A Guide to National Insurance

A Guide to National Insurance

What is National Insurance?

National Insurance is a form of tax which applies to your earnings for every pay period. This could be weekly or monthly according to your employer’s payment arrangements. It will be deducted from your wages along with Income Tax. If you are self-employed, you have to complete a Self Assessment tax return before paying both Income Tax and National Insurance Contributions. You must pay NIC if you are over 16 years old and in employment earning over £162 a week, or self-employment with a profit above £6,205 a year. You stop paying when you reach the State Pension age. If you don’t pay National Insurance contributions, you will not qualify to receive certain benefits. These include the State Pension, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Maternity Allowance, and Bereavement Support. You need an NI number to pay.

Continue reading A Guide to National Insurance

Rules for Claiming Carer’s Allowance

rules for claiming carer's allowance

This guide will help you to understand the rules for claiming Carer’s Allowance. If you still have questions after reading, then please contact the Carer’s Allowance helpline on 0843 178 4186.

What is Carer’s Allowance?

Carer’s Allowance is a benefit for people who care for someone with a disability in the person’s own home. The standard rate is £62.70 per week, regardless of if you care for more than one person. The person you care for does not have to be a relative, and you don’t have to live with them. You must care for at least one person for at least 35 hours every week. The person you care for must be receiving one of the following benefits, at these rates:

  • the daily living component of PIP (Personal Independence Payment)
  • the middle or highest care rate of DLA (Disability Living Allowance)
  • Attendance Allowance
  • the normal maximum rate or above of Constant Attendance Allowance with an Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  • the basic full day rate of Constant Attendance Allowance with a War Disablement Pension
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment

Can I claim Carer’s Allowance?

If you are a carer and meet the criteria above, you may be eligible for Carer’s Allowance. However, your eligibility also depends on further factors. First of all, you must be 16 years old or over and living in England, Scotland, or Wales. You must have been in one of these countries for at least 2 out of the last 3 years. The only exceptions are refugees, or members of the armed forces living abroad. You cannot be in full-time education, and if you are studying it must be for less than 21 hours a week. Your earnings and any other benefits you receive will also affect your eligibility. If somebody else cares for the same person as well, only one of you can claim Carer’s Allowance.

Can I claim Carer’s Allowance if I work?

You can claim Carer’s Allowance whether or not you are in paid work. However, you cannot earn more than £116 per week. This total is after deductions for income tax, National Insurance, and half of any pension contributions. If your earnings in one week go over £116, you will not receive your payment for that week. Carer’s Allowance is taxable, which means it counts as income if you are applying for Tax Credits. If you already get Child Tax Credits or Working Tax Credits, you must report your Carer’s Allowance claim. You can do this by calling 0843 178 3408. Your savings don’t affect your claim, and you don’t have to be paying National Insurance contributions to be eligible.

What other benefits can I claim with Carer’s Allowance?

For every week that you get Carer’s Allowance, you will automatically receive National Insurance credits. These will count towards your State Pension. If Carer’s Allowance is the only benefit you are claiming, there are a few others you can also apply for. These include Council Tax reductions, Income Support for low incomes, and Pension Credit if you are above working age. If you cannot work yourself due to a medical condition or disability, you might be able to claim income-based Employment and Support Allowance. You can still receive Personal Independence Payments or Attendance Allowance. Besides these, there are rules limiting the other benefits you can claim.

Certain benefits cannot overlap, so you can only claim one of them. These include Incapacity Benefit, State Pension, Maternity Allowance, Widows’ Benefits, Bereavement Support Payments, and contribution-based ESA or Jobseeker’s Allowance. If you get £62.70 or more per week from these, then you cannot get Carer’s Allowance as well. If you are eligible for a different benefit, you may receive this instead. You will get a top-up to bring it up to £62.70 a week if it is less than this amount. You might be able to claim a Carer Premium of £34.95 per week on top of any of these benefits. Use a benefits calculator to check what you are entitled to before you make any claims.

Can I claim Carer’s Allowance for myself?

Carer’s Allowance is for carers who look after people other than themselves. For this reason, you cannot claim Carer’s Allowance for caring for yourself. If you need financial support for your care due to chronic illness or disability, you can apply for other benefits. Disability Living Allowance is now only available for children under 16. Adults from 16 to 64 years old can apply for PIP instead. You could receive between £22 and £141.10 per week, depending on how your condition affects you. Those over 65 can apply for Attendance Allowance. You could get from £55.65 to £83.10 a week to cover your personal support costs if you need to pay somebody to help look after you.

If you are of working age, you could apply for employment support such as ESA. This provides financial support if you are too ill to work, or personal support to help you work. If you already receive Income Support or income-based JSA, you may be eligible for a Disability Premium. There are also Severe Disability Premiums and the Enhanced Disability Premium. These all depend on your circumstances. Contact your Jobcentre Plus to find out if you are eligible for any Premiums. If you do have a carer who puts in a claim for Carer’s Allowance, this will affect your own benefits. You might no longer receive Severe Disability Premiums and any reductions to your Council Tax.

How do I claim Carer’s Allowance?

If you decide to make a claim for Carer’s Allowance, you can apply for it online at any time. If your entitlement predates your claim, you can ask to backdate payments for up to three months. You can do this when you apply, and you don’t need to provide a reason for claiming late. If you have a partner, they might have to attend an interview with a personal adviser regarding your Carer’s Allowance claim. Before you apply, make sure you have all of this information you will need ready:

  • your National Insurance number (and your partner’s, if you have one)
  • your bank details (unless you receive your State Pension)
  • the details of your employment and your most recent payslip if you are working
  • your P45 if you recently left work
  • the details of your course if you are studying
  • the details of the person you care for (their name, date of birth, address, and National Insurance number or Disability Living Allowance reference)

Once you start receiving Carer’s Allowance, payments will go directly into your bank, building society, or Post Office account. If you do not have one of these accounts, the DWP will issue a Simple Payment card you can use to collect the benefit at a PayPoint outlet. You can choose to receive payments weekly in advance or every four weeks in arrears. You may also qualify for a Christmas Bonus of £10 every year. This will be paid automatically, so you don’t have to claim it.

Changes to Carer’s Allowance

You will need to report any changes in your circumstances, including getting a job, temporarily stopping care, or quitting being a carer. Call 0843 178 4191 to report any changes which may affect your entitlement. You can still get Carer’s Allowance for up to 12 weeks if either you or the person you are caring for goes into hospital. If either of you goes on holiday, you can still receive it for up to 4 weeks. If the person you care for is in the hospital for over 28 days, their qualifying benefit usually stops. This means that your Carer’s Allowance will also stop. You can continue to receive Carer’s Allowance payments for 8 weeks if the person you are caring for passes away.

How to Claim Housing Benefit

How to Claim Housing Benefit Guide

What Is Housing Benefit?

Housing Benefit helps people on a low income to pay their rent. It can pay for some or the whole of your rent. Your income and circumstances will affect the amount of Housing Benefit you can receive. You can’t use Housing Benefit to pay for heating, water, energy, or food; the payment is for your rent only. Read this guide to find out how to claim Housing Benefit. Call the helpline on 0843 178 4235 if you still need help to claim Housing Benefit after reading all the information.

Can I Get Housing Benefit?

There is no fixed payment for Housing Benefit, so the amount you are eligible for depends on your circumstances. Your entitlement could cover all or only part of your total rent costs. To claim Housing Benefit, you must be paying rent, be on a low income or on benefits, and have savings below £16,000. You can apply for Housing Benefit whether you are in any employment or not.

Only one person in a couple can claim Housing Benefit, while if you are single (and under 35) you can only claim for a bedsit or one room if you share accommodation. You cannot get Housing Benefit if you have savings over £16,000, live in a relative’s home, or you are a full-time student, asylum-seeker, or homeowner. There may be exceptions for people with children or a disability.

How Do I Claim Housing Benefit?

Apply for Housing Benefit through your local council, or contact your local Jobcentre Plus to apply when you apply for other benefits. The Jobcentre will forward your Housing Benefit claim to your council. You can apply for this benefit at the same time as Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, or Jobseeker’s Allowance. If you receive Universal Credit, you won’t be eligible for Housing Benefit unless you live in supported housing. You can claim Housing Benefit along with Pension Credit, and the Pension Service will forward the claim to your council. You can apply up to thirteen weeks before moving, or ask your council to backdate your claim for one month.

What Evidence Do I Need for Housing Benefit?

When you make a Housing Benefit claim, you have to provide specific information and evidence to support it. Before you apply for Housing Benefit, make sure you have all of this ready. It will make the application process much easier for you, and you could get the money faster.

First of all, check your tenancy type. Then make sure you know how much rent you pay and what it includes. For example, your rent could include charges for water, gas, electricity, insurance, or building maintenance. You also need to know the details of your landlord or letting agent.

Beyond this, you will have to provide supporting documentation. You will need the following:

  • your last five weekly payslips, or last two monthly payslips
  • bank statements or building society statements for the last two months
  • proof of any other income (investments and shares, ISAs, premium bonds)
  • proof of income for any non-dependant adults living with you (such as relatives or friends)
  • any two acceptable forms of proof of ID and address (such as a UK driving licence photocard, passport, birth or marriage certificate, permanent residence card, certificate of registration or naturalisation, or a recent utility bill, benefits letter, bank statement, or letter from HMRC)

If you are renting privately, you will need to supply some additional documents. These are your tenancy agreement or rent book, a tenancy confirmation letter from the landlord, and proof of any rent you are already paying. This could be a rent receipt or a bank statement.

Claim Housing Benefit for Council Rent

This information only applies if you are renting council housing or social housing. The amount of Housing Benefit you will get depends on your “eligible” rent, whether you have spare rooms, and your household income. Having a lot of savings could affect your entitlement. It also depends on other circumstances, such as the age of residents or if anyone in the house has a disability.

The “eligible” rent is the reasonable amount for a property in your local area. The household income will include any benefits, pensions, and savings. You may get a reduction in Housing Benefit if you have any spare bedrooms. If you only have one spare room, the deduction would be 14% of the “eligible” rent. It would be 25% of the “eligible” rent for two or more spare rooms.

You can only have a spare room without a Housing Benefit reduction for up to 52 weeks if you are a foster carer. Adult couples, at least two children under 16 of the same sex, and at least two children under 10 of any sex should share a room. A child under 16 can have their own room if there is no other child for them to share with. Single adults and overnight carers can have their own room. Couples can have separate rooms in the case of medical conditions or disabilities.

If a student or member of the armed forces is away, their room does not count as a spare if they intend to return. Contact the Housing Benefit helpline on 0843 178 4235 if the number of people living in the house or the rent changes. This is important because it will affect your entitlement. Your council will pay your Housing Benefit directly into your rent account, not your bank account.

Claim Housing Benefit for Private Rent

Tenants who rent privately get Housing Benefit according to the Local Housing Allowance. The amount depends on location, household size, income, and other circumstances. You can use this form to calculate your bedroom eligibility and Local Housing Allowance rate before you apply. There is a maximum weekly amount which depends on the number of bedrooms in the house.

For one bedroom (or if you live in shared accommodation), you could get up to £260.64 a week. With two bedrooms, it increases so you could get up to £302.33 per week. For 3 bedrooms the entitlement goes up to £354.46 a week, and then up to £417.02 for 4 bedrooms. Depending on your location and income, your Housing Benefit could be anywhere from 0 up to these amounts.

You should contact your local council if you privately rent a different type of home. This includes houseboats, caravans, hostels, boarding homes (where rent is inclusive of meals), and properties protected by the Rent Act. Ignore these limits if you have been claiming Housing Benefit since earlier than 7th April 2008. They only apply if you change address or have a break in the claim.

The council will pay your Housing Benefit directly into your bank account or building society account. You are then responsible for paying your rent to your private landlord. Call 0843 178 4235 for help if there is a problem with your Housing Benefit payment. You should also call to report any changes in circumstances which could affect the amount of Housing Benefit you get.


Could You Be Entitled to More Benefits?

Could You Be Entitled to More Benefits?

The Resolution Foundation think tank reports that an estimated 300,000 British people could be entitled to benefits which they aren’t claiming. These people either don’t have jobs or have very low incomes, so they could be receiving support from the government.

The Forgotten Unemployed

Only 800,000 out of 1.5 million unemployed adults in Britain are claiming benefits. Many of those remaining aren’t eligible to claim benefits because a partner or parent supports them financially. But what about the rest out of those 700,000 unemployed Britons? They are missing out on benefits payments which could help to ease their financial struggles.

These “forgotten” people are mainly 55 to 64 years old and mostly women. Younger men also make up the group of people who are “falling through the cracks” with no benefits support. If they claimed benefits, they could get around £70 a week to help them. This leaves £21.9 million in potential benefit payments unclaimed every week.

Challenge Entitlement Decisions

Despite this unclaimed benefits money, the DWP still makes unnecessary strict payment cuts. Appeals found that a large proportion of Work Capability Assessment judgements denying payments to people with disabilities were incorrect. The DWP has a target to uphold 80% of benefits decisions, so overturning a wrong decision can be difficult.

If the Job Centre has cut your benefits payments and misrepresented your circumstances, you should contact them to find out how you can appeal. Use the appropriate benefits helpline number from the list of useful numbers on the right side of this page. If you need a Welfare Rights Adviser to help with your case, contact Citizens Advice.

Make More Benefits Claims

Even with the benefits cap, you might still be entitled to more benefits than you currently receive. There are some benefits you can’t claim at the same time. Often, you can still receive things like housing and child benefits even if you’re already claiming an employment support benefit.

Some people may not be claiming benefits because they don’t think their situation is long-term or desperate enough. Contact the Job Centre or Citizens Advice to find out if you’re eligible for anything. If you are, then go ahead and claim these benefit payments.

There’s no shame in accepting the financial help available. The government should help all of its citizens, and not deny people who need support or overlook unemployed people. If you’re one of the people who is struggling to find work, get in touch with your local Job Centre. Aside from topping up your income, they can help you with job-searching resources and support agencies.

Continued Benefits Freeze Could Push Half a Million People Into Poverty

Continued Benefits Freeze Could Push Half a Million People Into Poverty

Following just twenty minutes after last month’s Royal Wedding announcement was a much grimmer statement. Despite calls to scrap the plan, the four-year benefits freeze announced in summer 2015 will definitely continue until 2019.

The benefits freeze affects child benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, and tax credits. It doesn’t apply to some disability benefits, pensions, and maternity or sick pay.

What is the Benefits Freeze?

The government used to raise benefits for working-age people to match inflation but stopped increasing benefits from April 2016. This benefits freeze aims to save £3.7 billion for the Treasury by 2020. Heartlessly, this will be at the expense of millions of people with disabilities and families with children.

When inflation occurs resulting from a healthy economy, higher pay offsets the increased cost of living. At the moment, this is not the case. The value of the pound dropped drastically following the referendum on Brexit, causing inflation due to the higher cost of imported goods.

Average earnings do not match up to inflation rates, heavily impacting those with the lowest incomes. The benefits freeze coincides with the longest drop in living standards in the last 60 years. Disposable incomes are consistently dropping, with no predicted increase.

Incomes and benefits are not keeping up with the rising cost of living, which means a continued freeze on financial support will cause losses for millions. The benefits freeze will have a negative impact on 7.3 million children and 2.4 million people with disabilities.

By 2020, the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts an average drop in benefit entitlements of £450 per year for 10.5 million households. This may not seem like much, but it’s a huge blow for people already barely making ends meet.

Likely as a result of welfare reforms, homelessness in the UK has seen a severe increase this year. According to a survey by Shelter, over 300,000 people in Britain are now homeless. Thanks to the benefits freeze, even more people could end up on the streets or in hostels.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation predicts that the benefits freeze will push half a million people into poverty by 2020. Struggling to cover living costs, bills, and rent could lead to eviction for many individuals and families.

Admittedly, the government is making some (very) small steps in the right direction. Amendments to the Universal Credit claiming process and the National Living Wage will come into effect next year. These changes might help a little with the fallout from the benefits freeze.

Changes to Universal Credit

As previously reported, opposition to Universal Credit demanded adjustments to be made to the flawed programme. Finally, Universal Credit will eliminate the seven-day waiting period starting in February 2018. From this time, any new claimants will then receive their first payment after five weeks instead of six.

Additionally, claimants who also receive Housing Benefit will get an extra two weeks of Housing Benefit payments to reduce rent arrears. However, this only applies to new claimants from April 2018. Any earlier claims won’t receive any help with arrears built up during the waiting period.

The weeks-long gap is still too long for people to cope without financial support, according to shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams. The poor timing means anyone claiming from mid-November still won’t receive anything until after Christmas. At this time of year, struggling families need financial support the most.

The continuation of lengthy waiting periods in the meantime could contribute to people being unable to pay their rent, or for necessities like food and heating in the cold winter months. Abrahams is calling for these amendments to be brought forward and modified further to better help the people who need it.

National Minimum Wage Increases

It may not all be doom and gloom, at least for those in low-paid employment. The UK chancellor Philip Hammond confirmed that the National Living Wage will increase in April 2018. The national minimum wage for workers over 25 will rise by 4.4 percent from £7.50 to £7.83 per hour.

Workers between 21 and 24 years old will receive a 4.7 percent increase to £7.38 an hour, with a 5.4 percent rise for 18 to 20-year-olds to £5.90 an hour. 16 to 17-year-olds will get a smaller increase of 3.7 percent to £4.20 an hour, while a larger 5.7 percent will boost hourly wages for apprentices to £3.70.

Hopefully, these pay rises will be able to keep up with inflation rates, allowing low-paid workers a little breathing room. They’ll still be out of pocket because of the benefits freeze, but with a smaller loss thanks to increased wages.

Due to the weak economy, the government’s aim for over 25s to earn £9 an hour by 2020 is failing. It looks like this target will only be met in 2022, two years behind schedule.