Millions of people have seen their incomes stop or reduce due to coronavirus and are having to claim benefits for the first time.
The rules can be complex and it’s not always easy to know which benefits you might qualify for – or how much you might be eligible to claim. To try and help, we’ve rounded up some useful free resources which can help you to work out your entitlement and submit your claim.
The government’s Gov.uk website has a comprehensive benefits section providing lots of information and guidance on different types of benefits, including Universal Credit, tax credits, Jobseeker’s Allowance and other low income benefits, child benefit, heating and housing benefits and carers and disability benefits.
It provides step-by-step help on how to make an application, as well as links to all the online application forms you’ll need to complete.
If you get stuck or need help using the website, or with your application, there are helplines available. For example, the Universal Credit helpline can be contacted on 0800 328 5644, whilst the Jobseeker’s Allowance helpline is on 0800 169 0310.
Turn2Us is a charity which helps people in financial crisis find support so they can get back on track.
It has a free benefits calculator to help you work out your entitlement to means-tested benefits and carers allowance. This won’t calculate how much you’re entitled to from non-means tested benefits and contributory benefits such as Carer’s Allowance and disability benefits, but it will highlight whether you might be eligible for these based on the information you provide.
The site offers a grants search tool as well, which enables you to search non-repayable grants offered by charities to help individuals on low incomes. To qualify for one of these, you’ll have to meet the charity’s particular criteria.
Citizens Advice ‘Help to Claim’ service
The Help to Claim service from Citizens Advice is specifically designed to help those who are planning to submit a claim for Universal Credit. An adviser can help you work out if you’re eligible for Universal Credit, fill in your Universal Credit application, help you prepare for your first Jobcentre appointment and check your first payment is correct.
The service is delivered through the Citizens Advice network across England and Wales, and Citizens Advice Scotland delivers the service in Scotland. Most local Citizens Advice aren’t currently providing face to face advice to help reduce the spread of coronavirus, but you can talk to someone either online or by telephoner on the following numbers:
England: 0800 144 8444
Scotland: 0800 023 2581
Wales: 0800 024 1220
Alternatively, you can contact an advisor online to discuss your Universal Credit application here. Find out more about how Universal Credit works in our article Everything you need to know about Universal Credit.
Entitledto also offers free online benefits calculators to help you work out what you can claim from national and local government.
It not only provides calculators through its own site, but also to numerous Local Government Authorities, Housing Associations, and charities. To find out what you might be able to get, enter your details and you’ll receive an estimate of your entitlement to benefits, tax credits and Universal Credit.
The site also has a useful section on what to do if you’re affected by coronavirus. Find out more here.
Policy in Practice
Policy in Practice is a software company that works with councils, government, housing and community organisations to target and improve welfare support for people.
It offers a benefit and budgeting calculator which it claims helps around 10,000 people a day find out what support they might qualify for. The calculator enables you to find out which benefits you could receive, see how much income will be left after paying your housing costs, and find links to claim for benefits. If you’re already receiving benefits, it can also help you work out how much your income will change with Universal Credit and compare your income under the legacy system.
The rise in the number of people claiming benefits has unfortunately prompted growing numbers of fraudsters to try and part people from their cash at a time when they really need financial help.
For example, recent scams include fraudsters contacting people through ‘friends’ Facebook accounts saying they have won a ‘direct grant promotion’ from Turn2us, even though the charity does not award prize money.
The scammers hack into Facebook profiles and message the person’s friends saying they’ve been randomly selected to be a winner.
If you receive any suspicious emails or are contacted via facebook by anyone claiming they are offering free cash or help with benefits, get in touch with the organisation in question via a Google or Bing search (definitely don’t click on any links in suspicious messages) and check whether they have contacted you. If they haven’t, report the scam to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.
You should also report what’s happened to the Financial Conduct Authority either online or by telephoning 0800 111 6768 and contact your bank immediately if you’ve handed over any payment details. Remember that you should never pay anyone to help you claim benefits.
Find out more about scams in our article Types of scam and how to avoid them.
Have you recently made a benefits claim for the first time and did you seek advice or guidance? How useful did you find the service you used? We’d be interested to hear from you. You can join the conversation on the Rest Less community forum, or leave a comment below.