How do I apply for benefits?

Golden rules when applying for benefits 

  • Apply immediately – as soon as you think you are entitled or have a very low income apply for the relevant benefits by filling in the appropriate claim form.  Do not assume you can apply some time later and get your benefit back-dated – you can only do this if you have a very good reason as to why you did not claim earlier
  • Take a friend or relative with you when you attend any appointments to claim benefits – ideally this person will have some experience of claiming benefits themselves
  • Try to keep a copy of all the forms you fill in – this is generally easier if you are applying online.  Keep copies of any letters you write to the benefit authorities and of any documents you send to them.  Keep a note of the date you send things in and keep the copies and dates together in a file or folder.  Keep all of the letters that the Jobcentre Plus and/or Council send to you
  • ALWAYS get a receipt when you hand in a form and/or other documents to the Council, the Jobcentre Plus or the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP).  This is your proof that you handed in the relevant forms/documents if the benefit authorities lose them
  • If your circumstances change keep the benefit authorities informed.  They will need to know things like moving house, your income changing, somebody moving into or out of your property, starting at college.  If in doubt as to what counts as a change of circumstances seek some advice.
  • Get advice immediately if your benefit stops or you do not think you are getting enough money, or indeed you are getting too much.  Go to the Citizens Advice Bureau with any relevant paperwork relating to your benefit claims.  Remember if you are not happy about a decision on your benefit claim you generally have only one month to appeal against the decision

 

Types of benefit

Housing Benefit/Local Housing Allowance – help with paying your rent

To claim Housing Benefit or Local Housing Allowance you need to be:

·        Aged 16 or over

·        Responsible for paying the rent where you live (i.e. be the tenant)

·        Claiming Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance or Employment & Support Allowance or be on a low income – the amount of benefit you get will depend upon the level of your income – the higher your income, the lower your Housing Benefit or Local Housing Allowance

In order to claim Housing Benefit you need to fill in the appropriate form which you can get from Dudley Council’s Benefit Services or at www.dudley.gov.uk.  In general you need to show proof of your National Insurance number, provide a bill with your address on it, show proof of the amount of rent you pay which may include providing proof of your tenancy agreement.  If your rent covers services such as meals or heating then it is most unlikely that HB will cover these costs.  Also if you rent from a private Landlord you need to be aware that LHA may not cover the whole rent.

 Housing Benefit will not cover any deposit you will probably have to pay on a privately rented property.

 Also, be aware that if you are a full-time student you are most unlikely to get Housing Benefit unless you are disabled or a single parent or your partner (who you live with) is also a full-time student and at least one of you is responsible for a child.  If you are a full-time student and need advice regarding benefits you should seek it from your Student Finance Officer at the college or university you are studying at or from your local Connexions Office or from Dudley District Citizens Advice Bureaux.

 As stated in the golden rules, whenever you hand in forms or documents to your Dudley Council’s Benefit Services, make sure that you get a receipt for the forms you have given in – this is your proof that you have made a claim and/or handed in the documents asked for.

Jobseekers Allowance – if you are unemployed

To claim Jobseekers Allowance you have to be 18 or over.  If you are under 18 you can only claim JSA in very specific circumstances.

In order to claim JSA you must be available for full-time work and be actively seeking work and you must able to show that this is the case.  You can still claim JSA if you are working but it must be for less than 16 hours per week, and whatever you earn from this work will have an effect on the amount of benefit you get.

You can claim JSA by ringing Jobcentre Plus or by visiting the office.  You will need your National Insurance number and if you have just stopped working you will need your P45.  In order to receive benefit you will have to attend an interview where you will be asked to sign a Jobseekers agreement and after that you will need to visit the office once every two weeks to “sign on”.

If you do not attend to sign on without first contacting the office with a good reason for your absence (e.g. sickness or a job interview) your benefit can be stopped.  It can also be stopped if you are unable to provide evidence of your activities to seek work.

Employment & Support Allowance – if you have a limited capability for work

To claim Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) you must be over 18 and be sick and unable to work.  If this is the case you will need to claim ESA by contacting the Jobcentre Plus.  You will need to fill in the forms and shortly after that you will be called in for an interview to discuss your medical condition and how it affects your ability to work. 

Over a 13 week assessment phase the DWP will decide whether you will be able to continue claiming ESA or not.  If it is decided that you can continue to claim ESA you will get an extra amount of money depending upon which group you have been put into. 

Most people who continue to claim ESA will be put into the Work Related Activity group which means that whilst it has been accepted that they have a limited capability for work, it is not considered that they have a limited capability for work related activity, which means that they will be expected to take part in some activities if they wish to continue claiming ESA.  The others who continue to get ESA will be put into the Support group which means they will not be expected to take part in any activities as they are considered to have conditions too severe for them to be expected to take part in any work-related activities.

Income Support – if you are a single parent or a carer

If you are a single parent and either working less than 16 hours or not working at all, you may be able to claim Income Support if your child is less than 5 years old.

 You may also be able to claim some Income Support if you are a carer of a person with disabilities and are already in receipt of Carers Allowance.

Help in an Emergency

You may have heard of payments made to people who need help with money or goods when they get a new home or if they have an emergency.  In the past there were a number of payments you could apply for such as Community Care Grant, Crisis Loan or Bugeting Loan.  The Budgeting Loan still exists but has changed to take into account the changes to benefits. Budgeting Advances will replace Budgeting Loans for Universal Credit claimants from 1st April 2013.

Budgeting Advances

Budgeting Advances will in most cases need you to be claiming Universal Credit for at least six months. However, if a Budgeting Advance is needed because you are starting work or for you to remain in work, this does not apply.

Local Welfare Assistance Scheme 

Crisis Awards – these awards are to meet an urgent need that poses an immediate and substantial risk to health and safety. This award can help provide access to essential items i.e. food, energy supply (electricity or gas) clothing and in some circumstances white goods and furniture.

Community Care Awards – these awards are to help people remain in the community or move back into the community. This award can help provide access to a wide range of basic household items.
 
How are awards made?

Depending on the type of award you require vouchers may be issued or nominated suppliers will provide you with items. Awards will NOT be made in cash.

To be eligible to apply you will need to be 16 or over, legally resident in the UK, and have lived in Dudley for a minimum time.  You cannot apply if you have a current benefit sanction or have had two awards already in the past 12 months.

For more information please go to www.dudley.gov.uk/resident/your-council/benefits/local-welfare-assistance-scheme/ or call 0800 923 0383 or 01384 813510.

To apply please follow this link www.northgate-nes.co.uk/pls/pwslive/f or call 0800 923 0383

Useful contacts/links

Dudley Council’s Benefit Services if you have a query about Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit  - Tel : 0300 555 8100

Department of Work & Pensions

Jobcentre Plus - 0845 6060 234
 

Disability Benefits Enquiry Line - 0800 88 22 00

Dudley District Citizens Advice Bureau – advice line 01384 816 222

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Also see the following for more information: