Citizen’s Advice – Benefits Advice Q&A

I am nervous about challenging a benefits decision in case I lose money – how can I make sure I’m getting the right amount without risking losing the amount I am claiming?

Yes, there is good reason to be cautious about challenging a benefit decision as in some cases the benefit award can be reduced or even ended. It is best to get proper advice before a challenge to understand exactly what you should be entitled to, and what the consequences could be. Citizens Advice can help with that and once it is clear what a decision should be, we can explain the process and the pros and cons of asking for a decision to be looked at again. If someone has a right to a benefit award at a particular rate then it is important that they feel empowered to get what they or the cared for person is entitled to.

I’ve not claimed benefits before and I don’t even know where to begin – can you help me?

Yes we can certainly help with a benefit check, including better off calculations when a carer is contemplating more or less work hours. We can identify any entitlements to disability benefits for the carer and the cared for person, and also to any means tested benefits for the household. Once a carer knows what a potential entitlement is, we can support them to make benefit claims if they decide to go ahead.

I’m not entitled to Carers Allowance because I work, is there any other support available to me?

It depends on how much the carer is earning, and what other income and savings are in the household. There might be an entitlement to Carers Allowance and/or a means tested benefit entitlement such as Universal Credits, Council Tax Reduction. There are some allowable deductions from earnings which might mean that the carer is earning less than the £128 a week earnings ceiling to qualify for Carers Allowance.

Key points for Carers Allowance:

  • Must be caring at least 35 hours a week
  • Must not earn over £128 a week
  • Cared for person must be in receipt of a qualifying benefit (AA, or standard rate of the daily living rate of PIP/DLA middle rate care)
  • Can backdate for up to 3 months
  • Is taxable and can negatively impact on other benefits like Council Tax Reduction, Housing Benefit and Tax Credits
  • Can have negative implications for the cared for person if they receive Pension Credit
  • The rate is: £67.25 a week
  • Can give carers premiums/credits on other benefits
  • Can give National Insurance Credits
  • Claim online or can request a paper form

There are other concession schemes available from the Council Tax office, such as re-banding a property to a lower banding if there is more room needed for disability equipment. There is also a scheme to remove someone from a bill if they can be shown to have a reduced mental capacity (this can give rise to 25% off if only two people are in the household). The carer might also be eligible for Carers National Insurance Credits if the carer cares for at least 20 hours a week.

Can I apply for a blue badge in their name even though it’s me that drives?

A Blue Badge can ONLY be applied for in the name of the person with the disability or health condition, even if they are not the driver. A Blue Badge is automatically given if the high rate of mobility component of DLA or PIP is in payment.

How do I maximise my pension as a carer?

Best to ask Pension Wise for pensions advice, their link is:  www.pensionwise.gov.uk/en

You could also possibly claim Carers NI Credits to help to have a better contribution record.

Who can help me complete the Attendance Allowance forms as they are so long?

We can help with this at Citizens Advice, please ask to be referred to us to check eligibility and for help with the form.

Key points for Attendance Allowance:

  • Only for those over Pension Credit age, currently 66.
  • Only if not already getting DLA or PIP
  • No mobility component available for this benefit
  • Standard rate is: £59.70 a week, high rate is: £89.15 a week
  • Standard is just day or night care needs, high is for both
  • Not means tested in any way
  • Can claim online or download a form to print.
  • Some things that should count don’t! eg cleaning, shopping

Can I claim Carers Allowance if I don’t live with the person I care for?

Yes, but you do need to be caring at least 35 hours a week. Please see the basic conditions above.

I think I’m going to need to stop work in order to look after someone. How will I afford it?

We can do a benefit check for you and also better off calculations to help you to budget with less or no work income. You might be entitled to some means tested benefits or disability/health benefits to help ‘make ends meet’.

If I’m working can I still claim something?

This depends too, on the level of earnings and savings in the household. If in doubt ask Devon Carers to refer you for a benefit check.

If I have savings, am I still entitled to anything?

It depends on the level of savings, as they are not counted for disability benefits and savings under £6,000 are ignored for means tested benefits. Amounts between £6,000 and £16,000 will have an impact on some benefits such as Council Tax Reduction and Universal Credits. Citizens Advice can explore this with you and also look at the effects of anything else that might be considered as capital.

Is there an age limit to some benefits?

Yes there are different age limits for different benefits, for example PIP is for 16 to 66 year olds. Attendance Allowance if for someone over 66 years old.

How long do benefits take to come through once an application has gone in?

Typically it takes at least 5 weeks, and sometimes much longer depending on the benefit. The average time for a PIP decision is around 4 months currently.

I’m not happy with their decision, so how do I appeal?

Ask for a referral to us and we can look at the entitlement to a particular benefit, and then help to challenge it if applicable. In the first instance you should ask the DWP to look at a decision again within a month of being notified. This is called a Mandatory Reconsideration.

What help can I get with cared for person forms? (filling in and appealing?)

Ask for a referral to Citizens Advice and we can help with these.

Are there such a thing as Adaptations benefits?

Not as such but if you request an OT assessment of your home, they can see if you might be eligible for a Disability Facilities Grant.

I’m a registered carer but under the 20 hours requirement. I’m not working as I have a long term health condition and under pensionable age. I’m in receipt of ESA contribution based and also PIP. Would it benefit me to claim Carer’s credit?

You can only get Class 3 National Insurance Credits if you care for 20 hours a week or more. As you can only be credited with earnings equal to the lower earnings limit, it would not be likely to benefit you to have these additional Carer NI credits. You should already be getting full NI credits as a claimant of ESA (contribution based) because you have a limited capability for work.

The number for National Insurance helpline is: 0300 200 3500 to explore this further.

Where can I get more information or advice?

Find out more information from your local Citizen’s Advice by visiting: www.citizensadvice.org.uk

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