and bereaved people. Many also operate helplines giving specialist advice. When looking at the websites of smaller organisations in particular, it is however worth checking whether information on benefits is up to date.
Hard copy guides
There are a number of good independent guides to benefits system. The best known are:
- The Child Poverty Action Group’s annual Welfare benefits and tax credits handbook
- Disability Rights UK’s annual Disability Rights Handbook
Social security is devolved in Northern Ireland, but the long-standing “parity” principle requires Northern Ireland to keep broadly in step with the rest of the UK in social security matters. There are however some differences between social security provision in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and changes to the benefits system may follow a different timetable.
The Scotland Act 2016 devolved significant new welfare powers to the Scottish Parliament including responsibility for disability and carers’ benefits; benefits for maternity, maternity, funeral and heating expenses; and powers to vary the housing cost element of Universal Credit and UC payment arrangements.
Further information can be found on the mygov.sot website under Benefits and grants. CPAG in Scotland also has an extensive range of factsheets and resources, including information on the new Scottish social security system and what’s changing in Scotland.
- GOV.UK: Benefits information
- Citizens Advice: Benefits
- entitledto: A-Z benefits information
- Age UK: Benefits and entitlements
- Child Poverty Action Group
- Advicelocal postcode tool