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How to Make the Most of the Benefits You Receive

Claiming benefits of different kinds will help you to maintain an income that supports you and your family. There are some benefits that you might claim when you are out of work, but also many benefits that are available to people in work. When you are claiming any kind of benefit, you’re sure to want to make the most of the money that you receive. It can be very helpful to have that money coming in, but it’s often not enough for you to feel as if you can live comfortably. If you are in receipt of any benefits or think that maybe you should be, there are various ways that you can make the most of them.

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Check You’re Receiving the Right Benefits

The first thing you should do is check which benefits you might be entitled to. There are many different benefits and tax credits, and they are even overseen by different governmental departments. This means that it can all get quite complicated, and you might be unsure which benefits you could have access to. The best thing to do is to use a benefits calculator, which you can find online, or get advice from an advice agency. Citizens Advice is one useful resource that you might find beneficial.

There are several different circumstances that could mean you are able to get help. You might be able to claim benefits if you are disabled or the carer of a disabled person. If you are a parent, you can look into child benefit and child tax credits. If you are not working or have a low income, you may also be eligible for some help. Other circumstances could make a difference too. For example, if you live alone, you can claim a discount on your council tax bill. If you are an older person, you might be eligible for the Winter Fuel Payment.

Claim Benefits While Working

The various benefits that are available aren’t only for people who are out of work. If you are working but still need help with money, you might be able to top your income up in various ways. Some benefits are based on how many hours you work or on your income. For example, you may be able to claim Universal Credit if you are on a low income, or you may be able to claim “new style” Job Seeker’s Allowance if you work less than 16 hours per week. Universal Credit has replaced some benefits for most people. For example, it has replaced Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.

Other benefits available for those in or out of work include Child Benefit. Child Benefit is available for children under age 16 or under 20 and in education or training. However, some of it may need to be paid back if the claimant or their partner earns over £50,000 per year. If you are pregnant, you might also be able to access the Sure Start Maternity Grant if you already receive other benefits, and you are expecting either your first child or a multiple birth.

Know How to Manage Your Benefits

When you receive benefits, it’s also very beneficial for you to understand how they work and how you can manage them. This isn’t always easy, but it’s often necessary to avoid getting caught out. Not only will it help you to know what you’re entitled to and what your rights are, but it will prevent you from accidentally spending overpayments and make sure you know what to do if any of your benefits are stopped. It’s important to know how you can manage your benefits, for example through using an online account, as well as who you need to inform if you ever have a change in your circumstances. You should know who to contact if you ever have an issue or need to query any decisions.

Appealing a Decision

Sometimes you might apply for a certain type of benefit, and your application might be rejected, or you might be awarded less than you think you are entitled to. When this happens, you might need to appeal the decision. Before you can appeal, you need to ask for your decision to be looked at again. This is known as a mandatory reconsideration. Within one month of receiving this, you will need to appeal to the Social Security and Child Support Tribunal. After submitting an appeal, you can provide evidence, and the appeal will be decided at a tribunal hearing.

Avoid Overpayments

One issue to be aware of with many types of benefit is overpayments. If you are accidentally overpaid, you will be required to repay the money. An overpayment might occur because you haven’t told the relevant body about a change in your circumstances. It could also happen due to a mistake by the other party. However, if you receive any overpayments, you need to correct the issue as soon as possible. This is why it’s also important to know how much money you should be getting and when. It will allow you to notice when you might be paid too much and question the amount.

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Understand How Income and Savings Affect Your Benefits

It’s also necessary for anyone who receives benefits to understand how your income and savings will affect your benefits. If your income rises or drops, it could mean the amount you receive in benefits changes. Even having savings can make a difference to what you are entitled to. If you have savings of up to £6,000 (or £10,000 if you are over state pension age), it won’t affect any claims. If you have savings between £6,000 and £16,000, everything above the lower amount is treated as a monthly income of £4.35 for each £250. If you have more than £16,000 in savings, you won’t be entitled to any benefits affected by savings.

Create a Budget

Having a budget is always helpful, but it can be especially useful if you receive any benefits. A good budget will help you to make sure that everything you receive is put to work, and that all of your essential expenses are covered. It can be worth spending some time looking at your essential outgoings, including rent, utility bills, food, clothes, and anything else that you need to pay for day-to-day. When you create a budget, it can help you to find the different ways you might be able to save money. You will get a clear picture of the money you have coming in and going out.

Get Help with Home and Transport Costs

There are many ways you can access help with various expenses at home and transport costs. For example, the Winter Fuel Payment can help you with energy bills during the cold winter months. Another way you might be able to get help is through the various transport schemes. If you receive the higher rate PIP or DLA payment, you can use it for the Pentagon Motability Scheme or similar. There are also railcards and bus passes, for example for disabled people and pensioners. You might need to be receiving other types of benefit to access some of these schemes.

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Benefit from Free NHS Services (Dentist, Optician, Prescriptions, Etc.)

When you are receiving some types of benefit, you might be eligible for free health care when you otherwise would have to pay. For example, if you are receiving some types of low-income benefits, you don’t have to pay for dental treatment with an NHS dentist. You can also access free eye tests, as well as free prescriptions. It’s important to note that the criteria are different for people receiving Universal Credit. To be eligible for help with healthcare costs, you need to have had no earnings or had net earnings of £435 or less in your last assessment period, or £935 or less, depending on your circumstances.

Look for Discounts and Concessions

Receiving certain benefits, or the reason you receive those benefits could also help you to access discounts in other areas too. For example, many venues or shops will offer discounts or concession prices to disabled people and their carers or to people on low incomes. One example is that many arts venues want to encourage people from lower-income backgrounds to attend performances and exhibitions, and so offer discounted prices to make it possible for more people to attend.

Find Other Services Your Benefits Will Help You to Access

You may also find that your benefits entitlement can help you to access other services if you need them. This can include being able to attend a food bank, for example, if you need an emergency food package. You might be able to access grants from charitable trusts to help with other expenses, such as your utility bills. There are various organisations that are not run by the government, but that do offer their services to people receiving benefits. You can even get help with vet treatment from PDSA.

Make the most of the benefits that you receive by educating yourself and getting a good understanding of the benefits system. Once you know what you should be receiving, you can plan to spend it wisely.