Nine benefits you could be missing out on – how to check if you're owed thousands extra a year

Nine benefits you could be missing out on – how to check if you're owed thousands extra a year

11/20/2021

EVERY year in the UK, billions of pounds in benefits go unclaimed because people don't realise they're entitled to them.

Checking to see what you help you might qualify is quick and easy, but plenty of people miss out because they assume they're not eligible.

Charity Turn2us has warned that in total, at least seven million people across the UK are missing out on over £15 billion of unclaimed benefits.

Council tax support is the most underclaimed benefit, with almost 2.8million people not claiming when they should.

Universal Credit is another benefit that is significantly underclaimed with an estimated one million Brits missing out.

Pensioners are the least likely to check what they help they can get, according to the charity.

Pension Credit is also severely under-used with 958,000 people missing out – given there are far fewer pensioners overall, this is the benefit with the lowest level of take-up.

Here we highlight the nine benefits that are most under-claimed, who is eligible, how much you could get and how to claim:

Council tax support

  • 2,770,000 people missing out
  • £2.6bn unclaimed
  • Average amount per person: £938.63

You can apply for a council tax reduction if you're on a low income or claim other benefits.

Depending on your circumstances, you could get your bill reduced by up to 100%.

Exactly what discount you get depends on factors including:

What you get depends on:

  • Where you live – each council runs its own scheme, with different rules
  • Your circumstances – including number of children, benefits, residency status
  • Your household income – including savings, pension and a partner’s income
  • If your children or other adults live with you

For instance, if you're the only adult in your household, you automatically get 25% off your bill, but many people get far more.

To apply, enter your postcode into this government website, and then head to your local council to see what's available.

Universal credit

  • 1,000,000 people missing out
  • £2.9bn unclaimed
  • Average amount per person: £2,900

Universal credit is a payment designed to help people on lower incomes or who are out of work with their living costs.

It was brought in to simplify the benefits system, replacing several other benefits including child tax credit, housing benefit and income support.

You should be eligible to get some Universal Credit if:

You may be able to get Universal Credit if:

  • You’re on a low income or out of work
  • You’re 18 or over (there are some exceptions if you’re 16 to 17)
  • You’re under State Pension age (or your partner is)
  • You and your partner have £16,000 or less in savings between you
  • You live in the UK

How much you can get varies substantially depending on your living circumstances.

There's a standard allowance, and then you get extra elements if you have children, have a disability or health condition, or need help paying rent.

The standard allowance varies between £257.33 and £324,84 a month depending on whether you're over 25 or not.

Couples get a higher allowance between them, but it works out at less per person.

If you're in work, this amount is reduced by 63p for every pound you earn. You have a work allowance, which is not affected by the taper if you a responsible for children or have a disability.

On top of the basic amount, you get extra top-ups depending on your circumstances. For instance, you could get £237.08 a month for a first child born after April 6 2017.

Working out exactly what you're entitled to is complex because there are so many variations, but this EntitledTo calculator can give you a good idea.

Read our guide to learn more about what Universal Credit is, how much it's worth and how to check you're eligible in our guide.

The easiest way to apply for Universal Credit is online on the government's website.

If you already get tax credits, you will lose them when you apply for Universal Credit, so make sure you'll be better off before you apply.

Pension credit

  • 958,000 people missing out
  • £1.8bn unclaimed
  • Average amount per person: £1,878,91

Almost a million pensioners are missing out on Pension Credit, so many that the Department for Work and Pensions launched a campaign to try and improve uptake.

Typically, it is worth around £3,000 a year on average, and you can get extra help if you're a carer, disabled, or responsible for a child.

Read our guide to understand how much you can get depending on your circumstances.

It's also really important because it gives people over state pension age access to a whole raft of other benefits including:

  • Housing Benefit if you rent the property you live in
  • Support if you own the property you live in
  • Council Tax Reductions
  • A free TV licence if you’re aged 75 or over
  • Help with NHS prescriptions, dental treatment, glasses and free transport costs for hospital appointments
  • Help with your heating costs including cold weather payments.

Pension Credit is split into two parts: Guarantee Credit and Savings Credit.

Whether or not you're eligible for the guaranteed part depends on your household income.

You'll qualify if you're over state pension age and you get less than £177.10 a week if you’re single or £270.30 if you have a partner.

Even if you're income is higher you might be eligible for savings credit if:

  • you reached State Pension age before 6 April 2016
  • you saved some money for retirement, for example a personal or workplace pension

You can apply online as long as you've claimed state pension and there are no children in the application.

Otherwise, you'll have to use the Pension Credit claim line on 0800 99 1234 or apply by post by printing out and filling in the Pension Credit claim form.

Housing benefit

  • 745,000 people missing out
  • £3.3bn unclaimed
  • Average amount per person: £4,429.53

Housing Benefit helps you pay your rent if you’re unemployed, on a low income or claiming other benefits.

It’s being replaced by Universal Credit, which means you can only make a new claim if:

  • you have reached State Pension age (or a partner you live with has)
  • you’re in supported, sheltered or temporary housing

Exactly how much you can get depends on a range of factors depending on whether you're renting privately or from the council and whether you have spare rooms (which means a reduction).

The government also takes your circumstances into account, for example, the age of people in the house or if someone has a disability.

If you rent privately, your eligible rent amount is either your Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate or your actual rent, whichever is lower. 

You can either apply:

  • through your local council
  • as part of a Pension Credit claim, if you’re eligible for this.

Child benefit

  • 503,000 people missing out
  • £775mn unclaimed
  • Average amount per person: £1,540.76

Child benefit helps families with the cost of raising children, although it can only be claimed by one parent.

You get Child Benefit if you’re responsible for bringing up a child who is:

  • under 16
  • under 20 if they stay in approved education or training

It’s paid every four weeks and there’s no limit to how many children you can claim for.

If either you or your partner/husband earns more than £50,000 individually, your entitlement to child benefit drops and you will have to pay some back via a tax return.

If either person earns over £60,000 you're not eligible for any of the benefit.

If you're a stay at home parent it's still really important to fill in the form, even if you won't get any of the money.

This is because child benefit entitles you to National Insurance Credits, which top up your state pension.

You can register but tick the box which says you don't want to receive the benefit to avoid having to deal with tax forms.

Typically, you'll get £21.15 per week for your eldest child, and £14 a week for every child after that.

For a parent with two children, that works out at £1,827.80 a year.

Only one person can claim per child, even if the parents get divorced. However, if you have two children, you could claim for one child each.

To apply for the first time, fill in Child Benefit claim form CH2 and send it to the Child Benefit Office. The address is on the form.

Child tax credits

  • 399,000 people missing out
  • £1.4bn unclaimed
  • Average amount per person: £3,508.77

You can only make a claim for Child Tax Credit if you already get Working Tax Credit, otherwise, you need to apply for Universal Credit.

The rules have changed, so how much exactly you can get depends on when your children were born and how many you have.

If you have two children born after April 6, 2017, you'd get a child element for each child worth up to £2,845.

If you qualified for the maximum, you'd get £5,690 a year.

If one child was born before then you could also get a basic amount called the family element worth up to £545 a year.

If all your children were born before April 6, 2017, you can claim for all of them, but after that, there is a two-child limit.

To claim Child Tax Credit, update your existing tax credit claim by reporting a change in your circumstances online or by phone.

Income Support / Employee Support Allowance

  • 287,000 people missing out
  • £971mn unclaimed
  • Average amount per person: £3,383.28

You can apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you have a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work.

You might also be able to apply if you can't work because you're self-isolating due to Covid-19.

You can apply if you’re employed, self-employed or unemployed.

You need to be under the state pension age, have a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work, and both:

  • worked as an employee or have been self-employed
  • paid enough National Insurance contributions, usually in the last 2 to 3 years

You won't get the benefit if you claim Jobseeker's Allowance or Statutory Sick Pay.

If you get Universal Credit, you could get ESA at the same time, but your Universal Credit payment is reduced by the amount you get for ‘new style’ ESA.

Once your claim has been assessed, you'll be put into one of two groups, which defines how much you're paid.

You’ll get:

  • up to £74.70 a week if you’re in the work-related activity group
  • up to £114.10 a week if you’re in the support group

The easiest way to claim is online on the government website.

Working tax credit

  • 211,000 people missing out
  • £576mn unclaimed
  • Average amount per person: £2,729.86

You can only make a claim for Working Tax Credit if you already get Child Tax Credit, otherwise, you need to apply for Universal Credit instead.

To be eligible for the benefit, you need to work at least 16 hours a week, and over 30 hours a week if you're aged 25-59 and don't have children.

Couples need to work at least 24 hours between you, with one partner working at least 16 hours unless you are exempt due to disability or age.

You'll get a basic amount worth up to £2,005 a year and additional elements on top.

For instance, a single parent could get up to £2,060 a year extra, meaning a total benefit of up to £4,065.

If you have a disability, the additional element pays up to £3,240 a year.

To claim Working Tax Credit, you need to update your existing tax credit claim by reporting a change in your circumstances online or by phone.

Jobseekers' Allowance

  • 126,000 people missing out
  • £496mn unclaimed
  • Average amount per person: £3,936.51

Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) is an unemployment benefit you can claim while looking for work.

To be eligible for ‘new style’ Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) you’ll need to have both:

  • worked as an employee
  • paid Class 1 National Insurance contributions, usually in the last 2 to 3 years

You'll also need to be between 18 and state pension age, although there are special rules for 16- and 17-year-olds.

You'll also need to be available for work, including not having an illness or disability which stops you from working.

You can get ‘new style’ JSA for up to 182 days. After this, you can talk to your work coach about your options.

Under 24s get up to £59.20 a week, while over 25s get up to £74.70 a week.

The easiest way to apply is online.

 

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