We provide information and advice on benefits and tax credits if you are working or unemployed, sick or disabled, a lone parent, a family, a young person or an older person. We also advise on rates and housing costs, national insurance, payment of benefits and problems with benefits.
Universal Credit is a new benefit for people of working age who are in or out of work. It was fully introduced in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area in February 2018 for all new claims.
It will eventually replace all working age means-tested benefits including, Income Support, Income based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related ESA, Housing Benefit, Tax Credits and Budgeting loans. These are now known as “legacy benefits”.
People already receiving “legacy benefits” are due to be transferred to Universal Credit between July 2019 and March 2022. This timetable may be open to change. This process is called “managed migration”.
Others may be migrated earlier if they have a relevant change of circumstances. This process is called “natural migration”.
Not all changes of circumstance result in a need to migrate to Universal Credit. Check what changes of circumstance trigger a universal credit claim here (LINK) or contact us (LINK)
If you migrate to Universal Credit through “managed migration” you will receive transitional protection to cover any loss resulting from the change in your benefits. Transitional protection will however be time limited.
There is no transitional protection if you go through the process of “natural migration”
We provide dedicated support and practical help with all aspects of Universal Credit.
We can help you to:
- Check if Universal Credit is right for you
- Calculate your entitlement
- Understand the information you need to complete your claim
- Help you complete your initial online application
- Make and manage your Universal Credit claim e.g. make a journal entry, notify a change of circumstances, make an online enquiry or upload documents
- Work through your to-do list
- Understand your payments
- Access financial support if you are struggling to manage, such as, access to the contingency fund, advance payments and hardship payments
- Understand your claimant commitment
- Complete capability for work questionnaires
- Deal with and challenge sanctions
- Ensure that your conditionality set out for you by your work coach is correct and reasonable in your circumstances
- Challenge decisions and provide you with representation all the way up to and including the Social Security Commissioner, where appropriate
- Make complaints where necessary
- Provide additional support and enforce the rights of vulnerable people with complex needs
Helpful information at
Employment and Support Allowance
Employment and Support Allowance provides financial help to people who are unable to work because of illness or disability.
Following the rollout of Universal Credit in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area you can now only make a fresh application for New style ESA (contribution based). You can get New style ESA and Universal Credit at the same time.
You can no longer make a fresh application to income-related ESA, except in very limited circumstances. However, you can still qualify for income-related if you have a pre-existing contribution-based ESA claim and certain circumstances apply.
If you are unsure of what you are entitled to claim, contact us (LINK)
We provide practical help and assistance with all aspects of your ESA claim, whether you are hold an existing entitlement to ESA or you are making or managing a claim to New style ESA
We can help you to:
- Understand and manage your ESA claim
- Complete any forms and responding to correspondence relating to the claim e.g. Capability for Work Questionnaires (ESA50), changes in circumstances (ESA3)
- Calculate your entitlement and provide benefit checks to ensure all premiums, you are entitled to, are in payment
- Resolve problems by making representations to ESA on your behalf
- Challenge decisions through Mandatory Reconsideration and subsequent Appeal.
- Dispute overpayments or where necessary arrange manageable repayments
- Lodge complaints where appropriate.
We also provide representation at ESA Appeals and at Social Security Commissioner Hearings
Helpful information at https://wcainfo.net/
Personal Independence Payment (P.I.P)
If you need extra help because of an illness, disability or mental health condition you could get Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
You don’t need to have worked or paid National Insurance to qualify for PIP, and it doesn’t matter what your income is, if you have any savings or you’re working.
PIP is aimed at providing a contribution towards the extra costs of overcoming the challenges faced by disabled people in order to live full and active, independent lives.
Entitlement to PIP carries with it the following added benefits;
- Passports you to extra Housing Benefit, Tax Credits, Income Support, ESA, Blue Badge, Car Tax etc.
- Provides protection from the benefit cap
- Maximises “Transitional Protection” for Universal Credit migration
- Provides protection from the impacts of the Local Housing Allowance on Housing Benefit for those in receipt of the daily living component
- Provides protection from non-dependant deductions on Housing Benefit
- Can provide the basis for a carer to get Carers Allowance
We provide a full range of practical help and support. Whether its making your application, dealing with the transition from DLA, filling your PIP2 form, solving problems or challenging decisions right through to the Social Security Commissioner, we are here to help.
Helpful information at https://pipinfo.net/
The aim of the Tax Credit system is “to deliver to all families the financial support they are entitled to, providing the right amount of support at the right time.”
Tax credits are due to be replaced by Universal Credit. However the process of transferring people from the current system to the new one is planned to begin from July 2019 and is due to be completed by December 2023. Doubts remain about this timetable, which may be subject to change.
Tax Credits will remain part of families incomes for the majority of families in the Council area for several years.
We provide practical help, guidance, advice and support with all aspects of Tax Credits.
If you need any help to manage your claim contact us. Some of the supports we provide are as follows.
We can help you to:
- Check your award
- Calculate entitlement
- Report changes of circumstance
- Complete your Annual Declaration
- Respond to enquiries and examinations
- Challenging Overpayments
- Deal with and manage repayments
- Review and Appeal decisions
- Lodge complaints where appropriate
We also provide representation at Tax Credit Appeal hearings and subsequent Commissioner hearings, if appropriate.
Helpful information at https://revenuebenefits.org.uk/tax-credits/
Carer’s Allowance is a benefit for people who are giving regular and substantial care to disabled people in their own homes, for a minimum of 35 hours per week. Carer’s Allowance is a taxable benefit and forms part of your taxable income.
You don’t need to have worked or paid National Insurance to qualify for Carers Allowance. It is not a means tested benefit and so is not based on your and your partner’s income and savings or capital. However, there is a cap on how much you can earn from work and still be entitled to Carer’s Allowance.
Not every carer can get this benefit. If you want to check your entitlement contact us.
We can help to:
- Advise you on your entitlement
- Assist you to claim
- Understand the information you need to provide to support your claim
- Help you to understand your payments
- Request backdating
- Report changes of circumstances
- Deal with any problems
- Challenge decisions
If you are 65 years old or over and have a disability or illness that makes it hard for you to look after yourself you could claim Attendance Allowance.
Many people are entitled to Attendance Allowance but don’t know enough about it to claim.
You could get £57.30 or £85.60 a week – the amount you get will depend on how much help you need. You can spend the money however you like – it could help you stay independent in your own home for longer.
Attendance Allowance isn’t means tested so it doesn’t matter what other money you get. It doesn’t matter how much you have in savings either – there’s no limit.
It won’t affect your state pension and you can claim it if you’re still working and earning money.
It is tax free and can passport you to other entitlements.
If you think you may qualify but are not sure contact us today.
We will help you to make your claim, complete any forms you may need help with, help you to manage your claim, sort out problems or challenge decisions.
If you prefer to do all of this yourself we can provide you with information and tools to do so.
Disability Living Allowance for Children
It’s very common for a parent to think they won’t be able to get Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for their child when they can.
DLA isn’t just for children who are physically disabled. It can be given for a wide range of medical conditions including behavioural and mental health conditions as well as learning disabilities and developmental delay. You might be able to claim even if you wouldn’t describe your child as ‘disabled’.
You can get DLA if your child:
- needs more care, attention or supervision than a child of the same age who isn’t disabled, or
- has difficulty walking or getting around outdoors in unfamiliar places
Your child needs to be under 16 for you to claim DLA – if they’re 16 or over you’ll have to claim Personal Independence Payment.
Your child must have been disabled or had the condition for at least 3 months, and you must expect it to last for 6 more. You don’t need a formal diagnosis from a doctor to apply, but this can usually help.
If your child is terminally ill and not expected to live more than 6 months, you can apply right away regardless of how long your child has had the illness for.
DLA isn’t means tested, so it doesn’t matter how much you earn or how much money you might have in savings.
Any other benefits you might be getting won’t be affected. In fact, getting DLA could mean that:
- you can get other benefits, or
- you can get a higher rate of the benefits that you currently get
We can give you practical help and support to:
- Apply for DLA for your child, completing the appropriate forms
- Help you to access supporting evidence
- Explain relevant legislation, regulations and case law
- Advise you on medical examinations and how explain how a decision is made
- Help you manage a Child DLA claim eg. if your child goes into hospital or there is a change in circumstances
- Challenge decisions through Mandatory Reconsideration, Appeal and Social Security Commissioner
Pension Credit is a weekly benefit to boost your income. It’s based on how much money you have coming in.
There are two parts to Pension Credit, called Guarantee Credit and Savings Credit. You might get one or both parts.
Guarantee Credit tops up your weekly income to a minimum amount. The minimum amount that applies to you depends on your circumstances.
You can get Pension Credit as well as your State Pension Savings Credit is a small top-up for people who have a modest amount of income or savings. It’s only available if you reached State Pension age before 6 April 2016.
If you think you may be entitled to Pension Credit contact us and we can check your entitlement.
If you are entitled we can help you to make your claim, fill in the appropriate forms, help you to manage your claim and help to solve any problems that you may experience.
Housing Benefit is a social security benefit paid by the Housing Executive. It helps people on a low income pay their rent and rates. You do not need to be unemployed to get Housing Benefit.
Housing Benefit is being replaced by Universal Credit. You can no longer make a new claim to Housing Benefit except in limited circumstances.
We can provide you with advice and information that will help you to manage and maintain your Housing Benefit claim. We can assist you to calculate your entitlements, check your current award, report changes of circumstances and help you to resolve any problems you may encounter.
Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) is for people who are unemployed or working less than 16 hours a week and who are seeking work.
There are two forms of JSA. Both have job seeking conditions, so you must be available for work, be taking active steps to look for work and have a current claimant commitment.
Contribution-based: This is a flat rate personal allowance based on your national insurance contribution record; it is payable for up to six months and is taxable.
Income-based: This is means tested, taxable and payable if you have no income or a low income and no more that £16,000 in savings or capital. If you have a partner they cannot work 24 hours or more.
Due to the roll out of Universal Credit in the council area you can no longer make a new claim for income-based JSA, except in very limited circumstances, and will need to claim Universal Credit instead.
You can continue to make a new claim to Contribution-based JSA, some of the rules are a little different under the Universal Credit system, we can advise on this. Under the Universal Credit system contribution- based JSA is know as “new-style JSA”. If you have an existing JSA claim or are looking to make a new-style JSA claim we can help.
You may have queries on issues such as; having reasonable prospects of employment, actively seeking work, the claimant commitment, sanctions, national insurance contributions, hardship or linking rules. We can help you to understand your rights and responsibilities, liaise with JSA to resolve any problems you may face and challenge decisions when necessary. We offer practical assistance to fill forms and draft correspondence for those who need help.
If you have any queries relating to Jobseekers Allowance contact us.
Income Support is a means-tested or income-related benefit intended to provide for basic living expenses for you and your partner, if you have one. It does not depend on your national insurance contributions. It can be paid on its own if you have no other income, or it can top up other benefits or earnings from part time work.
Income Support is available only to limited groups of people. Following the rollout of Universal Credit in the council area you can no longer make a new claim to Income Support.
If you have an existing claim some changes of circumstances can make it necessary for you to claim Universal Credit. It is important to note that not all changes of circumstance necessitate that you switch to Universal Credit. You should always check whether you would be worse off if you voluntarily transferred to Universal Credit. If you would be worse off you should not claim Universal Credit unless a change of your circumstances makes it necessary to do so.
If you are in doubt contact us. We can calculate whether or not you are better off remaining on Income Support or transferring to Universal Credit.
We can help you to manage and maintain your Income Support claim by giving you information, advice, tools and practical support. We can assist you with all aspects of your claim, help to solve any problems and can help you access pass-ported entitlements to other benefits.
Welfare Supplementary Payments
Following a range of Welfare Cuts a package of mitigations was introduced in Northern Ireland to reduce the impact of these. As part of these mitigations Welfare Supplementary Payments were established. Welfare Supplementary Payments are paid for up to 1 year in most cases with the exception of the Bedroom Tax and the Benefit Cap. All of the mitigations are due to expire on 31st March 2020.
Welfare Supplementary Payments are available to support you if you lose out under the following changes:
- Benefit Cap
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Personal Independence Payment
- Loss of disability premiums/elements
- Changes to Housing Benefit
You may be eligible for more than one Welfare Supplementary Payment depending on your circumstances.
Only 22% of PIP claimants in Northern Ireland are aware that a Welfare Supplementary Payment is available to them.
These payments are intended to be automatic but there remains some misunderstanding of entitlement to Welfare Supplementary Payments and there is evidence of delays in their payment, administrative errors and overpayments.
For example: If you are transferring from DLA to PIP, you will not get a Welfare Supplementary Payment if you do not make the PIP claim or do not follow the process e.g. attend the medical examination, until a decision is made on your entitlement.
After following the process unsuccessful and receive no award of PIP you must challenge the decision through Mandatory Reconsideration and then subsequently appeal the decision if you remain unsuccessful, before any entitlement to a supplementary payment for your loss upon transfer to PIP exists.
If you have any queries about Welfare Supplementary Payments or you are unsure whether or not you are getting the correct amount, do not hesitate to contact us.
We provide advice and information and practical support for those who need it on a range of other benefits including but not limited to;
- Disability Living Allowance for Adults
- Child Benefit
- Discretionary Support & Budgeting Loans
- Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI)
- Bereavement Benefits
- Maternity Benefits
- State Retirement Pension
- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
- Common Rules to benefits e.g. right to reside and habitual residence
- Cross Border Benefits
- Compensation Schemes
- Statutory Sick Pay