If you have children you may be entitled to Child Tax Credits. Use this guide to understand how to apply for the payments.
How to Qualify
You could get Child Tax Credit for each child you are responsible for if they are under 16 or under 20 and in ‘approved’ training. You do not have to be working to claim, you can get it for each child you have and it won’t affect any Child Benefit claims. The amount you get will depend on your individual circumstances.
What You Will Receive
You could receive a basic amount of up to £545 a year- this is known as the family element. You may also be eligible for extra elements on top of this, depending on factors such as your income and circumstances, for example, if one of your children suffers from a disability.
Child Tax Credit Rates for the 2015/2016 tax year
For each individual child Up to £2,780.
For each disabled child Up to £3,140.
For a severely disabled child Up to £1,275 on top of the two elements mentioned above.
How Child Tax Credits Is Paid
Like any type of benefits, pension or allowance, Child Tax Credits are paid into an account, such as a bank account of the person who is mostly responsible for the child. You will be paid every week or every month up until the end of the tax year, which ends on April 5th, providing your circumstances do not change.
Your income can affect tax credits. There is no set limit for income because it depends on your individual circumstances, as well as those of your partner. For example, in one case the limit could be £26,500 for a one child family but it could be higher than that if the child is disabled or you pay more for approved childcare.
When circumstances change your tax credits can go up or down. If your child leaves home, your income changes or your partner dies, you must report these changes to the Tax Credit Office.
Being eligible for tax credits depends on the age of the child that you are claiming for and if you are responsible for them.
In order to qualify, the child must be under 16 (you can claim until the 31st August after their 16th birthday) or under 20 and in approved education or training, such as education for more than 12 hours a week (i.e. A Levels, NVQs, traineeships.) Unfortunately, BTEC or university courses do not count as approved. Approved training includes apprenticeships and pathways, general contracted jobs are not included.
Responsibility for a child can be decided by examining a range of factors such as: living arrangements- do they live with you all the time?, are you the main carer? do they keep their clothes and toys at your house? and lastly, if you pay for their meals and give them pocket money. If you share joint custody and you are not sure who is most responsible for the child, both parents can apply and the tax office will decide for you.
You can also claim for a fostered or adopted child if you do not receive money from your local council.
Ways to Claim
If this is your first time claiming tax credits, you can order a claim form online by using the tax credits calculator or online tool found on the Government website. Alternatively, you can order one by calling Tax Credits. If you are already claiming, you just need to call the helpline to get your claim updated. A new claim can take five weeks to process and you must renew your claim once per year.
The discretionary Social Fund doesn’t exist now, which includes Community Care Grants, Budgeting Loans and Crisis Loans, as it was abolished in April 2013. It has now been replaced with funding services from your local authority.[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Call the Social Fund on 0844 453 0151[/box]
Why Doesn’t The Discretionary Social Fund Exist?
The coalition government of the United Kingdom abolished the discretionary Social Fund, with this taking effect from April 2013, by the means of the legislation that was contained in the Welfare Reform Act of 2012.
As a follow on from this, community care grants and crisis loans were also abolished at the same time and the funding was instead made available through localised services from the appropriate local authority. This was the case across England, with the respective devolved governments of Scotland and Wales making the decisions for these areas.
When it was announced that the Social Fund would be localised, many pressure groups were particularly vocal about their concerns for this development. The main issues were about the lack of ring-fencing and doubts regarding how efficient the funding being transferred to local authorities would be at meeting the needs of the people in the area.
What Was The Social Fund?
The Social Fund consisted of two separate categories, known as the regulated and the discretionary social funds. These were introduced in 1987 as a review of benefit overall, by Norman Fowler. who was the Secretary of State for Health and Social Security. It replaced the original system of single payments from the Supplementary Benefit scheme.
At the moment, the regulated Social Fund is still available, but the discretionary Social Fund isn’t, as of April 2013.
The Regulated Social Fund
The regulated social fund consists of maternity, funeral and cold weather expenses.
Maternity grants can sometimes be referred to as Sure Start maternity grants and is a fixed amount of £500 given to help those on a low income to purchase clothes and equipment for a new born baby. You are free to choose how the money should be spent.
You do not have to repay a maternity grant. You are only eligible for this sort of grant if the new baby is the only child in the household under the age of 16. There are different rules for twins or if you give birth to more babies.
Funeral payments are to help those on a low income to cover the essential costs of a funeral. You do not need to repay the cost of funeral payments, although, it may be recovered from the estate of the deceased.
You are not eligible for funeral payments just because you are paying for it. If you are living in the UK, the Jobcentre Plus office has to accept that there is no-one else who could be paying for it and it is reasonable for you to be the person responsible. In Northern Ireland, the Social Security Agency will make this decision.
Cold Weather Payments
Cold weather payments are given to those who are on a low income and provides assistance with fuel costs in periods of colder weather. There is no requirement for what the money is spent on and this money does not have to be repaid.
This works based on weather station reports, as each UK postcode is linked to a specific one. When the weather is forecasted or reports an average daily temperature of 0 degrees centigrade or lower for 7 consecutive days, a payment is made.
You can get cold weather payments if you are receiving Income Support or Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance for at least one of the days during the period of cold weather. You will also need to have either a child under the age of 5 in your family, a child that you get Child Tax Credit for with an extra amount for their disability or you are getting an extra amount for disability or being over the age of state pension and do not live in a care home.
Cold weather payments are different from Winter Fuel Payments, which are made to every winter to everyone over the age of state pension, no matter what the temperature is.
The Discretionary Social Fund
The discretionary social fund was made up of community care grants, budgeting loans and crisis loans. These are no longer available due to cuts made by the coalition government, and started to take effect as of April 2013.
How Can You Commit Benefit Fraud?
There are two main ways you can commit benefit fraud. The first is to purposely not report a change in your circumstances, such as returning to work after a period of sickness. The other way is by being dishonest to start getting benefits in the first place, an example would be lying about your age or occupation.
How Can You Report Suspected Benefit Fraud?
You can report someone you suspect of benefit fraud online or over the phone. The online form can be accessed in both Welsh and English.
When making a report, you don’t have to give the name of the person you suspect if you don’t want to and any information you provide will be kept confidential. When completing the online form, it is important to give as much information as you can.
What Will Happen If You Are Suspected Of Committing Benefit Fraud?
If you are suspected of committing benefit fraud, you will be contacted by the relevant department. This could be the Department for Work and Pensions (the DWP), HM Revenue and Customs (also known as the HMRC), the Service and Personnel and Veterans Agency or your local authority.
You may also get a visit from Fraud Investigation Officer, who are also known as FIOs. The job of the FIO’s is to get the correct facts about your particular case and decide whether or not to take further action. Another option is that you could be asked to attend an interview to discuss your claim.
While you are being investigated, you could have your benefits stop. If this is the case, you will receive a letter detailing the situation.
What Will Happen After An Investigation For Benefit Fraud?
If you are found to be guilty of committing benefit fraud, there are a number of different courses of action that can take place. Sometimes there can be more than one of these things that takes place:
- You are taken to court
- You are asked to make a penalty payment, rather than going to court. This can be from £350 to £5000.
- You have your benefits reduced or stopped entirely
- You are told to pay back the money you have been overpaid with
Will I Lose My Benefits If I Am Convicted Of Benefit Fraud?
If you are convicted of fraud, you may find that you lose your benefits entirely or have them reduced. This can last for a period of up to 3 years, but this will vary depending on how many times you have committed the fraud.
There are only certain benefits that can be stopped and/or reduced. These are sometimes referred to as ‘sanctionable benefits’. If you are found to have committed fraud on a benefit that can’t be reduced or stopped entirely, you could find that this happens to your other benefits instead.
What Benefits Can Be Stopped?
Sanctionable benefits, or benefits that can be stopped or reduced if you are found to be guilty of benefit fraud, include:
- Pension Credit
- Universal Credit
- War Disablement Pension
- War Widow’s Pension
- Carer’s Allowance
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Industrial Injuries
- Disablement Benefit
- Reduced Earnings Allowance
- Retirement Allowance
- Unemployability Supplement
- Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Severe Disablement Allowance
- Housing/Council Tax Benefit
- Incapacity Benefit
- Income Support
- Industrial Death Benefit
- War Pension
- Unemployability Supplement
- Allowance for Lower Standard of Occupation
- Widowed Mother’s/Parent’s Allowance
- Widow’s Pension/Bereavement Allowance
- Working Tax Credit
What Benefits Cannot Be Stopped?
There are certain benefits that cannot be stopped or reduced, even if you are found to have committed benefit fraud. These are:
- Disability Living Allowance
- Graduated Retirement Benefit
- Guardian’s Allowance
- Industrial Injuries Constant Attendance Allowance (when a Disablement Pension is payable)
- Attendance Allowance
- Bereavement Payment
- Child Tax Credit
- Industrial Injuries Exceptionally Severe Disablement Allowance (when a Disablement Pension is payable)
- Christmas Bonus
- Council Tax Benefit
- Personal Independence Payment
- Child Benefit
- State Pension
- Social Fund Payments
- War Pension
- Constant Attendance Allowance
- Exceptionally Severe Disablement Allowance
- Mobility Supplement
Are There Any Exceptions?
There are some exceptions. If you have been committing benefit fraud, and are receiving any of these benefits, none of them can be stopped or reduced:
- Maternity Allowance
- Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme (2008)
- Pneumoconiosis (Workers’ Compensation) 1979
- Health in Pregnancy Grant
- Statutory Adoption, Maternity, Paternity or Sick Pay
What is Employment and Support Allowance?
If you are ill or disabled, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) can be a lifeline when you are unable to work or find it difficult to do so. It can provide financial support if you are completely unable to work or help tailored to you so that you can work if you are able to.
How to Claim ESA
The best way to claim for ESA initially is over the phone. However, if you go to your local Job Centre, they may be able to assist you in making your claim- just print off the ESA1 form and send or take it to your local job centre. To apply, you will need:
- Medical certificate
- Doctor’s address and phone number
- National Insurance number
- Home and Mobile telephone numbers
- Your mortgage or landlord details
- A council tax bill
- Your employer’s address and telephone number and dates of employment/ last date worked.
- Bank account details
- A breakdown of any other money you are receiving i.e. benefits.
Work Capability Assessment
Whilst your ESA claim is being checked to see if you are eligible or not, you are required to undergo an assessment to see if you are capable to work or not. During the application, you must fill in the capability to work questionnaire- this will ask you about your physical and mental health.
If your disability/illness affects your ability to work and you are below State Pension age, not receiving Statutory Sick Pay or Maternity Pay and you don’t get Jobseekers Allowance, you may be eligible for ESA.
You can apply for ESA whether you are unemployed, employed, self-employed or if you are a student receiving Disability Living Allowance/ Personal Independence Payment.
If you have lived abroad and you are deemed to have paid enough National Insurance contributions, you may be eligible to receive ESA.
In the majority of cases, you won’t be eligible for ESA if you were found capable of doing some work following your Work Capability Assessment.
Claiming ESA Whilst Working
Generally, your ESA won’t be affected if you:
- Earn up to £20 a week.
- Work for less than 16 hours per week and earn up to £104 a week, for 52 weeks or less.
This is known as ‘permitted work’. You can do ‘supported permitted work’, as part of a treatment programme or supervised by the council or a voluntary organisation.
If you begin doing permitted work, you must tell the Department for Work and Pensions.
Income and Savings
Your income may affect your ESA. You won’t qualify if you have savings over £16,000.
You will not be eligible for income related ESA if you receive Universal Credit.
If you wish to claim ESA, call the Department for Work and Pensions contact number.
They were originally known as CRB checks, but the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) have now merged to form the Disclosure and Barring Service. This has resulted in CRB checks being renamed as DBS checks.
Why Would I Need A DBS Check?
You can be asked to obtain a DBS check if you are taking on certain job roles or volunteering work, such as those that involve you working with children or in healthcare situations. You may also need one if you apply to foster or adopt a child.
Please note that there are different rules for those who reside in Scotland and Northern Ireland when it comes to getting a criminal record check.
Who Can Ask For Me To Have A DBS Check?
The most common person to ask for a DBS check is an employer. This will depend on what role you have or are planning to undertake.
DBS has a guideline for eligibility that lists the majority of roles that require a check. However, if you think you might need one and your role is not listed there, you should contact the DBS to be sure.
If you are a job candidate or an applicant, you cannot do a criminal records check on yourself. You will need to request a ‘basic disclosure’ from Disclosure Scotland and you do not need to be from Scotland in order to do this.
How Do I Get A DBS Check?
There are 4 stages to getting a DBS check
- First of all the employer will get an application form. These can be obtained from either the DBS or an umbrella body, which means a registered body that provides access to DBS checks
- Then the employer will give the form to the applicant to fill in and it should then be returned with the requested documents that can prove their identity
- They employer then needs to send the completed form to DBC or the umbrella company they dealt with
- The DBS will then send a certificate to the applicant and the employer will need to ask the applicant for it.
If the applicant opts to subscribe to the DBS update service, the employer will be able to check their certificate online.
How Long Is A DBS Check Valid For?
A DBS check doesn’t come with an official expiry date. Any information that it contains will be accurate for the time that the check was carried out. It is the decision of an employer to carry out a new check if they wish to do so after a certain period of time.
If applicants and employers want to, they can use the DBS update service to keep certificates up to date or carry out checks on certificates of potential employees.
How Much Does A DBS Check Cost?
The cost of a DBS check depends on the type of check that is required, as there are 3 different types available. Employers or the organisation who wants to run the check needs to give the applicant with more details about the level of check that is needed.
Criminal record checks can only be done on applicants that are over the age of 16.
This type of check looks into spent and unspent convictions, any cautions that have been received as well as reprimands and final warnings. It generally takes about 2 weeks to complete.
This includes the same checks as the standard one as well as any further information that is held by local police and deemed reasonably relevant to the type of work that is being applied for. This can be “adult”, “child” or “other” workforces.
Other workforces cover those who do not work specifically with groups of adults or children but could potentially deal with both, such as taxi drivers. If this is the case, the police will only release information that is related to the post that is being applied for.
These types of checks usually take about 4 weeks to complete.
Enhanced With List Checks
The has the same information as the enhanced check but also comes with a check of the DBS barred lists. These lists usually detail those who are unsuitable to work with children and/or adults.
Please note that employers can only ask for a barred list check for certain roles and it is a criminal offense to ask for this kind of check for any other sort of roles.
This check type typically takes 4 weeks to come through.
Do I Need A DBS Check If I Am A Volunteer?
Yes if your role is eligible for one. Checks for certain types of volunteers are offered free of charge.
Volunteers are classed as people that spend time helping others and is not being paid (other than travel and other out of pocket expenses that have been approved). It also applies to those who are assisting people that are not close relatives.
Remember that an employer can only make an application for a DBS check if the job or position is eligible for a check. They have to inform the applicant why they are being checked and where they can obtain independent advice.