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How to Claim Benefits

Claiming benefits is not as complicated as it used to be.

In this age of technology there are a variety of new ways available of claiming benefits other than the traditional way of going to your local jobcentre and having an interview. Jobcentre Plus is still available for this service if you wish a face to face interview and want to be sure you are getting everything you are entitled to. There are a lot of benefits available for different things and it is important at some stage to have someone in the know check that you are getting everything you are able to get, you can do this in person as we have already mentioned, or you can telephone the benefits hotline and explain your circumstances there. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau will also be able to give you this information.

As there are so many kinds of benefits you may not be able to claim them all in the same place so it is worth finding out exactly how you need to go about claiming each benefit that you think you may be entitled to. Nowadays it is often possible to claim benefits on-line as well if you have access to a computer. Remember if you do not have a computer at home you can use the ones in a public library as well. During quiet times they do not always have a time limit on how long you can use them so pop to the library and enquire about the procedure for using one of their computers. Internet cafes give you access to a computer as well but you often have to pay for them.

Benefits are usually split into four categories and it may be that you can claim benefits from multiple categories depending on your circumstances. You will not be able to claim benefits for working age people at the same time as benefits for people who have retired or are planning retirement. You could claim working age benefits at the same time as benefits for families however or even just for children and also benefits for people with disabilities and their carers. You could claim the latter when you are claiming benefits for people who are retirement age as well so you really do have to check all the available resources to see exactly what help you can get.

If you are either seeking employment or already in employment that doesn’t pay very well you can apply for benefits either from the Jobcentre Plus or from the HM Revenue and Customs. These kinds of benefits include Income Support, Housing and Council Tax Benefit and Working Tax Credits.

If you are retired or retiring you should be able to get a State Pension, but the amount depends how many National Insurance contributions you have already paid previously. If you are getting a State Pension only and it leaves you struggling to survive then you may be entitled to other benefits to help out. Contact your advisor at The Pension Service for advice on these benefits and how to get them.

It is worth contacting your benefit advisor if you are a parent to get advice about all the benefits that families can get. If you are working on a low income with children the benefit allowances are automatically increased to allow extra help for your children. Whether you are working or not there are additional benefits that you can get if you have children such as Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits although from April 2013 these will be subjected to a benefit cap that will set the maximum figure for the amount of these benefits a family can receive.

If you are working however, you can get Working Tax Credits which will not only give you help with any childcare you may need but also makes you exempt from the benefit cap. You can get benefits for parents from different places such as the Department for Work and Pensions for benefits such as the Child and Working Tax Credits and the HM Revenue and Customs for benefits such as Child Benefit. Again you can get help and advice about all of these benefits from your benefit advisor over the telephone or at your local Jobcentre Plus.

Disabled people, people who suffer from long term illness and their carers are also entitled to a variety of benefits. The benefits for people with the illness or disability are subject to rigorous testing to make absolutely certain that the person needs the extra help. The amount of help a person will be entitled to will depend on the nature of the illness or disability, how they came by the problem and how long they have had it or expect to have it.

Carers of people who claim one of the disability or illness benefits such as Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance at the middle or high rate for personal care, Constant Attendance Allowance at or higher than the normal maximum rate with and Industrial Injuries Benefit or Constant Attendance Allowance at the basic (full day) rate with a War Disablement Pension can apply for Carers Allowance. This is from the Department of Work and Pensions and is only available to people who are at least 16 years of age and who can commit to 35 hours a week to care for the person. This benefit is means tested and you get a pro rata rate depending upon how much you earn. It will be another benefit subject to the benefit cap in April 2013, but again you will be exempt from this cap if you qualify for Working Tax Credits.

How to Make a Claim

So with all this in mind you need to be aware of how you go about making a claim for the relevant benefits. This could be a brand new claim or a repeat claim for an existing benefit. It is possible to go into your local Jobcentre Plus and make an appointment with an advisor who will help you through everything you need to know about benefits. It is also possible now however, to telephone the Jobcentre Plus on 0800 0556688 for a regular telephone or 0800 0234888 from a textphone for the deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired. This is an 0800 number and so therefore free from a landline whichever provider you are with.

The call can last up to 40 minutes so it is not such a good idea to ring from a mobile phone unless that is your only option. If this is the case you can ask the representative to call you back which will reduce your costs considerably. You can make this call anytime on a weekday as the lines are open from Monday to Friday at 8 in the morning until 6 in the evening. It is not possible to make this call on a weekend but it is also not possible to visit the Jobcentre Plus on a weekend either.

It is also worth knowing that you can often make this call from your Jobcentre Plus in one of the booths that are available for Jobseekers. You are going to be giving out a lot of personal information however, so make sure that you are as private as possible when you make this call. You need to be somewhere that you are comfortable and that you can remain comfortable for the duration of the call. If you are calling about several benefits then you may be even longer than the 40 minutes mentioned previously.

When you make the call you need to have a lot of information ready to hand as your advisor will not have a lot of spare time to wait while you locate information or documents. Every type of benefit claim will require your National Insurance Number so make sure that you have this to hand.

If you do not have a National Insurance Number or cannot find your existing one you can call the National Insurance Number phone line at the Jobcentre Plus on 0845 6000643 Monday to Friday between 8am and 6pm to request a new one. You will also need to provide other information such as how much your rent or mortgage is, whether you are in employment and if not details of your previous employment and information about any other income or savings you may have coming into the household. This could be other benefits that you already receive, or income from savings (interest) or from other sources.

While you are on the telephone your benefits advisor may make you an appointment to actually come in and speak to a person at the Jobcentre Plus face to face in order to help you look for work and signpost to you all the available services that the Jobcentre Plus has to offer. They will inform you about what will happen next and where to send any proof to for the benefit you are claiming. They will also give you information about how to find out what is happening with your claim once it has been submitted. This may be a telephone number or the name of a particular person at the Jobcentre Plus. It is worth knowing that if you need someone else to claim for a benefit on your behalf you need to make arrangements to appoint one person to act as your representative. If you have not requested this the Jobcentre will not be able to talk to anyone else on your behalf until such an arrangement is put into place.

The other way to make these claims if you have access to a computer is to do it on-line. You can apply for lots of benefits on-line although some applications will then require that you have an appointment with an actual advisor to discuss other aspects of the claim with you. You can claim Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance or Incapacity Benefit on-line but these benefits may need for you to go for such an appointment. Bereavement benefits, Carers Allowance Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit and Maternity Allowance can be claimed without you meeting an advisor as with the others. You can organise a meeting yourself however, if you prefer to discuss these benefits with someone in person.
If you wish to make a claim online, follow this link for the Services and Benefits Online to start the process.