Welfare changes: the benefit cap and Universal Credit
(**NB** some of the information in this new letter about benefits may not be effecting us as pensioners, but I thought it was handy to know for the benefit of your younger relatives and friends)
You may have heard about the benefit cap and Universal Credit, and be wondering if they affect you. If you’re over Pension Credit age, it’s unlikely you’ll be affected.
The benefit cap is a limit on the amount you can receive in benefits if you’re under Pension Credit age – currently 62½. The DWP or your local council will contact you if the benefit cap affects you. Certain people under Pension Credit age will be exempt from the benefit cap: for example if you or anyone you live with claims a means-tested benefit or receive a disability benefit. Visit www.gov.uk/benefit-cap to find out more.
Universal Credit will replace some means-tested benefits paid to people of working age. It is gradually being rolled out nationally. In the areas where it’s introduced, it will eventually affect new claims for Pension Credit for couples where one person is over the qualifying age for Pension Credit and one is under. At the time of writing, the Government hasn’t said when
couples will start to be affected by this change, but it is unlikely to be before September 2016. Couples who are already receiving Pension Credit when Universal Credit is introduced to their area will not be affected and will be able to continue to claim Pension Credit, unless there is a break in their claim for some reason. For information about benefits for people of working age, including Universal Credit, visit www.ageuk.org.uk/benefits
Some people miss out on benefits because they mistakenly believe they don’t qualify or are put off by the claims’ process. Do any of these apply to you? The income and savings limit on some benefits may be higher than you think, while others such as Attendance Allowance don’t consider your income at all.
‘My income’s too high.’
Owning your own home doesn’t rule you out. Many older homeowners make a successful claim for Pension Credit, for instance.
‘I own my own home, so I won’t get anything.’
you’ve paid into the tax system all your life. Now it’s time to get something back. Think about what support and equipment might help you carry on living independently at home. For some benefits, such as Pension Credit, it only takes one phone call and you won’t have to fill in a form. And if there is a form, ask your local Age UK if they can help you fill it in. Claiming Attendance Allowance doesn’t mean you have to pay for a carer. The money can be spent in any way you choose.
‘I don’t want a carer coming in.’
‘I’ve already been told I don’t qualify.’
‘It’s too difficult to make a claim.’
‘I can get by without it.’
Benefits rates change every year, as can your finances, so it’s worth making a new claim every year.
We provide advice and information for people in later life through our Age UK Advice line‚ publications and online. Age UK Advice: 0800 169 65 65
Lines are open seven days a week from 8am to 7pm. www.ageuk.org.uk
Call Age UK Advice to find out whether there is a local Age UK near you, and to order free copies of our information guides and factsheets.
In Scotland: contact Age Scotland by calling Silver Line Scotland: 0800 470 8090 (This is a partnership between The Silver Line and Age Scotland) www.agescotland.org.uk
Attendance Allowance helpline: Sends out claim packs for AA. Tel: 0345 605 6055 Textphone: 0845 604 5312
Carer’s Allowance Unit: Provides information about Carer’s Allowance, including eligibility and how to make a claim. Tel: 0345 608 4321 Textphone: 0345 604 5312
Carers UK: Information and support for carers, including information about benefits for carers. Tel: 0808 808 7777 www.carersuk.org
Citizens Advice: National network of advice centres offering free, confidential and independent advice, face-to-face or by telephone.
In Scotland, there is a national phone advice service on 0808 800 9060. To find details of your nearest CAB, check your phone book
or visit: Scotland: www.cas.org.uk Visit www.adviceguide.org.uk for online information.
Disability Living Allowance: Information about how to claim Disability Living Allowance.
Tel: 0345 712 3456 Textphone: 0345 722 4433
Gov.uk: Official Government website that provides information on public services such as benefits, jobs, pensions and health services. www.gov.uk
Help with Health Costs: Tel: 0300 330 1343 www.nhs.uk/healthcosts
Jobcentre Plus: Provides information on services like benefits, loans and grants, and help with finding a job. Benefits claim line: 0800 055 6688 Textphone: 0800 023 4888
NHS Choices: Provides information about health conditions, treatments and services.
In Scotland, visit www.nhsinform.co.uk
Pension Service: For further information about State Pension, Pension Credit and how to apply. State Pension claim line: 0800 731 7898
Textphone: 0800 731 7339
Pension Credit helpline: 0800 99 1234
Textphone: 0800 169 0133
National helpline (general queries): 0345 60 60 265
Textphone: 0345 60 60 285
Winter Fuel helpline
For information and application forms to claim the payment.
Tel: 08459 15 15 15
Textphone: 0845 606 0285
Apologies to Age Scotland for any mis-quotes (Mae Stewart)
Provided by Mae Stewart, Editor UNISON Retired members Newsletter, Dundee, Perth and Angus. Please note that this is not definitive information about benefits but will provide a signpost as to where to get up to date information. Please check the sources first. UNISON Scotland can take no responsibility for information that may be outdated or inaccurate.