Many benefits and entitlements are less well known but they can be life savers, so we don’t want you to miss out on them. They can be confusing as the rates of benefits, entitlements or concessions often change from year to year, and the qualifying age for some has been going up as the population is ageing. Check for both your relative and you as a caregiver, as you may be entitled to some of these in addition to a pension or income from employment. Not all benefits are means tested. The main 12 are:-
1. Carer’s allowance.
The caregiver is means tested and has to be caring for a disabled person for 35 hours per week or more. Also, the person they are caring for must be receiving:
- the higher or middle rate care component of Disability Living Allowance
- or either rate of Personal Independence Allowance
- or any rate of Attendance Allowance.
It can be worth £62.10 a week to the caregiver.
2. Attendance allowance.
Can be claimed by the over 65s who need help with personal care. It is not means tested. There are two levels of payment depending on the help needed;
- £55.10 if the person needs help in the day or at night,
- £82.30 if they need help both in the day and the night.
The money is tax free and doesn’t reduce any other income.
3. Personal Independence Payment
Can be claimed by working age people with a disability (under 65). It is gradually replacing Disability Living Allowance. It is not means tested. There are two parts to the payment; one for help with daily living needs and one for mobility support. There are also two levels of payment in each part, depending on how much help is needed.
4. Housing Benefit.
Helps those paying rent. It is means tested, taking into account other occupants living in the property and the number of rooms. The local council deals with a claim for Housing Benefit, or if your relative is already claiming Pension Credit, it will be the Pension Service.
5. Council Tax Reductions.
Helps those with low incomes or on benefits, with less than £16,000 savings. It is means tested. Each council runs their own system and will be able to provide details of their scheme.
6. Winter Fuel Payment.
Helps with heating costs and are made to people over Pension Credit age (this is gradually changing from 60 to 66). It’s a lump sum payment made once a year, in November or December;£200 if the person is under 80 and £300 if they’re over 80. Couples who qualify share the benefit between them.
7. Cold Weather Payment.
Available to people on benefits such as Pension Credit and Income Support. It is paid between November and March and is £25 for every seven day period of cold weather. (These payments are made after the period of cold weather, usually within 14 working days).
8. Public and other Transport Concessions
- Free bus passes are available to both women and men when they reach the State Pension Age of women. A man born on the same day as a woman will be eligible for a bus pass at the same time she gets one. As the State pension age for women is moving to the same as men, this won’t make much difference in the future! The bus pass allows for free off-peak travel. Free bus passes are also available for disabled people.
- There are Senior Railcards for the over 60s. These can be bought on line at the Senior Railcard website or at railway stations. (The website also has other special offers!).
- There are railcards for the disabled, which can be purchased online or at most railway stations.
- There is no national scheme for Coach concessions, but there are companies offering their own discounts so it’s worth giving them a call.
- Community Transport schemes are available in many areas for those who don’t have a car, or are disabled, and can’t use public transport, such as dial-a-ride. Some councils invest in subsidised transport. (Check your Local Authority)
9. TV license concessions.
These are available for:-
- the 75s and over (or for households that have someone of 75 or over)
- people registered as blind or severely sight impaired
- people who are retired or disabled and live in certain types of accommodation
Apply for these at TV licensing on 0300 790 6131 or via the TV licensing website.
10. NHS Benefits
- Free prescriptions and eye tests are available to everyone who is 60 and over.
- People on certain benefits, including the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit, Income Support, and Universal Credit may qualify for more help with NHS costs, such as; Free NHS dental treatment; A voucher towards the cost of glasses or contact lenses; Help with travel costs to get NHS treatment; Free NHS wigs and fabric supports
NHS Low Income Scheme is available for people on a low income to get help with health costs. Application forms can be provided by dentists, opticians or hospitals. Phone number for Help With Health Costs is 0300 330 1343.
11. The Social Fund.
Helps those on a low/no income with an unexpected cost. It can provide:-
- Budgeting Loan/Budgeting Advance to help with essentials like furniture, clothing or maintenance costs. The loans are interest free, range from £100-£1500 and have to be paid back weekly from benefits
- Short Term Advance, made when there is a gap between a claim for a new benefit and it being paid
- Funeral payments to help with burial or cremation costs, and other expenses up to £700.
- Cold weather payments to help with extra costs when the weather is particularly cold. This is only paid to those on means tested benefits.
Many councils have their own schemes to help with disasters, like flood or fire. These will vary from one authority to another.
You may find useful:-
- The Government provides a benefits’ calculator, but this is not particularly easy to use and can take some time to go through.
- The AgeUK website has helpful detail and guidance notes to download, or AgeUK Advice (0800 169 65 65) can help with working out what you or your relative might be eligible for.
- Your local Citizens Advice Bureau offers face to face meetings if required.
- There are various charities and funds around the country that may help with costs if help can’t be found elsewhere. The websites Charity Search or Turn2us may help, or ask at your local library.